We’re flooded with information about what is and is not healthy for us, but some of the guidelines many of us follow may actually be “ridiculous myths,” according to one expert. Dr. Donald Hensrud, associate professor of medicine and nutrition at the Mayo Clinic, says, “It’s important to look at what scientific evidence exists when evaluating the accuracy of these myths.”
Hensrud weighs in on commonly accepted health myths and tells us what’s really true:
- Drinking eight glasses of water a day is crucial - It turns out, this isn’t as important as we’ve been led to believe. “There’s nothing magic about eight glasses,” Hensrud explains. Some people get enough hydration from the food and other beverages they drink, so the amount each of us needs varies and depends on things like how hot it is outside, how much exercise they get and their diet.
- Eating late at night causes weight gain - Plenty of diets have claimed to deliver results by giving a curfew on when food is eaten, but this doctor says the thing that matters is what you eat, not when. “In general, calories are calories,” he explains. But he adds that restricting eating to certain hours may help some avoid mindlessly snacking in front of “The Late Show.”
- Breakfast is the most important meal - Long considered the VIP of meals, Hensrud says it may not deserve that honor. “The evidence is conflicting,” he explains. “If people eat breakfast, then they may be less likely to overeat later in the day, but on the other hand, there is some evidence that it may not be as good as what we’ve taught in the past.” So if you prefer to skip it and that works for you, there’s no need to change that.
- Exercising at a particular time is most effective - The doctor says he’s not aware of any evidence suggesting that working out at a certain time burns more calories, so he says the best time to work out is whenever it fits into your schedule.
- Coffee is bad for you - Hensrud calls this “one of the biggest health myths out there.” In fact, coffee has been linked to a lower risk of illnesses, including type two diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer and depression. It all comes down to how each person metabolizes caffeine, but he says there are few negative health effects. “The bottom line is coffee is a healthful substance,” he says.