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Debunk These Health Myths
Stay well-informed, but also don’t believe everything you read on the Internet or what your neighbour’s grandmother told you. Sift the expert opinions as per your health issues versus generic health information published for normal people to stay healthy
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Firstly, I wanted to thank all of you who have emailed me and appreciated my column on cancer. Cancer, it seems, is a worry for all of us and it was wonderful to get the emails with so much warmth.
I keep getting invited for health talks with technology, Internet, banking and consulting firms, and the employees as my audience are smart, interactive, aware and on the ball with health information. Even then, thanks to un-ratified data or generic data available (non-specific to health issues), there are a lot of myths floating around. I wanted to debunk some of these myths and give the logic behind it, so that you are all better equipped at handling your health instead of exhaustively skimming through confusing data, or old wives tales. So here we are:
Myth #1: Soak your almonds. Almonds are rich in B-vitamins (riboflavin) and magnesium, both of which are water-soluble. Soaking them destroys these vitamins and hence the benefits they offer from a health perspective. The very reason we associate almonds with a sharp memory is due to the vitamin E (fat soluble), B-vitamins (keep our neurons protected) and magnesium (calms the mind, hence helping absorb data better), and the last two get lost on soaking them. So chew on them raw, to get the best.
Myth #2: Eat fruit instead of dessert. Sure you’ll cut the sugar and flour calories, but you’re also losing the anti-oxidant power of fruits. We eat fruits because they make us healthy, are high in fibre, antioxidants, vitamin C, folate, potassium etc. These vitamins and minerals in fruit are best absorbed as a snack and not in combination with a meal. When you eat a fruit as a dessert, the body only recognises it as sugar, and hinders the process of digestion. Eat a fruit when you wake up, or as a snack in between meals at 11 am or 5 pm (instead of reaching out for the biscuit or samosa!) to get the powerhouse of fruit benefits.
Myth #3: To stay fit, walk 10,000 steps. By that logic, everyone who does yoga regularly must be terribly unfit, yet people who do regular yoga have healthier hearts, calmer minds and higher muscle mass. Exercise is about movement and agility, not about mindless step counting. The step counting rule was popularised in the US when people stopped moving and obesity rose and was a way of pushing lazy people to stay active through the day. So stay active by all means, but make sure you take out extra time for pure exercise to increase agility and muscle mass. So what does that mean? Simply put, walk your 7000-10,000 steps to stay active, not as a form of exercise. For exercise, quality matters. Schedule a brisk walk 2-3 times a week and minimum two yoga sessions every week, to keep joints and balance in place.
Myth #4: You must drink three litres of water every day. Yes sure you need water, but everyone’s needs are different. Sometimes, too much water can lead to dilution of nutrients and deficiencies, at other times, less water can cause headaches and constipation. A 55-kilo woman needs 2-2.5 litres and an 80-kilo man may need 3.5 litres, depending upon physical activity levels. So adjust your dosage as per your weight, activity schedule and nutrient status.
Myth #5: If your parents have a disease, you’re likely to get it too. This is not true if we’re talking lifestyle diseases like type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, age related hormonal cancers etc. The only way you will get type-2 diabetes if your father or mother has it, is if you have the same lifestyle as them, not otherwise. Eat nutritionally dense balanced foods, eat 30 per cent less than your hunger, avoid the bad stuff, exercise and de-stress, all of it every day and consistently, and there’s no way you’ll even fall ill.
So stay well-informed, but also don’t believe everything you read on the Internet or what your neighbour’s grandmother told you. Sift the expert opinions as per your health issues versus generic health information published for normal people to stay healthy. Stay sharp (don’t soak those almonds!).