6 Health Rules You Should Be Breaking

The real rules of healthful living aren't black and white. But oh-so-many of the tenets of good health we all grew up with — drink eight glasses of water a day, don't read in the dark — are precisely that restrictive. Now new research is finding that many of them are also false.

"Research is revealing that whoever wrote the old guidelines didn't have the whole picture, and that there are more paths to optimal health than we previously thought," said Harvard Medical School psychologist Alice Domar.

So rule breakers, rejoice! And then read on for our roundup of all the things you thought were good for your health — but actually aren't.

1. Don't Swim on a Full Stomach

As it turns out, the 30-minute rule every child loathes — don't get in the water directly after eating — is a full-blown myth. Though enforced by well-intentioned parents (and begrudgingly followed by their water-loving children), experts have debunked the theory that swimming on a full stomach leads to cramps, which increases the risk of drowning. In fact, less than 1% of all drownings in the U.S. occur after the victim has eaten a meal.

2. Avoid Reading in Dim Lighting

The notion that reading in a lowly lit room will damage your eyesight is false, although it will tire your eyes out more quickly. Experts say the best lighting arrangement for a night in with a juicy book is a lamp with an opaque shade pointing directly at the reading material, so as to avoid a glare. However, reading by candlelight won't do you any harm.

3. You Need Eight Hours of Sleep

The ideal amount of sleep is different for everyone, depending on factors like age, genetic makeup, and gender. Ten-year-olds need about nine hours of slumber, while adults older than 30, including senior citizens, require about seven hours. Women tend to sleep longer than men, but only by 14 minutes. "It's not difficult to figure out how much sleep we need," writes sleep expert Till Roenneberg. "When we wake up unprompted, feeling refreshed, we have slept enough."

4. Drink Eight Glasses of Water Per Day

There's simply no scientific evidence to back up this claim. Drinking eight glasses of water certainly won't harm you, but there's no reason to think your health will benefit from meeting this daily threshold. The purpose of drinking water, of course, is to hydrate your body, flush it of toxins, and improve various bodily functions. But most of your required daily water intake is contained in foods — no liquid required.

5. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Anything made of vegetables is healthy, right? Not necessarily. A veggie burger is still a burger, and can contain more than 1,000 calories when loaded with toppings and a bun. Plus, the vegetables in these patties undergo a good deal of processing, which zaps many of the nutrients. Another example: Avocados. These delicious green fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals, and… lots of fats. Healthy fats, but fats nonetheless. In fact, about 85% of the total calories in an avocado come from fat. If you overindulge, you're likely to start packing on the pounds. Even healthy fats can cause weight gain when over-consumed.

Dried fruit is another misleading health food. That's because dried fruits are packed with up to eight times more calories as fresh fruit. Fresh grapes, for example, have 60 calories per cup while raisins have 430.

6. Eat Something Every Three Hours

The theory that your metabolism will crash if you don't snack throughout the day has been debunked. Research shows that it's the amount of food eaten, and not the rate at which it is consumed throughout the day, that determines the health of your metabolism. In fact, those who adhere to a diet of snacks rather than meals run the risk of over-snacking, thereby consuming too many calories for a single day.

What stale health rules are you happily breaking?

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Guest's picture

My friend told me that I should eat midnight snack when working late because our body needs it. He said that it is like having meal on noon time and not eating your meal can disrupt my work productivity. After a few years I tried some research and I found an article about Christopher Colwell, an expert and professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the university of California, explaining the details that eating late at night is one way to disrupt sleep-wake cycle which may hamper our brain from learning and memory process. It was horrible. But I didn't blame my friend because I knew that he did it with good intention. There are really no mistakes but only lessons to be learn after all.

Guest's picture

These are some of the very basic things which is helpful to maintain our health and mostly people follow in their day to day life.

Guest's picture

So much confusion out there ... thanks for encouraging us to question long held edicts!