3 common health myths that won’t go away

3 common health myths that won’t go away

Despite an increased interest in health and wellness, many common health myths won’t die. Part of the problem is the fact that almost anyone can start a diet, fitness or exercise blog, and much of that information is simply copied from old, unreliable sources. Help your coworkers by encouraging them to eliminate these three unhealthy myths from their lifestyles.

Myth #1: Eat low-cholesterol foods

The cholesterol contained in the foods you eat isn’t the cholesterol that gets into your arteries and causes health problems. Most of the cholesterol in your blood is manufactured by your liver and other organs. The “bad” cholesterol (LDL) can make its way into your arteries, causing heart attacks and strokes. The dietary cholesterol in your blood (the cholesterol that comes from the foods you eat) doesn’t make its way into your arteries. This recent discovery led the American Heart Association (AHA), USDA and other health organizations to advise that “Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for over consumption.”

If you try to avoid dietary cholesterol, you might skip eggs and eat pancakes and waffles instead. Or you might opt for spaghetti instead of a lean steak. This can actually increase your risk for heart disease. Adding more sugar to your diet stimulates the production of LDL particles, which transport LDL cholesterol into your arteries.

You should still look for food choices low in saturated and trans fats and eat more fiber to help you regulate and lower your blood cholesterol. Despite lifting its restrictions on dietary cholesterol, the AHA continues to recommend that you reduce your intake of saturated and trans fats, too much of which can increase your risk for heart disease by signaling the liver to create more cholesterol. Trans fats, often added to snack foods, will be banned as a food additive starting in June of 2018, but some trans fats occur naturally in animal and dairy products.

Choosing healthy proteins, carbohydrates and fats, rather than avoiding foods that are high in cholesterol and substituting sugary carbs for them, will help you reduce your risk for heart disease.

Myth # 2: Eat a low-carb diet

Based on the belief that eating a high-carbohydrate diet led to too much sugar intake, the high-protein, low-carb diet fad became popular in the 1990s. Peer-reviewed research studies finally revealed that these diets aren’t helpful for weight loss. They create other health problems, such as kidney stress, lack of micronutrients and dehydration.

Protein is not a fuel, it’s a building block. If you want to get through your workday, you need to give your body the best fuel sources, which come from complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.

Yes, you need some lean protein each day. Yes, many of the refined carbs we eat are sugary. But too much protein and not enough healthy fruits and vegetables isn’t good for your health. Reduce your intake of white bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and commercially baked sweets. Fruit juices that are 100 percent juice can be a healthy source of vitamins, but they’re also high in sugar. Don’t drink multiple large glasses each day, especially as snacks or meal supplements. Oatmeal is a super food, high in dietary fiber, but instant oatmeal contains lots of added sugar.

You don’t have to completely eliminate starchy carbs from your diet (and trying to might cause cravings or make eating boring), but they shouldn’t make up a significant percentage of your daily calories.

What to Eat?

  1. Complex carbohydrates

    When choosing carbs, try to eat the colors of the rainbow: red tomatoes and radishes, green peas and broccoli, yellow squash and peppers, purple eggplants and beets, oranges and carrots, blueberries and other colorful fruits and vegetables. These are not the white, sugary carbs that cause health problems when eaten in large quantities.

  2. Healthy fats

    Make healthy fats the next-biggest part of your daily calories after complex carbohydrates. Eat more olives and olive oil, eggs, nuts and nut butters, seeds, full fat plain yogurt, avocados and Omega 3 from coldwater fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and tuna.

  3. Lean protein

    Add lean protein sources as your final daily nutrient, choosing lean cuts of beef, turkey and chicken breast, eggs, coldwater fish and shellfish, tofu, nuts, beans, lentils and legumes and non-fat dairy products.

Myth # 3: You can “catch up” on lost sleep

Many people who work late and get by with a few hours of sleep during the week believe they can “bank” sleep on the weekends by sleeping in. Research shows this isn’t possible. Sleeping in on the weekends doesn’t reverse the lost sleep or “sleep debt” from not sleeping 7-8 hours each night during the work week. Also, sleeping in on weekends can make it harder to wake up on Monday morning.  Furthermore, taking a nap helps some people get through a tough day, but breaking your sleep into six hour and two hour bouts doesn’t provide the same restorative benefits as eight, uninterrupted hours of sleep.

Your body releases specific hormones and goes through other changes during deep, restful (REM) sleep. This is when your body repairs the trillions of cells that make up you. If you don’t get approximately eight hours of sleep each night, not only does your body not get the chance to repair itself, you can cause irreparable damage to brain cells. It is also believed that lack of sufficient sleep can increase the risk of developing diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

To improve your sleep, do not drink alcohol before bed. For additional sleep tips read our post on 10 hacks for getting the most restful night’s sleep.