You have your kale-packed green juice and snazzy gym wear ready and waiting, you’re going to exercise every single day and apply sunscreen even when you are spending the day in the office – but are you going about all this the right way?
With so much contradictory information out there, we got experts to debunk 7 popular health myths.
Myth #1: Drinking smoothies is a healthy option
Unless you’re following pricey plans of puréed kale and agave pulp, filling up on smoothies isn’t necessarily the best diet choice, thanks to the often high-kJ ingredients and a lack of fibre.
Nutritionist Yvonne Wake says: “It can be a healthy choice because it gets us eating our five a day, but fruit juices (and some veg) may contain too much sugar. Fruit such as pears, and vegetables like broccoli and spinach, are a better bet in a smoothie: they’re full of vitamins, and they have nowhere near the same sugar level as say apples and oranges.”
Myth #2: Giving up booze for a month is a great detox
Coping without a glass of wine for 31 days is pitched as a challenge, but if you immediately go back to drinking heavily, you still put your liver at risk. It’s far better to keep your liver healthy all year round.
Cutting out alcohol completely is an easy excuse to binge later, so rather than a total booze ban, try to get into sensible habits with just two or three consecutive alcohol-free days each week.
Myth #3: You shouldn’t snack in the evenings
A slab of chocolate on your lap at 9pm isn’t the best idea, but an Oregon Health & Science University study found that scoffing the right late-night snack is totally fine. “Eating at night is no more likely to promote weight gain than eating during the day,” confirms study author Judy Cameron.
It’s what you’re eating and how much of it, rather than when you’re eating that counts. If you’re most tempted to raid the snack cupboard after dinner, plan to keep one of your day’s snacks – like a yoghurt or piece of fruit – for the evening.
Myth #4: It’s ok to use last year’s sunscreen
“You should use your sun protection within 12 months,” says pharmacist Anshu Bhimbat. ‘Look out for the expiry-date information on the packaging. It’s important to store sunscreen in a cool place, so if you’re on the beach, keep it in the shade.’
If it has been lying in the back of your bathroom cabinet for over a year, there’s not much guarantee that it’ll offer any effective protection – and it’s likely you won’t even notice the effect right away.
If you’ve been sunburnt more than five times in your life, your risk for melanoma doubles, and more people develop skin cancer because of tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking. A high-factor sunscreen that hasn’t expired is a must!
Myth #5: You can catch a cold going out with wet hair
While cold and flu season does happen to coincide with the start of cooler winter weather, spending time outdoors in low temperatures – whether your hair’s wet or not – in itself can’t make you sick.
To catch a cold or come down with the flu, the virus that causes it has to come into contact with your eyes, nose or mouth. Usually, the virus is spread via tiny droplets that are released into the air when an infected person blows their nose, coughs, or sneezes.
Myth #6: You need to drink eight glasses of water a day
“There’s no clear scientific evidence for this,” says Dr Aaron E. Carroll, co-author of Don’t Swallow Your Gum!: Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health. “Although I recommended water as the best beverage to consume, it’s certainly not your only source of hydration.”
Foods like cucumber and lettuce, and other drinks, can also provide fluid for your body to function. And how much fluid we need differs from person to person, depending on age, amount of exercise, climate, and diet. One way to see if your liquid intake is enough is to check the colour of your urine; it should be clear and light in colour.
Myth #7: Working out every day is the only way to get fit
“Whenever you put your body under physical stress, you need to give it the time it needs to recover properly – not only to avoid injury but to improve in fitness and strength, and support your metabolism for the next time you exercise,” says sports rehabilitation therapist Tyler Overton.
Here’s the news we have been waiting for (finally!): scheduling rest days is crucial. Even if you’re just a casual gym visitor, avoid burning out by limiting yourself to five days a week max.
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