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Fact-checking common health myths

April 10, 2023
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We’ve all heard certain “old wives’ tales” that have found their way into our modern world. Maybe there’s an arbitrary piece of health advice from your childhood that has stuck with you. It’s time to debunk some of those health myths so you can focus on the facts.

Myths about food

Misinformation about food is everywhere. Dig deeper into these misunderstood foods:

Myth: Eggs (or egg yolks) are bad for you.

Eggs have gotten a bad reputation, but the truth is these little breakfast staples are mostly good for you. Eggs are low-calorie and nutrient-dense, meaning they pack a powerful health punch. They are also a great source of protein.

It’s true that there is cholesterol and fat in egg yolks. This includes saturated fat, which you should generally avoid for your heart health.

What many people don’t know, though, is that egg yolks aren’t all bad. They are a great source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These are healthier fats that help lower “bad cholesterol.”

In addition, egg yolks are one of the few natural sources of vitamin D, which we need for our bones and teeth. In fact, eggs contain several essential vitamins and minerals to help maintain muscle mass, promote eye health, boost cognitive development, and prevent memory loss.

In general, it’s safe to say eggs have many nutritional benefits. However, it’s important to pay attention to what goes with your eggs. For example, cooking them in butter or eating them with white toast and bacon makes for a less-healthy breakfast. On the other hand, a piece of whole wheat toast with mashed avocado and a hard-boiled egg is a meal rich in fiber and healthy fats.

Myth: Fresh fruits and vegetables are always healthier than canned or frozen.

According to the CDC, few U.S. adults eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, which are vital to your health. Produce has many essential nutrients and generally contains low levels of fat, sugar, or salt. While fresh produce can be expensive, frozen and canned produce are great options for your health and budget.

Don’t believe the myth that frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are less healthy than fresh ones. As long as they are packaged without unhealthy additives, frozen or canned options contain the same nutrients as fresh fruits and vegetables. A few tips can help you make sure you’re getting all the health benefits of your fresh or frozen produce:

Myth: Everyone must drink 64 ounces of water every day.

Water is essential. We need it to keep our bodies hydrated. A common rule you may have heard is to drink 64 ounces of water daily or eight glasses. You may even have heard you should drink more than 100 ounces daily.

So you may be asking, how much water do we really need to drink each day?

In many cases, four to six cups of water a day for healthy individuals is enough. This is especially true if you also get water throughout the day from other sources, such as fruits and vegetables. However, it’s best to talk to your doctor about how much water you should drink. Many factors, including certain health conditions, can change the answer.

If you are exercising or are outdoors in the heat, be sure to drink extra water to replenish what you’ve lost through sweating. Individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding also need more water.

It’s important to remember not to wait until you’re thirsty to drink water. Thirst means your body is already beginning to be dehydrated. Instead, remember to drink throughout the day and include water at every meal. Avoiding sugary drinks is also important to your health.

Myth: You shouldn’t eat carbohydrates.

Is it true that carbs are bad for you? Not exactly. You need carbohydrates to power your body’s functions. But there are different kinds of carbohydrates, and some are better for you than others.

As a basic rule, avoid white bread and highly processed foods like potato chips, candy, soda, and sweet desserts. These sources of carbohydrates contain added sugar linked with many poor health outcomes. Instead, try to choose whole grain breads, beans and legumes, and fruits and vegetables. These options are higher in fiber and other essential nutrients and contain far less sugar than highly processed foods.

For individuals with diabetes, monitoring carbohydrate intake is important. Counting carbohydrates is a common approach to managing blood sugar. If you or someone in your household has diabetes, it’s best to work closely with a doctor to manage your nutritional needs. You can also consult the CDC and the American Diabetes Association for more tips.

Myths about illness

Colds and flu are common ailments, and you’ve probably heard some of the myths surrounding these seasonal illnesses. Knowing the truth can help you understand how we actually get sick.

Myth: You’ll catch a cold outside without a coat or with wet hair.

There’s no doubt that drops in temperature can cause discomfort, especially if you’re not dressed for it. But only a bacteria or virus will cause a cold, not the weather.

It is true that colds and flu are more common in the winter. Viruses and respiratory infections survive better at lower humidity and temperatures. People also tend to stay inside in the winter months, making it easier to catch illnesses from others.

So, the cold weather may encourage behaviors that make it easier to get sick. Still, the weather itself is not to blame. So, when you run out of the house unprepared, you may be chilly, but that’s all.

By avoiding crowded indoor spaces and washing your hands well after touching shared surfaces, you will be less likely to get sick.

Myth: Vaccines will make you sick.

Vaccines help prevent us from getting sick from certain conditions, such as flu, COVID-19, and others. The flu and COVID-19 are both caused by viruses. Vaccines are shots that aim to prevent you from getting sick. If you do get sick, vaccines are proven to reduce your chance of developing severe symptoms or passing the virus on to others.

Other vaccines are available for conditions such as pneumonia, shingles, and more. These can be especially important for older or chronically ill adults who are at greater risk from these illnesses.

A common misconception is that vaccines can make you sick. This is not true. In general, vaccines are safe and recommended by medical professionals to keep you, your family, and the community safer from severe illness.

While some people may experience side effects, that is not the same as developing an illness. Learn more about vaccine safety.

These are just a few examples to show that when it comes to your health, you can’t believe everything you hear! Remember that you should always talk to your doctor about what’s best for you, especially before making any big changes to your diet or routine.

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