April is a month to celebrate spring and trick fools. But even the wisest can be misled by misinformation and hyperbole. There’s always a new fad, a latest trend. And there will always be people who get caught up in them.
So, this is going to be a fun month – a month to celebrate exercise and nutrition superstitions (some that just might be true) and debunk those persistent myths that registered dietitians and personal trainers can’t seem to shake.
To start off our April blog series of, “Just the facts ma’am,” I want to celebrate the lore of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. So before you roll your eyes at your grandmother the next time she offers unsolicited advice, you might want to listen. She just might be right. (Yes. You better let her say, “I told you so.”)
- Get your dose of Jewish penicillin: Eating chicken soup to get over a cold, so common at grandma’s house, is called Jewish penicillin. The custom of eating chicken soup for colds didn’t start with our grandmothers, though. In fact, in the 12th century, Maimonides prescribed chicken soup for respiratory tract problems. Several independent studies and dives into history find this to be a common cure for the cold. A recent study in Nebraska proved that chicken soup not only hydrates us and clears up all the guck (they say “accelerate mucosal clearance”), but it also has an anti-inflammatory effect. Who knew? Your grandmother, that’s who!
- Drink water and shed the pounds! I talk a lot about hydration and weight maintenance on the blog. Water definitely plays a big role in our overall health. Replacing sugary drinks for water saves calories (up to hundreds, or even thousands). Moreover, the body can mistake hunger for thirst, and instead of reaching for a handful of peanuts, if you drink a glass of water, you can be sated. Add the fact that water mildly boosts our metabolisms, over time, drinking water is definitely a factor in helping us lose weight.
- Eat your garlic and onions: What’s with grandma’s hanging garlic strands and garlic-onion soup? Nutrition superstitions include garlic and onions being key for good luck and warding off evil. Perhaps they won’t scare away vampires (perhaps they will), but one thing they might do is keep disease away. Independent studies are looking into the anticarcinogen attributes of the Amaryllis family and how garlic and onions might slow the formation of cancer cells, repair DNA, and induce apoptosis of tumor cells. Read more about the magic of garlic here. Not a bad deal (if you can handle the bad breath!)
- You need more fat on your bones: Nothing makes a grandma more anxious than seeing skinny grandchildren. The fact is monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats play a big part of health – everything from lowering triglycerides, prevent heart disease and stroke, muscle movement, blood clotting, cell membrane building, and inflammation. That’s a tall order. (Told you so!). This doesn’t mean you should rip out the Twinkies. We’re talking olive oils, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, soybean, sunflower and canola oils, avocados and walnuts. So bring on the flavor and health.
Sometimes a visit to past traditions and ideas isn’t such a bad idea. 100 Million Years of Food: What Our Ancestors Ate and Why it Matters Today is a fun book that explores our evolution of eating – geographically and historically. Its common-sense conclusions aren’t surprising, but it’s a fun ride to get to them.
So next time your grandma comes up with some crazy nutrition advice, instead of rolling your eyes, you might just want to take her to the farmers market and see what else you should put on the plate and in your body!