We’ve all grown up hearing them, and now the old wives’ tales that our parents and grandparents subscribed to have become common verbiage in our day-to-day lives. But how many of them are actually true? Here, we’ve separated truth from fiction by outlining some of the most widely known tales that have proven to be truthful.
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“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
According to celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, apples are a true multitasking food. She explains that while other fruits also contain pectin, the highest concentration of this fiber is found in apples (it makes up 75 percent of the apple’s fiber). “The soluble form of this fiber swells with water in the digestive tract, creating a gel-like substance that binds with fats in the intestine,” Snyder says, adding that this helps lower cholesterol and create stable blood sugar levels. Snyder assets that apples’ insoluble fiber is great roughage to keep you cleansing your colon efficiently, contributing to clean blood and increased health and beauty. “All this fiber is also very filling, so it acts as a natural way to control weight and calorie intake.”
“Put honey on your wounds.”
According to dermatologist Michael Lin, MD, the use of honey is one of the oldest known treatments for wounds. Using honey to heal wounds has been around since 50 A.D. when the Greeks would use it on infected wounds and to treat sunburns, while honey-based treatments have also been mentioned in the Bible and the Koran.
“It has now been discovered that the anti-bacterial properties of honey are a result of its high osmolarity, release of hydrogen peroxide, and active phytochemicals,” explains Dr. Lin, adding that several clinical studies have shown that honey in wound dressings can improve wound healing. Further, researchers at Lund University in Sweden have found that a unique bacteria (13 lactic acid bacteria) found in honeybee stomachs may prove to be a valuable alternative to antibiotics and modern medicine, as they can fight against some of the most common strains of human bacteria.
“Sucking your thumb ruins your teeth.”
According to New York cosmetic dentist Timothy Chase, DDS, thumb sucking can actually lead to a tooth positioning issue called an anterior open bite, or a large space between your upper and lower front teeth. “In addition, it can also lead to speech problems due to the tongue having to learn to make certain sounds against teeth in the incorrect place,” Dr. Chase explains, adding that it is probable that braces will be required to correct the tooth alignment due to thumb sucking.
“Mayonnaise is good for your hair.”
According to hairstylist Carla Rivas of Hair La Vie, if you’re using 100 percent pure mayonnaise (meaning only egg and oil, preferably olive oil, no added filers or artificial ingredients), it can be good for your hair. However, to get the full effect, you would have to apply to your hair about four times a week or leave the mayonnaise for two to three hours.
“There are nutrients in eggs, such as proteins, that are very helpful to strengthen hair,” Rivas explains, adding that eggs have keratin in them so it adds a lot of strength to the hair. “This might leave the hair feeling a little stiff, but that’s actually a great sign that your hair is healthier and more fortified.” Rivas adds that the oil also found in mayonnaise acts as a moisturizing agent.
“Feed a cold, starve a fever.”
With its origin stemmed within the Middle Ages, this wives’ tale began gaining traction when people believed that there were only two kinds of sicknesses—those caused by low temperatures (cold) that should be fueled, and those caused by high temperatures (fevers that should be starved).
Because eating can help raise your body’s temperature, feeding a cold can be helpful, but there is no need to overeat. While Snyder recommends eating right to avoid colds and flus once and for all, she also advises that when a fever arises, to rest in bed, relax, and eat only when you truly feel hungry. “Lack of appetite during fever means your body is using its energy to fight the infection, and you don’t need to be spending it on digestion,” she says, suggesting that we also look to nature for advice: “When animals are sick they naturally fast for some time to help healing.” While eating well when you feel hungry, also be sure to drink plenty of fluids, as fevers dehydrate your system.
Because colds and fevers are caused by viruses, Snyder says you should focus on supporting your immune system. “If your intestinal flora is balanced, your immunity will strengthen. Avoid processed sugar and products (including agave), which decreases immunity and causes spikes in blood glucose, and dairy, which creates excessive mucus and is very difficult for most of us to digest,” she explains, adding that you should try to reduce your chemical load by choosing organic plants and avoiding processed foods. “If your body has to deal with toxins in the foods you eat, then it won’t have enough energy to fight off germs, as well.”
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