BY ASHLEY DICKSON, utahvalley360.com

6 health myths debunked by the experts

Butter is better than margarine.
“It’s hard to say one is absolutely better than the other,” says Dr. Lora Beth Brown, associate professor for BYU’s nutrition, dietetics and food science department. “But the scale tips in favor of margarine.”
There are pros and cons to both butter and margarine, and if you don’t use either very frequently it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference which one you choose, Dr. Brown says. The problems come when you’re slathering the spread on every potato, vegetable and bagel in sight.
Margarine’s main downside has long been trans fatty acids, but some margarine manufacturers have eliminated this fat for a healthier option. In general, the more spreadable the margarine, the fewer trans fats it will have  — so choose tub spreads over a stick and check nutrition labels for trans-fat-free options.
Butter also has trans fats — plus high counts of cholesterol and saturated fats. Some people prefer butter for the taste, but the healthiest bet is trans-fat-free margarine.

Cold, wet weather causes colds and flu
“Get inside before you catch cold!” Your mother said it a million times, but it’s just not true. Colds are actually caused by viruses, not the weather.
There are more than 200 different types of viruses and they spread easily — usually through airborne droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or by contact with things (like doorknobs and phones) they’ve touched.
So why are colds and flu more prevalent during the winter months? People spend more time indoors when the weather is chilly, so germs have more opportunities to jump from person to person.
To prevent the viruses, get a flu vaccine, wash your hands frequently and avoid contact with those you know are infected.

Fresh produce is always best
The apples you saw at the grocery store today weren’t picked from the tree yesterday, so they don’t have all the nutrients they once had.
It actually takes about two weeks for fruits and veggies to make it from the farm to your plate, says Andreas Suter, registered dietician for Timpanogos Regional Hospital.
As the produce ages and is exposed to light and air during packaging and transit, vitamins and other nutrients diminish, she says.
Frozen vegetables and fruits, however, are flash frozen close to the harvest source, so they retain many of the nutrients fresh produce loses.
So head over to the frozen foods aisle, especially when the fresh produce you normally buy is out of season and expensive.
“The best option is if your produce is fresh fresh,” Andreas says. “A local produce stand, farmers market or your own garden will provide the maximum amount of vitamins and will probably taste best, too!”

Sweat the small stuff
For a more realistic New Year’s resolution, start small
Let’s face it. Most New Year’s resolutions are long gone before winter turns to spring.
Instead of committing yourself to the impossible this year (“I’ll run 10 miles every day” or “I’ll never eat chocolate again”) make a list of small, manageable changes. Here are a few to try.
• Stand up and walk around while talking on the phone
• “Lose” the remote control. Get up and walk to the TV when you need to change the channel.
• Go bowling instead of watching a movie.
• Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
• Instead of using the drive-through at the bank, park your car across the parking lot and walk inside.
• Walk to a neighbor’s house or co-worker’s desk instead of calling or sending an e-mail.
• Play in the snow with your children.
• While you watch television, take care of household chores. Dust the blinds, scrub the kitchen floor or wash the windows to avoid being a couch potato.
• Instead of visiting the office vending machine when you need a break from work, take a walk around your building.
• Plan an active family outing — take a hike on a nearby trail or ride bikes around the neighborhood.
• At work or home, opt for the restroom farthest from you (unless it’s urgent!)
• Sign up for tennis lessons or a kickboxing class through your city’s Parks and Recreation department.

Stress will cause your hair to turn gray
Gray hair is a completely natural part of the aging process. So blaming your faded locks on mischievous children or a demanding boss won’t get you anywhere.
Going gray begins when cells at the root of the hair stop producing melanin, the color pigment. The graying process is usually gradual, since each hair responds to the decreasing amount of melanin differently, and it can’t be prevented. Exactly when the process starts for any one person has much to do with genetics. So if your parents and grandparents turned gray early, you can expect the same.

When you’re pregnant, you’re eating for two
“During the first trimester you’re growing a very small being inside of you — just a few ounces, really,” says Dr. Bryan Watabe, who treats patients at the Intermountain Healthcare Legacy OB/GYN Clinic in American Fork. “So you’re certainly not eating for two full people.”
What women really need during the early stages of pregnancy is a good vitamin base, so Dr. Watabe suggests taking prenatal vitamins before becoming pregnant.
During the second and third trimesters you should be eating more than usual, but still not for two — “maybe more like one and a quarter,” Dr. Watabe says.
A pregnant woman’s daily caloric intake should increase by about 300 to 500 — a 15 to 20 percent increase for most women.
But those extra calories aren’t an excuse for junk food.
“The best healthy foods outside of pregnancy are the best inside of pregnancy,” Dr. Watabe says. “Avoid refined carbohydrates and go for a diet high in fruits and vegetables.”

Chewing gum takes seven years to pass your digestive system
You probably heard this myth as a child — along with the one about swallowed watermelon seeds growing a watermelon inside your stomach.
“My patients ask me this all the time,” says Dr. Uma Karnam, a consultant gastroenterologist for Timpanogos Regional Hospital. “It is an absolute myth.”
The resins in gum do resist the body’s efforts to break them down, but that doesn’t mean the sticky stuff will stay in your stomach for years, Dr. Karman says. Instead, the gum exits your body in a mass, the same as any other swallowed matter.

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