When it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, half of the battle is mentally committing to better habits. The other half is ensuring those habits are built on science, not fiction. Check out these health beliefs to make sure your food and lifestyle choices aren’t built on outdated myths that we’ve now busted.
Diet Soda is Healthier Than Regular Soda
Behold the power of marketing. Companies throw “diet” on a food or beverage label and millions believe it must be a healthier alternative. When it comes to sodas, there’s not a single scientific study to back that claim. In fact, diet sodas rely on artificial sweeteners that do just as much or even more harm than sugar. If you’re looking for a healthy beverage choice, stick with water and squeeze some lemon or lime into it for a little extra flavor.
Avoid Carbs When Dieting
Weight loss is far simpler than most people think. To lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume. That’s it. Carbs don’t carry any magical power to make you gain extra weight. Plus, “good carbs” (like those found in whole grains, fruits, and veggies) are a healthy source of the fiber and nutrients— fuel your body needs to function properly.
To be Thin and Healthy, You Must Drink Eight Glasses of Water Daily
While it’s true that drinking plenty of water is good for your health, the actual amount you need can vary from one person to the next. Look for warning signs of dehydration (like dark urine) to learn how much your body needs, and always reach for a glass of water before quenching your thirst with a sugary soda or juice.
Tanning Beds are a Safe Way to Get a Little Color
For a while there in the ’90s, people believed that tanning beds were a safe bet as long as they used UVA rays rather than UVB rays. Unfortunately, that’s simply not true. The World Health Organization even declared tanning beds a leading cause for melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. Next time you’re wanting a little color, spend some time in the good old-fashioned sun instead.
Carrots Will Improve Your Vision
It was once believed that eating carrots and other veggies rich in vitamin A could improve your vision. Unfortunately, vitamin A consumption doesn’t actually affect how well the cells in your retina, also called photoreceptors, work. There’s a glimmer of truth to the myth, however— carrots do help prevent macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness in old age.
You Should Wait an Hour After Eating Before Going Swimming
Were you ever forced to impatiently wait for an hour after eating before you could go swimming as a kid? It was long believed that a full stomach would divert blood from your muscles to your digestive system and potentially cause life-threatening cramps. It does make some theoretical sense, but there’s never been a single reported case of someone drowning because they didn’t wait long enough between their PB&J and their swan dive.
A High-Carb, Low-Fat Diet is the Way to Go
This myth was so deeply ingrained in American culture that it was the driving force of logic behind that food pyramid you were forced to memorize in grade school. As it turns out, this diet has it all wrong. Researchers have found that the opposite approach, a low-carb, high-fat diet, is a more effective plan for those looking to lose weight and combat type 2 diabetes.
You Need to Eat Sugar-Free Food to be Healthy
Although it’s never a good idea to consume too much sugar, it’s also not a good idea to assume that sugar-free food is a healthier alternative. Artificial sweeteners will still come with their own set of health risks. Aspartame is one example of a common ingredient in sugar-free food that has been linked to cancer.
Chocolate Causes Breakouts
Unless you’re rubbing chocolate directly onto your face, the candy isn’t to blame for your acne breakout. Skin accumulation, the bacteria in your pores, stress, and hormones are all far more likely culprits. Your skin and body will look and feel its best when you’re eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water, but an occasional chocolate indulgence isn’t going to ruin Friday night’s big date.
Meat is the Only Source of Protein
You may want a good reason to justify that cheeseburger you’re craving, but this argument just isn’t it. Meat isn’t the only place you can find good sources of protein. Vegetables, whole grains, and legumes can give you the protein your body needs, plus a whole slew of nutrients that are good for you as well.
Eggs Will Cause Your Cholesterol to Spike
It’s true that eggs contain cholesterol, and cholesterol can have dangerous effects on your heart. The misconception lies in what actually causes your blood cholesterol levels to spike. As it turns out, the cholesterol found in eggs never really makes it to your blood stream. Instead, saturated and trans fats impact your blood cholesterol the most. Eggs have very little saturated fat and no trans fat at all, so enjoy them in moderation and you’ll be just fine.
Microwaving Creates Dangerous Chemicals in Food
Some people opt not to use microwaves because the appliances rely on electromagnetic rays to heat your food. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with warming your meal the old-fashioned way, you should know that electromagnetic rays having nothing whatsoever to do with radioactivity. They don’t actually break down molecules or create harmful additives in your food, so there’s no reason to feel guilty over popping your leftovers in the microwave when you’re in a hurry.
Fad Diets Work Fast and Help You Stay Thin Forever
There’s no magic pill or secret diet that will make you thin overnight and keep you that way forever, and bouncing from one fad diet to the next won’t get you any closer to your health goals. Instead, focus on forming healthy habits that you can sustain for the long term and make them a normal part of your everyday life. Healthy living is about consistently making wise choices, not jumping on every possible diet for two weeks and hoping for the best.
You Must Drink Cow’s Milk to Get Enough Calcium
Did you know that 80% of adults don’t possess the they need to break dairy down properly? For those adults (who make up a large majority of the population), cow’s milk does far more harm than good for the body. Almond milk is a much safer and healthier alternative, and you can still get the calcium you need from almonds, cabbages, green veggies, and sesame seeds.
