Avoid junk food based diets, make sure you eat your fruits and veggies, wash your hands often (especially during cold and flu season), make a good night’s sleep a priority…some rules your mother was absolutely right about and in the interest of your health they should be followed. However, there are also some rules that are not so important and others that are complete myths. So before you force yourself to down that 8th glass of water on your already stuffed stomach read the following.
This ‘rule’ has been circulating for years and magazines and doctors alike have been telling us that we need to drink 8 glasses of water if we want to be healthy. However, this advice is based on an outdated recommendation published in 1945! Yes, it is essential to stay hydrated, however your body size, your level of activity, your gender, your health status and the climate, all factor into you hydration requirements. It’s absurd to say that a 100 lb. sedentary woman is going to require the same amount of fluid as a 250 pound body builder. Also, this recommendation fails to take into account the fact that most people receive a quantifiable amount of fluid through their diets alone. Fruits and vegetables, tea, soup, beans and cooked whole grains all provide you with calculable amounts of fluid. The best way to tell if you are consuming enough fluid is to monitor the color of your urine. It should be pale, and if it is bright yellow, it is a sign that you are either taking a B-complex vitamin or your body is in severe need of hydration.
Red meat has been associated with all sorts of nasty things – high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, reduced immune system function and excess body weight to name a few. Well the truth is, red meat is actually a great source of many essential nutrients such as protein, iron and the immune system boosting mineral – zinc. This is not a free for all pass here however; processed meats such as sausages and hot dogs should still be avoided at all costs. On the other hand, unprocessed, lean meats such as steak and homemade burgers are perfectly healthy when consumed in moderation. For optimum nutrient benefits choose organic, grass-fed cuts where possible.
The idea that going out in the cold will increase your chances of catching the cold and flu is simply a myth. You get the cold and flu when a virus enters into your body, most often through your nasal passages. Studies have found the cold and flu is no more frequent in individuals who are chilled than it is in individuals who keep warm. This myth probably came into creation because people seem to catch the cold and flu more frequently in winter months; however the reason for this likely has more to do with the sun than it does with the temperature. Vitamin D from the sun is a huge immune system booster, and people tend to stay inside and avoid the sun in winter months, resulting in a compromised immune system. So if you really want to avoid the cold and flu, put on some layers, and get outside whenever you are blessed with a sunny winter day.
I thought I’d save the best for last — if you had a particularly late night or stressful evening, sleeping in is actually more important to your health and waistline than dragging yourself to the gym is. Sleep is essential for a properly functioning immune system and skimping on it will increase your susceptibility to the cold and flu. Also, when you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces extra hunger hormones and pumps out less of the hormones which are responsible for making you feel full and satisfied, resulting in increased food intake, powerful cravings and poorer food choices.
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In fact, the increased amount and lowered quality of food incorporated in the diets of the sleep deprived often amounts to a far greater excess caloric intake then they could ever burn off at the gym. So next time you are feeling sleep deprived and you are tempted to hit the snooze button and skip your morning workout, do it, and don’t feel bad about it either!