Nowadays, the answers to most of our health-related questions are a simple Google search away. Yet many of us still hang on to old and outdated myths and rumors that we heard way back in the day. It happens all the time. We hear something—perhaps on the news or from a well-meaning friend or co-worker—and take it as the gospel truth, when that supposedly sage advice may in fact be holding us back from reaching our health goals.
Despite the wealth of health studies and an abundance of relevant and accessible facts at our fingertips, many health myths just won’t go away. Confounding things even more is the fact that science can be a bit fickle sometimes, with new studies conflicting with older studies, and fresh breakthroughs shattering the hard facts of yesterday. It can be hard to keep up with it all.
But fear not. We’re here to set the record straight and expose the most widely-spread health myths once and for all.
Myth #1 The Food Pyramid: Things have changed quite a bit since the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) first introduced the food pyramid back in the ’90s. Back then, the guidelines that recommended six to 11 daily servings of bread, rice, and pasta made sense—since the goal was to reduce salt and sodium, and encourage us to eat a variety of foods. But that was before we learned about the dangers of consuming too many unhealthy carbs. Thankfully, the USDA officially did away with the pyramid in favor of the new and simplified “food plate,” which encourages people to enjoy smaller portions and make fruits and vegetables half of their diet.
Myth #2 All Carbs Are Evil: Speaking of carbs, it seems that carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap in recent years. Everywhere you look, there’s some new article or blog post warning us that carbs are public enemy number one and should be avoided at all costs. But that’s only half the story, since not all carbs are the same. Many fruits and veggies are loaded with carbs, for example, and those are some of the healthiest foods you can eat. The key is to look for foods that contain healthy carbs—those that are rich in fiber and not refined and processed—like whole grains, oats, and non-starchy fruits and vegetables. Doing so can help ensure you have plenty of energy, a strong immune system, and a healthy metabolism.
Myth #3 Milk Does a Body Good: Those old “milk does a body good” commercials interrupted Saturday morning cartoons for generations of children and introduced the notion that calcium-rich milk helps build strong, unbreakable bones. While milk is indeed an excellent source of calcium, it’s important to note that whole milk is also loaded with saturated fat, which can increase LDL cholesterol to unhealthy levels if you’re not careful. That’s why it’s important to choose low-fat milk and dairy products when seeking a calcium fix. It’s also worth mentioning that greens like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, and kale also provide a healthy source of calcium.
Myth #4 Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold: Whether you have a fever, a cold, a stubbed toe, or are feeling completely hunky-dory, there’s absolutely no reason to ever starve yourself. As a matter of fact, reducing calories may actually weaken your immune system, though more research is needed to confirm this. Bottom line, if you are sick and have an appetite, go ahead and eat. A healthy, well-balanced diet can not only keep you from getting sick in the first place, but can also help supply you with the nutrition you need to bounce back on your feet. Just make sure you get plenty of fluids as well.
Myth #5 Vaccines Cause Autism: In 1998, a now infamous and retracted study was published, which appeared to link autism in children to measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines. The study, which has been debunked numerous times, discredited the paper and led the researcher to have his medical license revoked. Yet, the myth unfortunately persists, and many new parents are opting to skip the lifesaving vaccines in an attempt to protect their children. Meanwhile, a more recent study by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found no harmful association between MMR vaccines and autism, even among children already at higher risk.
Taking advice to heart without validating it is risky business; especially for those who have health issues. Jumping in head first and going all-in on a so-called tried and true method can do more harm than good and leave you back at square one … or worse. When in doubt, do a quick search online and seek out reputable sources and studies, or better yet, ask your physician and take the advice of a certified professional.