When You Don’t Exercise, Muscle Turns to Fat
When you skip the gym for a month or two (or more), you may start to notice more fat and less muscle on your body. That’s simply because you’re losing muscle mass and gaining fat, not because your muscle is undergoing some strange structural transformation. Rebellious muscle isn’t to blame for your new physique, but inactivity certainly is.
If You Eat Cakes, Cupcakes, and Sweet Treats, You Won’t be Skinny
Myth: Cakes, cupcakes, and other sweets will prevent you from ever losing weight. Fact: As long as they’re homemade and you use some portion control, you can really eat anything you want. Having sweets every day will likely derail your weight loss goals, but you’re perfectly fine enjoying homemade treats in moderation.
There’s One Perfect Diet for You
Have you ever seen a friend become completely obsessed with a diet? Perhaps they tried to convince you that their new diet is the answer to all of your health woes and then judged you if you failed to get on board. The truth is that fad diets are hard to sustain for long, and the yo-yo of failed dieting attempts isn’t doing you any favors. Instead of seeking out an ideal (and impossibly strict) diet, focus on practicing healthy habits you can stick to for life.
You Should Avoid All Salty Snacks
It’s no myth that a low-sodium diet can reduce your chances of high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes. The problem lies in people’s misconceptions over where salt is found. When salt is added during processing, a high-sodium snack may not taste much like salt at all. Instead of relying on taste to avoid a sodium overload, remember to check out nutrition labels before deciding which snacks are a no-go.
Low-Fat Foods are Healthier
In the low-fat craze of the ’90s, low-fat “health foods” quickly filled grocery store shelves, yet obesity rates in America continued to rise. Where did we go wrong? Well, when food manufacturers started cutting fat from their recipes, they quickly turned to sugar to keep their products tasting good. Even though we now know sugar has a far worse impact on your health, marketers continue to capitalize on that misplaced fear of fat to sell foods you mistakenly believe are healthy.
All Calories are Created Equally
The truth: As long as you’re burning more calories than you consume, you’ll lose weight, no matter where those calories come from. The problem: There’s more to good health than weight loss, so you shouldn’t let calorie counting cause you to neglect foods that carry the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals you need. If you get 100 calories from apples, your body will be far better off than if you get those “same” 100 calories from French fries in your local drive thru. When it comes to calories, don’t let quantity distract from quality.
Eating Fat Makes You Fat
Marketers love throwing buzzwords like “low fat” on a product to encourage you to buy it, but from now on, you’ll know better. The truth is that your body needs fat, calories, and carbohydrates to function well. Instead of avoiding fat altogether, just remember to consume it in moderation.
Fasting Rids the Body of Toxins
Do you want to know the best way to rid your body of toxins? Stop consuming them. That doesn’t mean you have to stop eating altogether. In fact, your body has a system in place for eliminating what it doesn’t need, and it needs food to fuel that process. Simply give your body a chance to do its job, and don’t overload it with toxic nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol.
Aluminum Foil and Cookware are Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease
This myth has thankfully been on the decline, but there’s a chance your grandmother still believes it’s true. In the 1960s and ’70s, scientists found higher levels of aluminum in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains, and people began frantically tossing out aluminum pots, pans, and foil. Further research has failed to substantiate the fear that aluminum cookware actually causes the disease, so there’s no real need to worry about wrapping your leftovers in foil and saving them for tomorrow.
Sugar Causes Hyperactivity in Children
There’s really nothing redeeming about a high-sugar diet— for kids or adults. With the slew of health problems that it could lead do, it should absolutely be minimized. However, the belief that sugar causes your kids to bounce off the walls isn’t exactly accurate. In other words, you perceive your children to be hyperactive after eating sugar because it’s what you expect, but studies show that there’s no actual link between sugar intake itself and hyperactivity. Correlation is another topic though for another day!
You Shouldn’t Eat After 6 PM (or 7 PM or 8 PM)
Look, let’s be clear about one thing- eating late at night and then going to sleep doesn’t allow your digestive system to do its best work. But contrary to what you were once led to believe, it’s better to eat than to go to bed with stomach pain. As long as you’re choosing wisely and snacking in moderation, listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry. Denying yourself food when hungry only confuses your metabolism and increases the likelihood that you’ll binge later.
Alcohol Kills Brain Cells
Yes, ethyl alcohol can kill cells, but you can count on your liver to convert those dangerous chemicals before they wreak that kind of havoc on your brain. On the other hand, alcohol does damage the neurons in your brain, which are responsible for sending messages of communication between your brain and your body. That just may explain some of the seemingly brainless decisions your college friends made at frat parties.
All Herbs are Good for You
Just because something sounds “all-natural” doesn’t mean it’s good for you. While some herbs do provide a natural health boost, others are downright harmful. For example, some people use kava for anxiety relief, but studies show that the herb causes liver toxicity. Similarly, ginkgo leaf extracts are used to treat dementia but can cause nausea, headaches, and diarrhea. Before self-treating with herbs, check with your doctor to ensure they won’t have dangerous side effects or interfere with your prescription meds.