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Seven Health Myths Debunked

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I grew up eating carrots. Whether I liked them or not was of no interest to my mom; she prepared them chopped, cooked, cold, and pretty much any other way you can imagine because according to her, carrots would decrease my chances of needing glasses. I ate them without complaint—who wanted to be called four-eyes on the elementary school playground? After a little research, I found out carrots aren’t good for my eyes at all; it was just a lie—a big, fat lie.


Turns out the British Royal Air Force started the carrot tale in World War II to keep their newfound fighter pilots’ radar under wraps. They spread the rumor that their pilots were eating more carrots, and that as a result, their vision (and thus their aim) was drastically improved.


That got me wondering—what else did I believe without question that could be just an old wives’ tale?


1. Drink eight glasses of water a day.
While drinking eight glasses of water a day is a great idea, the truth is, lots of drinks—and even foods—have water in them. We can get liquid love from tea, juices, and fruits, too. Of course, drinking more water won’t hurt us, but there are other ways to get our recommended daily amount than just water alone.


2. Feed a cold, starve a fever.
Ah, the old adage of either overstuffing or starving ourselves to ward off illness—what choices! Sounds a little far-fetched to me; I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to intentionally deprive our bodies of all those juicy nutrients food provides, fever or no fever.


The America Lung Association confirms that this is an old saying not grounded in much of anything. Our bodies need lots of fluids and healthy foods to get healthy, and it’s never a good idea to go to the extreme on either end.


3. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Now this one just may be true, at least sort of. Apples are a low-fat, low-calorie snack packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect our bodies’ cells from damage. Some studies even suggest that they can help the body fight heart disease and cancer. There’s no guarantee that eating one apple a day keeps the doctor away, but there is some truth if you consider it one part of a healthy diet and exercise routine.


In fact, according to a 1995 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the best apple to keep the doctor away is the Red Delicious because it has more disease-fighting chemicals than other varieties of the forbidden fruit.


4. Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis.
My grandma had arthritis, and I remember asking her if she cracked her knuckles when she was younger. Though she wasn’t a knuckle-cracker in her youth, she did tell me that cracking was one cause of arthritis. (Clearly her arthritis was caused by something else.)


A 1990 study in the Annals of Rheumatic Disease found compulsive knuckle crackers had no more tendency to develop arthritis than those who did not crack their knuckles.


Of course there are some people who have arthritis and are admitted knuckle crackers, but there’s no scientific evidence that the cracking and popping leads to arthritis.


Keep in mind, however, that while it may not cause arthritis, it may annoy more than a few people at the dinner table.


5. Chocolate causes acne.
Dermatologists tell us acne is caused by our genes, our hormones, or our skin type.


The National Institute of Health recommends antibiotics and other medications for treating acne, not dietary changes. Of course, some people do see improvements with diet changes, so if you think your acne might be a result of your chocoholic tendencies, cut chocolate out of your diet for a few weeks and see what happens.


6. Chicken soup is the best medicine.
This one has a little truth to it. Although it may not be the best-tasting soup, chicken soup can be good medicine if we’re sick. Why? When we get sick, we tend to become dehydrated and the fluid in chicken noodle soup can help. The yummy feel-good favorite is also packed with tons of vegetables that can help us get back on track.


7. Going out in the cold with wet hair will make you sick.
We’ve all heard this advice more than a few times, but is it really possible to get sick by going out in the cold with wet hair? The answer is no. Colds and flues are caused by bacteria and viruses, not cold weather. While going out in the cold with wet hair may make you chilly, it won’t make you sick … unless of course you happen to run into someone who has a cold.

So do you still have to eat your carrots and stop cracking your knuckles? Of course. But only because your mother said so.

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