7 myths you (likely) believe that are really bad for your health

Which of these myths do you fall victim to? It's frightening how much these could be hurting you.

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  • Most people are constantly working toward a healthier lifestyle, but did you know that if you follow conventional wisdom, you may be hurting your body more than helping it? That's because there are a number of urban myths today about diet and exercise that are not just erroneous, they're downright dangerous.

  • How many of these myths have you fallen for?

  • Myth: Foods with sugar substitutes are better for you than those with sugar

  • If you've been drinking your diet sodas and munching on sugar-free snacks thinking you're making a healthy choice, you've fallen for the same myth millions of Americans believe. Researchers are beginning to uncover the truth; sugar substitutes can be just as harmful to your health as real sugar, if not more so.

  • Medicaldaily.com recently quoted study author, Susan E. Swithers, saying, "The current public health message to limit the intake of sugars needs to be expanded to limit intake of all sweeteners, not just sugars." This is because sugar substitutes have been found to contribute to a number of health problems, including weight gain, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

  • Myth: Working out your abs will burn fat in your tummy area

  • Have you been wishing you could just lose a few extra pounds in your tummy area, or that you could slim your thighs a bit for summer? Some people hoping to target certain areas of their body for fat loss will try to spot train, meaning they'll do exercises that just work out the part of their body they want to trim down.

  • That's not how it works, according to fitday.com. "When you try to lose fat through calorie-burning exercises, the reduction occurs all throughout your body," fitday.com explains. "Since the reduction is all over your body, spot training is impossible and a myth, for the most part." The best thing to do is to lose weight all over your body, then you can spot train to tone those muscles you'd like to see more clearly defined.

  • Myth: You should drink protein shakes when you exercise

  • Protein shakes offer what personal trainer Mark Macdonald calls "the lowest quality food." Macdonald told CNN.com that the best way to meet your daily intake requirements of protein is in real foods that aren't processed.

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  • CNN.com also cited Martin Gibala, chairman of the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who said, "Cheaper and real food may provide other benefits (than protein), vitamins and minerals. And some of the components in food may act synergistically in ways we don't understand." So rather than that protein shake after your workout, snack on a homemade turkey sandwich and a handful of almonds.

  • Myth: Microwaving kills all the nutrients in food

  • If you're looking to preserve every single nutrient in the food you eat, the best way to eat it is raw. Every form of cooking destroys some food nutrients, especially water-soluble vitamins like Vitamins B12 and C. Microwaves kill a few nutrients, too, but it may actually be a healthier way to cook certain foods than other common cooking methods. "Since microwave ovens often use less heat than conventional methods and involve shorter cooking times, they generally have the least destructive effects," according to nytimes.com. For best results, vegetables should be steamed or cooked without water.

  • Myth: A bran muffin a day keeps the doctor away

  • Have you been choosing a bran muffin over a doughnut because you're trying to be healthy? Chances are, you might have been better off going with the doughnut. Cookinglight.com says, "A random sampling of some coffee and restaurant chain bran muffins showed that many topped 350 calories apiece." And that didn't count toppings people might add, like jam or butter.

  • If you really love your bran muffin, cookinglight.com suggests you eat half for breakfast and save the rest for your afternoon snack. Or even better, make your own customized with your favorite add-ins (myrecipes.com suggests flaxseed, shredded carrot, chopped apple, or even a small, unpeeled orange) and skip the added preservatives and sodium found in commercial varieties.

  • Myth: Weight loss is the best way to measure diet and exercise success

  • If you've been rating your diet and exercise success purely based on the numbers that light up on your scale, you may be missing the point, Money Crashers medical expert Dr. Carly Stewart told lifehacker.com.

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  • "The scale treats both fat and muscle the same way," Stewart said. "If you're strengthening your muscles during your exercise regimen, you might actually see a small amount of weight gain rather than weight loss, which is not a bad thing."

  • If you want a true measure of your fitness, keep track of how well you feel and how your measurements change. You could also see if your doctor's office or fitness center could measure the percent of change in your total body fat.

  • Myth: Vitamin C can prevent and even cure colds

  • Has anyone told you when you've caught a cold that you need to load up on Vitamin C? It's a common misconception that Vitamin C has super immune support powers that can actually fight and conquer the common cold. However, research into this claim reported by the U.S. National Library of Medicine has found that "large doses of Vitamin C may help reduce how long a cold lasts, but they do not appear to protect against getting a cold." In addition, using Vitamin C to treat a cold is only helpful "if your body currently has low levels of this vitamin."

  • The best support for the immune system is to maintain a healthy diet, adequate exercise and proper amounts of a variety of vitamins and minerals, not just Vitamin C. For instance, Vitamin D has been discovered to have a significant impact on the efficacy of the immune system. According to Molecular Diversity Protection International, the "metabolism of Vitamin D in immune cells may be a control point in immunity to infection and in chronic inflammatory disease."

  • Other substances found to benefit the immune system include Zinc, transfer factor, selenium, and thymus factors. Cell-IQ's Immune-IQ includes all of these important ingredients. Pioneered by Dr. William Hennen, who has a doctorate in bio-organic and medicinal chemistry, Immune-IQ is the secret weapon of many a weary parent, teacher, traveler, or businessperson who can't afford to get sick and needs immune support he or she can count on.

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Katie Nielsen received her bachelor's in English with an emphasis in technical writing. She has taught English and is a published writer.

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