3 Myths That Shouldn’t Fool You This April

women friends smiling laughingI’ve been a part of my fair share of pranks over the years as well as the target of many. But don’t worry, you’re safe from pranks today, or here on the blog at least. Instead of throwing a joke or two your way, I thought I’d dispel three myths that I find to be particularly persistent when I talk to patients to help you get the most out of this great spring weather.

Myth #1: Eating healthy is hard.

This is the myth I hear the most from my patients. They tell me everything from “fresh fruits and vegetables don’t taste good” to “the recipes are too complicated.” I get it. During the years that I spent in medical school and residency, I found myself short on time and often chowing down on the easiest, fastest thing I could get into my mouth.

But I’ve become a lot wiser as I’ve learned about nutrition through talking to my patients and guests on the show. What I’ve found is that eating well doesn’t have to be tricky. The Internet offers up thousands of simple, straightforward recipes that you can make in a snap. They key is to buy yourself some good spices. Rather than dumping on more and more salt, buy yourself some cinnamon, grab a little cumin or throw in some cayenne pepper. These can add a serious kick to an otherwise bland meal.

Remember, be creative. Not all stores have fresh fruits and vegetables, but a lot more have frozen or canned versions of these food items. Fortunately, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are often just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, if not more. That’s because they’re allowed to ripen longer and are preserved almost immediately after they’re harvested. Buy low sodium canned vegetables and aim for the lowest sugar versions of canned fruit.

Myth #2: Time is what matters when it comes to losing weight.

Exercise dogma is undergoing a dramatic change right now with the rise in popularity of high-intensity fitness regimens. Some of that popularity might just be fad, but there’s definitely some lasting truth to both the research and the results that people are seeing. Research is showing that doing short intervals at high intensity produces better weight loss, larger increases in muscle mass, better spikes in metabolism and better overall improvements in cardiovascular conditioning than just spending 40 minutes on the treadmill at an easy pace.

So what should you do? Work intervals into your workouts a few times a week. For example, if you usually walk for 30 minutes each day, trying alternating two minutes at a fast pace with two minutes of rest on a few days. If you use the elliptical at the gym, try alternating a few minutes at a high pace and a few minutes of rest.

Finally, try to get at least one resistance workout a week into your schedule. That could be lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises, like push-ups and planks. Studies have shown that these exercises help build muscle and burn fat faster than pure cardio. They also bump up your bone density.

Myth #3: Dropping your disease risk requires major lifestyle changes.

This one is mostly a myth, although there’s a tiny bit of truth to it. Let me explain. Completely avoiding certain diseases will require major changes in your life, especially if you’re at high risk. But in most cases for most people, making small changes can have a major impact. Here are some examples.

  • Cutting your cancer risk: There’s a lot in the news about all the things that cause cancer, but the tried and true methods of exercising and eating well still work for cutting risk. Sound hard? Try adding things one at a time. Have an extra piece of fruit every morning with breakfast. Bring an apple to work to have with lunch. Buy whole wheat bread instead of white bread every other week. Try taking the stairs more often. All of these things will lower your risk of cancer and are easy to implement.
  • Cutting your diabetes risk: Weight is an important risk factor for diabetes, but studies have found that you don’t have to lose a lot to drop your risk. Losing 5 to 10% of your body weight has been found to have major benefits. If you’re 200 pounds, that means dropping 10 to 20 pounds. But even if you only hit five pounds, you’re still dropping your risk.
  • Cutting your heart disease risk: There are a lot of contributors to heart disease. The problem is, most people don’t even know they’re at risk. Knowing your blood pressure, waistline measurement and cholesterol levels lowers your risk by virtue of making you aware of the problem. All that takes is a simple visit to the doctor.

Have a fun April Fool’s Day. Remember, laughter is the best medicine.