Healthy living can be hard. Just when you think you have a handle on all the “rules” of proper eating, they have to go and change on you. Remember when we all thought fats were bad, for example? Well, not only are fats not bad, but they’re actually essential to a more nutritious diet!
Today’s health fads seem to be shifting our behaviors at a rapid pace. One minute, we should eat like cave people. Then we need to try intermittent fasting. Then someone is trying to sell us some kind of shake that contains a superfood only found in the rainforest that will turn our hair shiny and make our abs flat. Magical!
Frankly, it’s exhausting to keep up with all the trends and even harder to decipher what’s grounded in reality and what’s myth. Living a more nutritious and active life shouldn’t be confusing, so to make sure we are all on the right track, let’s sort through some unhelpful health myths that we should all stop believing.
Myth 1: Hitting the gym daily will make me skinnier
I’m so guilty of this, it’s not even funny. I work out every single day and truth be told: I haven’t lost a single pound of my “baby” weight from my child who is already over 2 years old. Exercise alone does not a fit body make. According to a 2015 literature review, walking at least 300 minutes per week combined with good nutrition is the key to weight loss. Also, if you’re anything like me and tend to think that a hard, sweaty workout “cancels” out that pizza you plan on eating later, the answer is sadly “No!”
Myth 2: Bananas have no negative impact on my body
Listen, bananas certainly aren’t unhealthy. They are still full of important nutrients, vitamins, and good stuff like fiber. But last year, I was kicking back bananas like there was no tomorrow. Bananas for breakfast! Bananas for an afternoon snack! Bananas in my shake! Bananas for dessert! I was passing out bananas to myself like I just won a lifetime supply.
And while bananas aren’t necessarily bad, they are still full of sugar that our bodies break down, just like any other type of sugar — which means I had to learn a hard lesson. While bananas are most definitely a good source of fuel, they aren’t a free for all. Bananas are a treat, and today’s bananas are even larger and contain more sugar than bananas our ancestors snacked on years ago. These days, I limit myself to having a banana every few days and I make sure to only eat half if it’s a big banana. Everything in moderation.
Myth 3: Carbs are the worst
Say it with me: Carbs are not bad. Our bodies need carbs to survive. Our brains are built to run on carbs. Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for our body. The type of carbohydrate obviously does matter and it’s best to get your carbohydrates from whole foods — a sweet potato as opposed to a glazed doughnut, for example. How many carbs your body needs will depend on your own body type, size, and activity level, and you can use the American Dietary Guidelines to determine your own needs. It’s also helpful to track your carbohydrate levels with a nutrition app and change the levels to see how you feel and how your body responds.
Myth 4: Gluten-free is the way to be
Unless you have a serious gluten intolerance or a medical condition such as Celiac disease, in which your body cannot digest gluten, there is no proven reason that eating gluten-free is healthier for you. In general, especially if you are eating traditional products, such as bread or pasta that is gluten-free, the gluten-free version is often more processed, since it contains more ingredients to replace the gluten.
Many gluten-free goodies also have more calories than their traditional counterparts, so be sure to check labels and consider what you are eating before choosing a food simply because it’s gluten-free.
Myth 5: More water = a healthier me
If you’re bending over backward to hit your hydration goals, you may just be exerting tons of effort for no reason. Yes, water is important, especially if you’re using it to replace a bad habit of soda or other sugary beverages, but there’s no reason to guzzle down gallons of water every day. Water has been linked to healthy weight, but a good rule of thumb is to make water your go-to beverage instead of anything else and basically drink when you’re thirsty. There’s no need for anything else.
Myth 6: Green snot = time for antibiotics
As a parent and as a nurse, I admit that this is one health “rule” I have always subscribed to. Once, my kids’ snot turned green and I rushed them into the doctor’s office, thinking they had a bacterial infection. Turns out, the color of the snot doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Even viral infections produce an immune response in the body that can cause green mucus.
Myth 7: Kids need a coat or they’ll get sick
Obviously, your kid needs a coat so they don’t get cold when they go outside in the winter. If you live in a state where it’s below freezing all the time, frostbite is a real concern. But your kid going coatless will not make them more susceptible to actually getting sick from a virus or bacterial infection. And in fact, if your child is still riding in a car seat, it may be a good reason to skip the coat and bundle your child in blankets so you can buckle them safely in a car seat.
Myth 8: Cell phones cause cancer
Currently, there is no conclusive evidence reported by the National Cancer Institute that cell phone use causes any type of increased risk of cancer. Now that cell phones are a part of most people’s everyday lives, research is constantly being done to keep us all safe (researchers use cell phones too, let’s not forget!). It should also be comforting to know that even though we use cell phones more than ever, the technology has improved with our increased use, so we actually have less exposure to radiation than ever.
Myth 9: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day
Even though we’ve always been told that breakfast is the single most impactful meal we’ll have, it may also be a myth. One study even found that skipping breakfast for some individuals led them to eat fewer calories per day. Bottom line? If you’re not a natural breakfast eater, that’s fine. Just be sure that you’re not filling up on unhealthy foods because you’re starving later.
Instead of buying into all of these myths, focus on the basics: skip the fad diets, eat whole, nutritious foods, and use moderation. Finally, remember that health is more than skin deep, so be sure to nurture both your mental and physical health as well!
Chaunie Brusie, B.S.N., is a registered nurse with experience in labor and delivery, critical care, and long-term care nursing. She lives in Michigan with her husband and four young children, and she is the author of the book, “Tiny Blue Lines.”