Myths influence our diet, health and exercise

By Stephen King
Don’t listen to people when they give you advice regarding staying fit and healthy. What people say can often be wrong. Parents, friends and even health/fitness advisors get their facts wrong due to common misconceptions. In this week’s “King’s Column,” some of those misconceptions will be revealed as statements of fiction.


The U.S. Food and Nutrition Board made a statement encouraging people to consume eight glasses of water a day to stay healthy. However, we gain much of our needed fluid intake from other sources. For example, fruit, vegetables, even tea and coffee provide the hydration all of us need to stay healthy. Coffee and tea may be diuretic, but they still hydrate us. In fact, coffee is actually very good for us, despite skeptics stating otherwise. According to experts at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, Coffee contains helpful phytochemicals that act as antioxidants. These antioxidants increase insulin sensitivity and lower the risk of diabetes. A study of over 125,000 people found that women who drank coffee cut the risk of type 2 diabetes by 30 percent.
If you are looking for an indication of how hydrated you are, urine is not a good indication. It is a common misconception that the color of urine is a representation of how hydrated a person is. Rachel Vreeman, MD, Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis says, “If you’re thirsty, you should drink,” although don’t drink too much, as this can lead to an electrolyte imbalance which causes sickness.


One thing is for sure: fruit and vegetables are crucial to a healthy diet. What isn’t true is that fresh fruit and vegetables are always better for you than frozen ones. Frozen fruit and vegetables are harvested when they are most nutritious, directly after which they are frozen to sustain these qualities. Conversely, fresh fruit and vegetables are often transported long distances to sit in grocery stores. Through being exposed to different temperatures, air quality and humidity, some nutrients of fruit and vegetables can be lost.
Many people consider eggs to have a negative impact on cholesterol, and in turn, the heart. However, recent studies have negated this concept, proving that saturated and trans fats are the main culprit in increasing the risk of heart disease. An egg has 1.6 grams of saturated fat, compared with 3 grams in a glass of milk, and containing 213 milligrams of cholesterol, an egg is under the American Heart Association’s recommended daily amount. However, don’t go too mad and end up with egg all over your face- remember to watch your cholesterol intake for the rest of the day if you have one for breakfast.
While we’re on the subject of food, remember the saying “Feed a cold, starve a fever?” Well, you guessed it… another misconception. Denise Snyder, a nutrition scientist and clinical trials manager at the Duke University School of Nursing, said, “I think it was always pretty much dismissed as folklore…as a nutritionist, I certainly wouldn’t tell people to starve themselves.” Colds and fevers are caused by viruses that last, on average, 7 — 10 days, and no ancient remedy is going to change that.

Working Out

I have heard numerous people state that it is important to eat before working out. In fact, it is best if we eat something after working out. I remember eating a curry before playing soccer, only to throw up all over a spectator. Not nice. Our bodies struggle to exercise and digest simultaneously because of the amount blood needed to complete each task. When overwhelmed, the body will do whatever it takes to tell you it’s being overworked, in my case, vomiting. We also don’t burn as much body fat when we are digest and exercise simultaneously because the body does not use any stored fat to fuel a workout (it already has an abundance of fuel from the food you eat). So, my advice is to eat a good two hours before exercising and 30 minutes after. After a workout, the body has lost nutrients and the stomach creates an environment optimal for nutritional absorption. In turn, the food we consume after working out will be less likely to turn into fat.