It’s hard not to buy into the buzzy health trends incessantly thrown at us via every breaking scientific study, not to mention our favorite celebs, virtuous juice companies and the like. But it can behoove you to dig a little deeper into the evidence (and certainly ask your doctor for some personalized advice) before you simply accept new and enticing information as being truth—blindly opting in can be costly, contradictory and, at times, dangerous. Here, 9 wellness myths you should really second-guess, ASAP.
9 Trendy Health Myths You Should Stop Believing Now
Activated charcoal has long been used to remove poison from the gastrointestinal tract before it's absorbed into the body, so we know it's effective to this end; however, there are a few issues with the trendy detox drinks currently marketed as toxin removers.
To begin with, there's no evidence that activated charcoal is beneficial when consumed on an everyday basis (as opposed to in a moment of acute exposure to poison). There is also no evidence that it can remove toxins outside of your gastrointestinal tract. Furthermore, activated charcoal has actually been shown to bond to vitamins, which means it can remove them from your system and make you less healthy in the process, not more. Finally, the amount of activated charcoal included in detox drinks is usually not substantial enough to make a difference one way or the other, and any health benefits are likely negated by the bonding of the charcoal to the nutrients in the drink.
Oil pulling—or swishing an oil such as coconut or sesame in the mouth for 20 minutes—has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for 3,000 years. People all over the world swear by it as a means for detoxifying the mouth and naturally whitening teeth. There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support these claims, however, and the American Dental Association doesn't recommend replacing or even supplementing traditional methods of maintaining oral hygiene with this popular trend.
A few years ago, Stanford Medicine published a study that concluded there's not actually much of a difference between organic and conventional foods. Specifically, no disparities were found in the vitamin content, and only one nutrient (phosphorous) was higher in organics than in non. No significant difference was detected between organic milk and non-organic milk, aside from some evidence that organic milk contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. And while the organics studied may have shown less pesticide exposure than the non-organics, they still weren't pesticide-free despite marketing to the contrary. The study's authors also noted that the level of pesticides found in all foods were generally safe for consumption. If you want to err on the side of caution, however, check out the Environmental Working Group's lists of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15—fruits and veggies they've ranked in terms of pesticide content.
At this point in time, The Mayo Clinic agrees with Stanford Medicine's conclusions on this matter.
Bulletproof Coffee is actually a specific brand, but the words "bulletproof coffee" have now come to mean any coffee that's been mixed with butter. The intention is to increase the amount of fat your body burns daily, but there's no scientific evidence to prove that this technique works or that drinking the coffee curbs hunger or aids in weight loss.
It seems like one day we're hearing coffee is good for us, and the next we're hearing it's not. (This information hasn't really affected the potentially alarming rate at which we guzzle the substance, but still.) We couldn't possibly put together a more comprehensive argument for why coffee is neither all bad nor all good than this, so suffice it to say that you can probably drink your cup or two of joe a day without having to fret over its consequences to your health. If you suffer from insomnia, however, you should probably limit your daily intake to the morning hours.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting salt intake to just 1,500 milligrams per day; however, a panel put together by the Institute of Medicine a few years ago found no evidence to support this recommendation and, in fact, found that eating less than 2,300 milligrams per day could actually be harmful to your health. One of the panelists went so far as to tell The Chicago Tribune that the AHA's recommendation is "not entirely rational." According to the same publication, 1,500 milligrams of salt is what you would consume on a daily basis even if you ate only natural food with no added salt.
The truth, it seems, if you piece together information from a variety of studies as The Chicago Tribune did, is that salt consumption in moderation—somewhere around the FDA's recommended 2,300 milligrams per day—is likely your best bet. Given national averages, you probably already fall close to this range naturally, but best practice for safe salt intake would be to minimize your consumption of processed foods, which account for 75% of our dietary sodium. Check out the top culprits in your cupboard here.
If you're still ordering egg-white omelettes, you're a little behind the times. Contrary to popular belief, egg yolks are one of the most nutritious parts of an egg. They've been vilified due to the saturated fats and cholesterol they contain, but the studies backing this data are seriously dated. These days, it's widely accepted in scientific circles that some of the healthiest foods are rich in cholesterol and saturated fats. Some studies show that free-range eggs are more nutritious than conventional eggs, but either way, it's silly to skip the yolks.
Many wheat breads are made with enriched flour, which, if you didn't know, is flour that's actually been stripped of its nutrients. If you're looking for a healthy bread, make sure the label reads "100% whole grain" or "whole wheat" or "sprouted," and that it doesn't list enriched flour or high fructose corn syrup as one of its top ingredients. Ezekiel breads are a great option.
Last year, the European Journal of Nutrition did us the favor of reviewing all the research on dairy fat and came to some conclusions that may surprise you if you've been sticking to skim milk for the last decade or more. According to its findings, people who eat full-fat dairy are not more likely to develop heart disease or type 2 diabetes and, even more shocking, full-fat dairy may actually be more beneficial when it comes to managing your weight than the low-fat or skim varieties.