When you're young it can seem as though everything your parents say is gospel. They are older, wiser and they have nothing but your health and wellbeing in mind. Thus they taught us many things about health and hygiene in a bid to help us live long, healthy lives and to avoid getting ill or overweight. And we took all this advice on board and for the most part never questioned it…
And that's where we made a big mistake…
Your parents did indeed have your best interests at heart you see, and they were certainly older and wiser than you back then. Today though we have the benefit of many extra years of research and studies and it turns out that some of the common sense 'truths' you learned back then actually might not be the pearls of wisdom that they seemed. Modern science is telling us many new things about health, diet and fitness and a lot of that is contrary to the ideas you may have been brought up with. Time to reassess some of the big ones…
You Should Always Wipe the Seat Before Using Public Toilets
When you were younger there's a good chance that your Mum will have escorted you whenever you used public toilets. During this, she will likely have taught you the ritual of carefully wiping down the seat before getting comfortable, and she may even have encouraged you to create your own little seat cover by tearing off little strips of loo roll and arranging them carefully before sitting down.
This might seem like a hygienic thing to do, like common sense in fact, but in reality there's no real reason for it. Not only is there less bacteria on a toilet seat than there is on a door handle, but there's no way that bacteria can infect you through your skin anyway. The only exception is if you have a sore or open wound, in which case toilet roll isn't going to do anything and you should instead just 'hover' over the seat.
Saturated Fat Is Bad for You
It's not just your Mum who was sure of this one. This is actually the official word according the various health organisations including the NHS. Actually though it's founded on nothing. The original bad reputation that saturated fats had was due to studies looking at the diets of different cultures and their heart health – those studies failed to take into account many other factors and their findings have not been replicated. In fact many times over, saturated fat has been shown to improve good cholesterol (HDL) and not the bad stuff. It has been shown not to cause obesity and that it can prevent snacking by helping people to feel full for longer. Additionally saturated fat is very good for our brains, can help to improve the health and appearance of our skin, and is crucial for the absorption of protein allowing us to get more benefit from the meat in our diet. It can even aid production of testosterone leading to fat burning and muscle building benefits. Trans fats are the bad guys, but things like whole milk and butter are harmless. 'Fat free' foods that are high in sugar actually do more harm than good…
Don't Go Swimming After a Big Meal
If you ever went on family holidays with a pool or access to the sea, then this rule might have irritated you regularly on your travels. Swimming after a big meal is said to cause indigestion, but actually there's zero evidence to suggest this is the case and really just no reason to avoid swimming after eating.
You Should Eat Five Fruit and Vegetables a Day
Eating fruits and vegetables is important as a way to ensure you are getting lots of vitamins and minerals, and it's mistake to leave them out. However just ensuring you get 'five a day' is actually something of an oversimplification of what you actually should be trying to achieve.
For starters, that 'five a day' is very much an arbitrary guide based on not much at all. This is the number that governments thought was achievable, and it ignores a ton of variable factors: such as the simple fact that different fruits are different sizes and contain different portions of different vitamins and minerals. And when your ketchup tells you that it's 'one of your five a day', that literally doesn't mean anything. It's certainly not in terms of fibre seeing as it's pulp, and all that added sugar means you probably would be better off avoiding it.
Another point is that fruit isn't always what you need. It's actually very high in sugar (especially something like a smoothie) so can lead to weight gain and tooth damage in just the way that gorging on sweets can. What's important is to be moderate in everything. And if you're on a diet, look for alternative sources of vitamins and minerals like vegetables and whole grains.
Salt Is Bad for You
Just as your Mum told you that saturated fat was bad for you, she probably also told you that you should avoid salt too. And once again, she's not technically correct according to the science.
According to this study, this study and this study, there's actually no proven reason that you should avoid sodium. Restricting intake can lower blood pressure, but it doesn't seem to reduce the risk of any heart conditions. And lowering it too much is dangerous. You can go above the '1,500-2,300mg' RDA without any negative effects.
Various Old-Wives Tales
Corks in your bed will prevent cramps? Just no. And the same goes for various other 'old-wives' tales' that can circulate among Mums. Hopefully by now you're at an age where you can differentiate between these and actual science…
Sorry Mum, it's time to get with the program!