Most of us grew up learning about health from our families, friends, teachers, and the media. Dizzying streams of information tell us how we should live from an early age. But not everything we read or hear is true. Marketing campaigns with phrases like “quick fix” and “instant results” are red flags of false promises.
It’s hard to know the difference between true and false when it seems like every day there’s a new gimmick or diet out there that promises to cure all your ailments. And health myths can be quite counterproductive to our personal progress. “Often, these health gimmicks do nothing and allow for a worsening of a condition, or they can sometimes worsen our health more actively,” warns Canada-based naturopathic doctor Sarah Connors, N.D.
Here, experts share the most common health myths—and set the record straight.
Myth: High-fat foods are bad for you
Despite its bad rap, fat is actually one of three macronutrients, along with protein and carbohydrates, you must consume to survive. “Fat is needed in the body for many functions, including absorption of certain nutrients, cell structure, and a fuel source for the body,” explains The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Brittany Michels, R.D.N. “Fat also helps you feel full for longer, which can reduce your overall calorie intake for the day.”
That said, you want to opt for healthy fats like avocados, low-mercury seafood (e.g. salmon and shrimp), nuts, nut butter, and seeds in contrast to processed meats, dairy, and fried foods.
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Myth: Weight training makes you Bulky
Weight training is one of the healthiest types of exercise you can do and is recommended by both The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA). However, many people fear that lifting weights will make them look heavier. “Lifting some weights a few times per week will help with toning and metabolism, but will certainly not make you bulky,” says Michels. “You’d need to put a lot more work in to wind up looking like a bodybuilder.”
She recommends incorporating weight training a few days per week to score the benefits of improved metabolism, weight management, bone density, and a reduced risk of injury.
Myth: ‘cheat days’ Will help you eat healthier the rest of the week
You may have heard certain health influencers encourage giving yourself a “cheat day”—a.k.a. a day to eat as much or whatever you want in an attempt to taper your cravings throughout the rest of the week. This is one of the most prevalent health myths out there.
According to naturopathic doctor Ashley Margeson, N.D., relying on cheat days can create a negative relationship with food. “A good relationship with food does not involve restricting yourself through the week and then eating everything in sight over the weekend,” she says.
Instead, she recommends eating foods in moderation—both the amount and the percentage of healthy to not-so-healthy. “Eat the pizza if you want to eat the pizza, and have the salad if you want to have a salad, but avoid putting yourself in a position to feel restricted so that you don’t feel a need to totally splurge,” she adds.
Myth: Eating eggs causes high cholesterol
Many people think that eggs increase cholesterol and, by extension, increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, explains Connors. “This stems from a few studies that did seem to suggest that this was the case, but more recent studies have shown this not to be true,” she says.
In fact, while some studies, including one published in the journal Metabolism, have shown a slight increase in LDL (or bad) cholesterol with daily egg consumption, it’s also shown an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which evens things out.
Eggs are a healthy addition to your diet, providing adequate amounts of several important nutrients, including vitamins A, B5, B12, B2, phosphorus, selenium as well as choline, a nutrient most Americans are short on, per the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
Myth: Cranberry juice prevents UTIs
If you’ve ever had symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI), such as a persistent urge to pee or a burning pain while peeing, you may have read that drinking cranberry juice can help. While it’s true that cranberries themselves can help, thanks to their active ingredient, proanthocyanidins, cranberry juice has a very low concentration of it, explains Michels. “Most commercial cranberry juice drinks also include a lot of added sugar, which fuels the bad bacteria we need to eliminate from the urinary tract.”
She recommends skipping the juice and finding a cranberry concentrate or extract that is standardized for the active, such as plnt Cranberry Capsules.