There’s no shortage of information out there that can help us understand what’s important – and what steps we should take. But not all of that information is helpful, and in some cases it’s even harmful. What’s worse, misinformation can allow us to convince ourselves that we are doing a good job managing our health, and sometimes that’s just not the case. Take a look at these common “health lies” and learn the truth.
I worked out today, so I can eat whatever I want. Regular exercise is vital for good health, but eating a nutritionally balanced diet with an appropriate number of calories is still important. Many people overestimate the number of calories burned during a workout, and can easily gain weight if food consumption is increased significantly. Keep in mind that running for 30 minutes will burn about 300 – 425 calories, or the equivalent of a smaller order of French fries. But remember that the health benefits of working out go well beyond just burning calories.
Calories don’t count. If it’s healthy or organic, I can eat it. Calories do matter. Of course it’s better to get your calories from the most nutritious and healthy food possible, but it’s still important to exercise control in the amount of food you eat. An extra serving of organic chicken and one additional piece of fruit per day could easily add 500 calories to your diet – which could result in gaining a pound a week.
Wine is good for my heart so I can drink as much as I want. While it’s true that the resveratrol in red wine appears to have some heart-healthy benefits, wine will never be considered a “health food”. Enjoying wine in moderation (no more than one glass per day) is probably fine for most people, but any consumption beyond that can pose risks to your health.
I’m active throughout the day, so I don’t need to exercise. Diligently getting in 10,000 steps a day is great, but unless you’re getting your heart rate up you might not be reaping enough benefits to stay fit and healthy. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week for optimal health and fitness. Remember exercise doesn’t have to be intense to be effective; just walking at a moderate (3 miles per hour) can have positive effects on your health.
I don’t need 8 hours of sleep. Many of us have trained ourselves to function on less sleep than we really need, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Nearly all adults need at least 7 hours of sleep to help reduce stress levels and ward off a host of diseases that are now associated with sleep deprivation, from obesity and diabetes to heart disease. You’ll be happier, more productive, and ultimately healthier if you make getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night a priority.
I’m healthy, so I don’t need to see my doctor regularly. Symptoms and early warning signs of many serious conditions and diseases often go undetected – especially if you don’t get regular check-ups and screenings. An annual visit to your primary care doctor is one of the best steps you can take for ongoing health, and it’s the surest way to detect and treat hidden risks and conditions before they become serious.
I take vitamins, so I know my diet is balanced. Taking a good multivitamin every day is certainly a positive habit to have, but the best vitamins and supplements still won’t make up for poor nutrition. The best diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and good quality fat and protein sources that will help nourish every cell in your body, provide adequate and ensure you get enough trace vitamins and minerals for good health.
The natural sugar in fruit doesn’t count. Fruit is healthy and delicious and should absolutely be a part of your daily diet. And the fiber whole fruit contains helps slow the body’s absorption of sugar and keep you feeling satisfied far better than a candy bar would. But the natural sugar in fruit has just as many calories as any other sugar, and too much is not good for your health. Aim to eat 2-3 servings of fruit each day in a variety of colors to get the maximum nutritional and health benefits.
My genes will protect me. There’s no doubt that genes play a role in determining your health risk for a variety of diseases and conditions. But lifestyle choices still have a bigger impact for most people. If you have a genetic predisposition for heart disease, exercise, good nutrition, and regular screening will help lower your risk. Conversely, even if heart disease doesn’t run in your family, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, and obesity will put you at a far greater risk than someone with a genetic tendency who maintains healthier habits. Remember than genes are important – but your lifestyle choices matter more.
This article first appeared in the September 2018 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.