Public opinion and impressions are often created by following social trends. It is a common practice to follow health trends on hearsay. We take a look at some of the most popular health myths and what the reality actually indicates.
Myth 1: Fat is bad for you
Fat is important for good health as it is a macronutrient that one must have like carbohydrates and protein. The American Heart Association recommends including healthy unsaturated fats in your diet to raise your High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) or healthy cholesterol while lowering the low density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol. It also reduces triglycerides another kind of lipids that clog the arteries. Doctors recommend inclusion of ‘good fats’ such as Omega 3 and 6 found in foods like avocado, salmon, mackerel, eggs, olive oil, flax seeds, walnuts, tofu etc are important for your heart health.
Janani Satchithanantham , Senior Dietitian , Aster Hospital – Qusais said : “What needs to be avoided is the ‘bad’ fats or the saturated variety found in butter, red meat and animal protein. Too much of this fat triggers plaque formation and is a major contributor to Coronary Artery Disease. One must limit one’s intake of visible fats to not more than 3-4 tsps per day. It is also important to rotate the cooking oil one uses to derive maximum benefit.”
Myth 2: You must consume 6-8 glasses of water in a day
Almost 60 per cent of our body is made up of water and it is an essential ingredient to hydrate every cell, every tissue of our body. However, there is no fixed magic number for water consumption. It depends on what is your body weight, the kind of physical activity you do and what other fluids you ingest. If you have six portions of fruits and vegetables and clear soups and other water rich foods, your requirement goes down as the water from these foods also hydrates you.
Satchithanantham advised : “Don’t just focus on water, but have other fluids as well that keeps your electrolytes in balance. Just having too much water can overhydrate your body and flush out the sodium causing nausea, dizziness and cramps. Besides this the weather, the heat, humidity, staying indoors in air-conditioning all change your requirement for water.”
Individuals who are exercise a lot, pregnant women, those who work in strenuous outdoor jobs have a higher requirement for water consumption. Consult your General Physician or nutritionist to determine your water requirements.
Myth 3: Drink milk for healthy bones
Milk is conventionally recommended for strong bones as dairy is the easiest available source of calcium that is required for bone health. Satchithanantham elaborated: “With the arrival of new hybrid breeds of cows and injection of hormones to increase yields of milk, a large number of people are now shown signs of lactose intolerance. In addition to it the milk molecule contains Insulin like Growth factor which is linked to rising incidence of insulin resistance and obesity. So when it comes to choosing a calcium source, make a wise choice.”
One need not have milk for calcium and can get their daily requirement of calcium from nuts, sesame seeds, oily fish and dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, green collard, broccoli etc. Physical fitness experts say other ways to increase bone density is to exercise regularly. Doing weight bearing exercises helps bones to retain their density and other nutrients such as vitamin D and vitamin K are equally important in retaining the calcium within the bones.
Myth 4: Fruits juices are healthy drinks to have
Most fruit juices available in the market are as high in calories as a sugary soft drink. Satchithanantham explained: “A glass of orange juice for instance, contains the extract of six oranges. When you have a fruit you usually limit yourself to one or two and have it with all the fibre, vitamins and minerals. Juicing it destroys some minerals, takes out the fibre and just gives you a sugar overdose. The recommended daily dose of fibre for women is 25 gm and men need 38 gm. By eliminating that fibre from a fruit, one is depriving oneself of a dense source of nutrition.”
Myth 5: Vegetable Chips are a healthy alternative over potato chips
Vegetable chips available in markets are as bad as potato chips. Satchithanantham explained: “The vegetables used in these chips are dehydrated, processed. Besides the oil, these chips contain a lot of salt and preservatives added. So these chips lose the nutrition that one could expect out of eating the vegetable in its original form.”
If one really craves for chips, it is recommended that you make your own vegetable chips at home in an air-fryer and have it once in a while.
Myth 6: Dinner after 7 pm is a No-No
It is important to have dinner and not go hungry just because you have crossed the 7pm deadline. Not having dinner can not only result in low blood sugar but will interrupt your sleep cycle and trigger midnight binging habit.
According to Satchithanantham: “While it is true that our metabolism slows down in the late evening, working people cannot meet the 7pm deadline for food. Nutrition is important and they can avoid heavy carbohydrates such as rice and potatoes and choose lighter food items such as soup, salads, stir-fired/steamed vegetables and a fluid rich diet for dinner that will keep them hydrated through the night.” In dinner what matters is the choice of food groups and not deprivation of food altogether in case one is having a late dinner. It is also recommended that you do not immediately go to bed after a meal and have a one to two hour gap.
Myth 7: Gluten is bad for you
Gluten is a group of proteins found in whole grains such as wheat, rye, spelt and barley. Like all proteins it has an important source of macro-nutrition. It is bad for only those who are found to be intolerant such as those suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Ceiliac Disease. People with these diseases have a problem assimilating the gluten that results in indigestion, gas, bloating and poor bowel movement.
Satchithanantham explained : “If one is not gluten intolerant, one must not eliminate it from diet as it results in eliminating a lot of whole grain from your diet. Besides gluten helps healthy gut bacteria and not having it as a trend may cause more harm than good in the long run.”
Myth 8: Brushing teeth after every meal is best for oral hygiene
Reality check: Dentists recommend brushing teeth only twice a day –morning and evening and rinsing mouth well after every meal. Brushing teeth after every meal not only wears down the enamel but washes out all the healthy bacteria from the mouth which is so important for dental hygiene.
Satchithanantham added : “Besides that, most toothpastes contain sugar and fluorides and ingesting toothpaste four to five times a day will do more harm than good. It is better to rinse and floss after a meal to wash out any food particle trapped between teeth.”
Myth 9: Walking is not an exercise and will not help you lose weight
Consistent brisk walking done for a long time is effective tool that helps you lose weight without hurting your knees and other joints. Walking is recommended for people who are too heavy and are trying to lose weight, people who are in the age group of 60 and above as it does not stress out the heart. Brisk walking with the correct posture where the spine is straight with the right shoes that provide cushioning to the heels and do not stress the knees, helps people firm up their quadriceps and hamstrings, correct body balance and posture and overall help gain good health and reduce weight.
Myth 10: The more you exercise the healthier you can be
A period of 60 minutes is recommended as the ideal time to exercise per day. Spending too many hours working out can deprive the worn out muscles of time to recuperate and heal. It can also injure joints and the spine and wear down the heart. Exercise requires proper warm up and cool down and stretches so that the muscles are not stressed. But indulging in a variety of exercises that stretch over two hours can be counter- productive say physical fitness experts. In fact it is important to space out exercises and also work on different muscle groups each day so as not to cause any injury.