An apple a day keeps the doctor away, carrots are good for your eyesight. How much truth is in those pieces of advice? Let’s examine the 10 most popular.
1. Eat Breakfast Like a King, Lunch Like a Prince, Dinner Like a Pauper
Adelle Davis, the nutritionist who coined the phrase in the 1930s, also thought that divorces and alcoholism come from poor nutrition. Here and there she was plain wrong.
Eating a heavy dinner right before going to bed is not a good idea, true, because digesting it can keep you awake. But other than that it all comes down to personal preference: some people need a bigger breakfast, others the thought of food right after getting up gives nausea.
What’s important is that you have some meal with carbs before noon, because after a good night’s sleep your carb stores are low. And carbs are what keep the brain going.
2. Have A Glass Of Water Before A Meal
If you want to lose weight, that’s a sound piece of advice and I put it into a list with weight loss tips, too. Your body is very bad at differentiating what fills up its stomach and sends you the full signal once it feels full.
3. You Should Eat Three Meals Per Day
This one goes back to the time when poorer people only scraped together enough food to eat one meal per day. That was hardly enough and they often suffered from malnutrition. The logical deduction was: you need three daily meals to stay healthy.
Nowadays you are told that having too many calories in one meal is what makes you fat. But it’s in vs. out that dictates if you gain or lose weight. No matter in how many meals you compiled the calories in.
Another reason “diet experts” give for this rule is that the body supposedly can’t digest too many nutrients in one go. But, outside of some very rare illnesses, what goes in at the top leaves digested at the bottom.
4. Carrots Are Good For Your Eyes
If you sight isn’t 20/20, regularly eating carrots won’t save you from glasses or contacts, but there is a grain of truth in here.
Carrots come with a lot of beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. A lack of vitamin A can cause cataracts and macular degeneration, which results in you getting blind. In many third world countries not getting enough vitamin A is in fact the No. 1 cause of blindness.
Too little vitamin A also causes a condition called “xerophthalmia,” an illness that causes dry eyes, the inability to produce tears, swollen eyelids and corneal ulcers.
5. Only Eat When You’re Hungry
Technically that’s correct and right up there with “only eat until you feel full” (see #6). But to really only eat when you are hungry, you need to be sure your hunger is hunger and not something else.
I know a number of people fighting with their extra pounds, who mistook feelings like frustration, depression or boredom with hunger. Eating is self-soothing and helps make those feelings go away.
6. Empty (Clean) Your Plate!
In too many families children have a choice between emptying their plates or risking the admonition that they don’t “appreciate” the food. It probably goes back to a time when food wasn’t as readily available and throwing it away was almost a mortal sin.
But today most of us have too much food around and the childhood habit of eating the plate clean makes many overweight and obese. And what we learned during childhood is hard to break.
7. Spinach Is Good For The Brain
Remember Popeye the Sailor gulping down spinach? That was the result of a scientist finding a sensational amount of iron in it. Unfortunately, he placed a decimal wrong.
Still, spinach really is a very healthy food and some of its nutrients your brain will thank you for. Although not as high as originally believed, there is still plenty of iron it, and it also contains nice helpings of vitamins B and C, as well as antioxidants like beta-carotene (remember that from #4?), lutein and minerals like magnesium and zinc.
8. Don’t Eat After 7 pm
This one’s an oldie but goodie never going to die: don’t eat after x pm or you gain weight.
But just as with the number of meals per day, your body only cares about the total calories. If you needed 2,500 kcal / day to keep your weight steady, but ate only 2,000 at 10 pm, you’d still lose a pound of weight per week.
9. An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away
Apples contain more than 2,000 substances that can have a positive influence on your health. But that doesn’t mean that only eating apples would be a good idea or that a daily apple will keep any and all illnesses away. It would be more appropriate to say “a daily fruit is a good idea.”
For those allergic to regular apples (which includes me), I have some tips here.
10. You Need 8 Glasses Of Water Per Day
This one’s an oversimplification that took on a life of its own. A 1974 book on nutrition gave readers the rule of thumb that the daily amount of liquids your body needs is the equivalent of 8 glasses of water. Somewhere between 1974 and now this became 8 glasses of water in addition to whatever else you drank. I was asked about this so often, I put together a video on it.
Got Your Own?
Did your parents give you some of the above advice? Or maybe words of wisdom entirely different? Did some of it turn out right or wrong? Please add your experiences!
Picture courtesy of Chuck Falzone.