There are so many health myths out there these days, it can be hard to keep track of what is true and what has been found to be false. For this reason, I put together a list of the greatest health myths that I still get questions about in practice and from our online community.
Below lists the top health myths that have been debunked:
1. “Avoid eating eggs because they will raise cholesterol”
It has been found time and time again that natural health foods high in cholesterol, such as eggs, will not raise your bad cholesterol. The US government even lifted its recommendation on limiting dietary cholesterol due to the overwhelming evidence showing that eating cholesterol containing foods did not increase cholesterol in the body. Read more about this here and here.
2. “I get enough fiber because I eat oatmeal everyday”
If this is your main source of fiber for the day, you aren’t even close to getting enough fiber. One cup of cooked oatmeal only has about 3-4 grams of fiber and guidelines recommend individuals take in at least 25 grams of fiber per day – that’s a lot of oatmeal (and a ton of carbs) to get you there! I recommend more nutrient dense foods to get enough fiber. For example, chia seeds have 4 grams of fiber in just 1 Tbsp, 1 cup of raspberries has about 9 grams, beans have about 8 grams in 1/2 cup, and vegetables range from 2-8 grams of fiber per cup. You can certainly still have the oatmeal, just add more fiber rich foods to the rest of your diet as well. Read more about fiber here and here.
3. “Increase your vitamin D levels with 10 minutes of sunlight”
This statement actually isn’t false, but it is deceiving. To get an optimal vitamin D level you will need a good amount of sun daily, without sunscreen, and a wide surface area of your body – not just your face or just your hands. When I was working in Manhattan I thought low vitamin D was only an East Coast thing – well it’s definitely not! Now working in Southern California where the sun is shining every single day (give or take a day or two) I’ve found that just about everyone who is not taking a vitamin D supplement is very low in vitamin D.
How to get enough:
General recommendations are 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day, taken with a fatty meal.
4. “The flu shot can give you the flu”
The flu shot will not give you the flu, period. Some individuals may have a mild reaction to the vaccine, such as a low-grade fever or body aches, but this is extremely rare and it is just the body detecting the injection as something foreign to the body – it is not the flu. The most common symptoms after getting the flu vaccine include soreness and/or redness at injection site. You can read more about this here. Everyone is recommended to get the flu vaccine each year, starting with the age of 6 months.
5. “You can’t get skin cancer if you have dark skin”
No matter how light or how deep your skin color, the sun can and will still cause damage if you do not protect yourself. I recommend using at least 30 SPF on your skin daily. You can read more about this here.
6. “Orange juice is healthy”
First of all an orange by itself is fine, it has about 9 grams of sugar, almost half as much sugar that you should get in one day. A typical glass of orange juice however, can have double or triple this amount! Just say no to orange juice, it’s doing you no favors and is only hurting your health. Eating an orange is much better because you are also consuming the fiber from the flesh of the orange, meaning this will slow down the effect of sugar in your body.
7. “Agave is a healthy alternative to sugar”
Agave is basically high fructose corn syrup – it actually may have even more fructose than high fructose corn syrup! The only reason agave was touted as a healthy sweetener was because it was considered “natural” and because it didn’t raise blood glucose very much. Unfortunately, fructose increases triglycerides (bad cholesterol), is damaging to the liver, and is heavily linked to weight gain and obesity. Instead of agave, just go for full fruit as a natural sweetener or stevia. You can read more about agave here.
8. “You can’t eat too much fruit”
Fruit is often the culprit when I see patients who are trying to lose weight and are eating a ton of fruit trying to be healthy, and their blood sugar is going up and their weight is going up. Some fruit is healthy, say 1/2 a cup serving of berries. But it is very easy to overeat fruit because it is super sweet without any protein, fat, or much fiber to tell our brain we are full. If you are going to have fruit, go for higher fiber and lower sugar types of fruit such as raspberries and blackberries.
9. “Carbohydrates are necessary for health”
It is a misconception that your body needs carbohydrates, it doesn’t! There are three macronutrients, protein, fat, and carbohydrates, and fat and protein are necessary for health but carbohydrates are not. Your body can synthesize glucose from amino acids from protein if need be, and your body can run on ketones (from fat) rather than glucose very efficiently. Read more here.
10. “A fever is harmful”
Actually a fever is your body’s way of trying to kill off the bacteria or virus making you sick. Many microbes that make us sick thrive and grow at normal body temperature and cannot survive under high temperature. If possible, avoid taking fever reducers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen and let your body do the work. You can read more about this here.