Setting the record straight

by Khushboo on October 29, 2010

Whether you open up a magazine, check out my blog :), chat to a friend, or turn on the tv, you’re bound to be flooded with health-related information.  As a society, we’ve reached a new height in terms of precautionary measures.  Annoyingly enough, much of the information we are bombarded with is contradictory, only leaving us more confused about what to follow.  Chances are you’re not going to verify every tip you receive…I know I wouldn’t.  That being said, here are a few health-related myths that have been busted over the years.

1) “I’m going to sweat out the toxins”
Although intense exercise provides you with an array of benefits, removal of toxins isn’t part of them.  When you sweat, you only lose electrolytes and water.  Instead, drink plenty of water, steer clear of heavy drug and alcohol usage, get regular exercise, consume ample fruits and vegetables, and try to eat less processed foods.

2) “It’s difficult for vegetarians to meet their protein requirements”
Fish, meat and poultry aren’t the only source of protein.  Great vegetarian sources include pulses, lentils, tofu, yogurt, and soya mince…all of which are in low in fat.  Other than quinoa, these don’t contain all the essential amino acids in necessary proportions to be considered a complete protein.  To overcome these deficiencies, combine vegetarian sources of protein such as daal (lentils) and rice, peanut butter/beans on toast, or wholemeal pasta with soya mince.

3) “My slow metabolism hinders my abilities to lose weight”
A slow metabolic rate (the rate at which we burn calories) is a rare factor which contributes to weight gain.  While overweight people may use it as a justification, the truth is that they tend to have a higher metabolic rate than lean people due to the extra muscle mass needed to function properly.

Weight gain is more likely due to genetics, underestimation of calories, lack of regular physical activity, medication, stress and emotional eating.  While your metabolism will indeed drop as you age, this is due to losing lean muscle tissue which increases your metabolic rate.  This explains why resistance or weight training is very important for burning body fat.

4) “Fattening foods equal immediate weight gain”

Truth is, no single food can make you gain weight.  Instead it’s an accumulation of various high calorie foods eaten.  To gain 1lb of body fat, you need to eat an excess of 3,500 calories: that’s probably equivalent to a whole cake.  So you can relax, one slice of cake every now and then isn’t going to make you fat.  And if the scales beg to differ the morning after, chances are it’s water weight.  For long-term weight control, balance high fat foods with activity and healthy foods.

5) “Because seafood is high in cholesterol, avoid it to lower blood cholesterol”

Give me lobster or prawns and I am THERE…just be sure to chuck in some linguine and a spicy tomato sauce. Did your momma ever tell you that too much seafood is not good for your cholesterol levels? Mine did, and it gives me great pleasure to call her out.

In most people, the cholesterol in seafood has no effect on blood cholesterol.  Saturated fats and trans fatty acids are the most crucial factors affecting blood cholesterol, not dietary cholesterol.  Saturated fats are mostly found in meat or dairy products, as well as coconut, palm, and palm-kernel oils. Trans fats are used to extend the shelf life of packaged goods including chips, cookies and donuts.  Avoid items that contain “hydrogenated oil” or “partially hydrogenated oil”, as they are likely to contain trans fats.

6) “If you want to lose weight, don’t lift weights as it’ll bulk you up”
Lifting weights or doing resistance training activities like press-ups or squats will actually speed up your weight loss.  Muscle burns more calories than fat, which means you’ll be burning fat even while sitting still.  For maximum benefit, combine moderate amounts of heart-pumping cardio combined with 2-3 sessions per week of weight/strength training.

7) “Soya products increase the risk of breast cancer”
I tend to consume a fair amount of soya products, typically in the form of milk, tofu, and soya mince.  It’s a great vegetarian source of protein, and is extremely low in fat.  For a few months , I tried to cut back on my consumption purely due to controversial claims about the link between breast cancer and soya products.  After coming across the following tidbit, soya products and I are back in business: 

Soya products may block oestrogen from reaching the receptors.  Because oestrogen levels are naturally high in pre-menopausal women, eating soya products can help reduce the risk of breast cancer.  

However this may not be the case for post-menopausal women due to low levels of oestrogen.  Studies show that soya could become “pro-oestrogen” in women with low levels of natural oestrogen.  In other words, concentrated soya supplements may add oestrogen to the body and hence increase the risk of cancer in post-menopausal women.  As a result, post-menopausal women should limit their intake of soya, but there’s no need to avoid it completely.

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