The truth behind 25 health myths
CONSUMER LINE - Ching Alano () - July 24, 2011 - 12:00am

The truth is, there are just so many health myths out there that it’s hard to separate fat, er, fact from fiction. There are just so many diet plans/programs — from Atkins to South Beach to the Bible Diet (seek and you shall find the answer to your weight woes) — that promise to whittle away copious amounts of body fat in just a few days when what they actually do is just shrink your already emaciated pocketbook. For me, when it comes to dieting, the only rule of thumb is: What’s eaten in the dark does not count. There are so many workout programs that don’t work out. There are so many expensive supplements that only give expensive urine.

We’ve practically grown up with some of these myths (or urban legends or old wives’ tales) that persist till today. I have this cherished circa the ’80s book titled Health or Hoax? by Arnold Bender, a professor of dietetics and respected authority on nutrition, who gets to the bottom of some age-old health myths and dishes out a mouthful. As can be gleaned from this book and other sources, here’s the truth behind 25 health myths:

Myth: An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Fact: The biting truth is that apples are not particularly nutritious. Like most fruits, apples only have 2g dietary fiber. A medium-sized apple only has 5-10mg vitamin C and small traces of other vitamins. According to The Phrase Finder, this most famous quotation can be traced to the Pembrokeshire (Wales) proverb that goes: “Eat an apple on going to bed. And you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” Or to the 1913th Devonian folklore that says: “Ait a happle avore gwain to bed, an’ you’ll make the doctor beg his bread.” Back in the days before the food pyramid and pyramid scams, people were simply beholden to the health attributes of the apple. Of course, you and I know about this legendary fruit’s shady past, it being Eve’s fruit of temptation in the Garden of Eden. But then again, some Biblicists say it could have been a grape or a tomato or a fig or a pomegranate … it’s long, long story!

 2. Myth: Yogurt helps you lose weight.

Fact: In terms of nutritional value, there’s no difference between milk and yogurt, which comes from milk. All foods are fattening if you eat more than you should. However, there are low-fat yogurts, which are lower in calories — and, yes, fats. So, if you’re on a diet, opt for low-fat yogurt over the more calorific foods.

 Myth: Lemon juice helps you slim.

Fact: Well, this is one lemon of a diet tip. People must be thinking that just because lemon is sour, it helps with dieting. Or they must be thinking that lemon juice shrinks the stomach, but the truth is, it doesn’t.

Myth: Grapefruit burns fat.

Fact: A big fat no! The so-called grapefruit diet may shrink your purse strings but not your waistline.

5. Myth: Margarine is less fattening than butter.

Fact: They both contain 85-percent fat and the same number of calories.

Myth: All sweet foods are fattening.

Fact: Certainly, sweet foods contain a lot of sugar (except when artificial sweeteners are used) and pack more calories. Plus, if you have an incurable sweet tooth, you tend to eat a lot of the sweet stuff. It is the quantity that will make you fat.

Myth: Drink less water when you’re dieting.

Fact: No way! Water is essential for the body to function. If you drink more than you need, your body will expel it. If you restrict your fluid intake, you will lose weight by dehydration.

Myth: I’m fat because of my glands.

Fact: Did you mean the salivary glands? Glandular diseases causing obesity are very rare.

Myth: We need to drink at least six glasses of water a day.

Fact: Obey your thirst — it will tell you how much to drink. No need to make any special effort to drink.

Myth: Carrots help you see in the dark; they’re good for the eyesight.

Fact: Carrots contain carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. If you lack vitamin A, you can’t see well in the dark. But if you have enough, more will not really help.

Myth: Spinach makes you strong like Popeye.

Fact: Spinach is rich in iron, all right, but when you devour a canful of it like Popeye, it won’t exactly make you strong enough to clobber a big fat brute like Brutus. Spinach is no better than other dark green and leafy vegetables. We must eat breakfast.

Fact: Of course, it is best that we eat three square meals a day, beginning with breakfast to jump-start our day. But some people don’t have time to eat breakfast (or, like me, would rather sleep than eat breakfast) and they’re doing just fine. Trust me on this.

Myth: Smoking after a meal helps digestion.

Fact: The biggest lie! Smoking does not help anything or anybody, except perhaps the cigarette manufacturers. Fact is, smoking is most harmful to our health.

Myth: Coffee keeps us awake.

Fact: Maybe. Some people can’t sleep after drinking coffee due to its caffeine, a psychoactive stimulant. But some people have no trouble sleeping even after a caffeine overload.

Myth: Honey is especially good for you — and your honey.

  Fact: A not-so-sweet no! Honey simply consists of sugars (glucose and fructose) and about a quarter of water. It’s got traces of nutrients, but it’s no big deal if you’re dieting.

Myth: Fish is good for the brain.

Fact: No single food is good for the brain or will help in its development.

Myth: Peanuts are good for the memory.

Fact: Remember that peanuts contain vitamin B3 or niacin that helps in boosting memory power. In addition, one ounce of nuts, peanuts or peanut butter can lower the risk of gallstones by 25 percent ( Walnuts are good for the brain.

Fact: This myth may have risen from the fact that walnuts look somewhat like the human brain. But walnuts are really a nutritional powerhouse: They’re rich in omega-3 and contain B vitamins, fiber, protein, and cancer-fighting nutrients. They lower cholesterol levels and promote a healthy immune function.

Myth: Eating guava/tomato seeds can cause appendicitis.

Fact: It’s a great urban legend you must have been warned about by your grandmother. Tomato/guava seeds will not cause an inflamed appendix. The appendix gets infected when fecal matter or hardened mucus is obstructed in the opening of the appendix (from: diet, healthy nutrition & exercise guide for better health).

Myth: Brown eggs are better than white eggs.

Fact: Now, this is the biggest “white” lie! The color of the eggshell has nothing to do with the nutrients found in the egg. Brown eggs may cost more only because the kind of chicken that lays brown eggs is fewer than the other kind.

Myth:  Oysters enhance the sex drive.

Fact: It’s a young husbands’ tale. It’s probably what Casanova — who ate 50 oysters for breakfast to lure women, including his friends’ wives and daughters — was made to believe. Or maybe, the thought that oysters have aphrodisiac properties sent Casanova’s libido into overdrive.

Myth: A pregnant woman has to eat for two.

Fact: A big, pregnant no! A pregnant woman does not have to eat for one and a quarter (the baby in her womb). Research shows that pregnant women don’t need any more food during pregnancy because their bodies adapt to the extra needs of the baby and make more efficient use of their food intake. What’s important is that women should take enough vitamins and minerals during pregnancy as a slight deficiency of a vitamin or mineral may affect the baby.

Myth: Sea salt is healthier than table (ordinary) salt.

Fact: Sea salt, which is touted as the healthier choice, and table salt have basically the same nutritional value (sodium and chloride). The only difference is the dirt.

Myth: Apples clean your teeth.

Fact: Yes — it’s the crispness of the apple that helps remove sticky sugars and makes the saliva flow, thus washing sugars off your teeth. Consider it your natural toothbrush.

Myth: Alcohol helps the appetite.

Fact: Yes. Taking any small alcoholic drink about a quarter of an hour before a meal stimulates the flow of gastric juices as well as the appetite. Of course, too much of it could get you drunk and make you forget about eating.

Stay healthy — and healthily informed, everyone!

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