Growing up, I was told many old wives’ tales by various friends and family members. Most of the old wives’ tales I was told turned out to be false, which is no surprise. My eyes are not permanently crossed from crossing them and making funny faces. Although I am too young to know for sure, I am fairly certain that the phase I went through of cracking my knuckles will not result in arthritis. As you can imagine, there are many old wives’ tales that are not true; however, there are some that are true. Believe it or not, your mother was right to tell you to eat your carrots and apples!
1. Carrots Improve Eyesight
I can remember being told when I was a little girl that if I ate all my carrots I would have great eyesight. While carrots don’t directly improve eyesight, this is one of the old wives’ tales is true because carrots can correct eye sight problems caused by a Vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A is needed for photoreceptor cells in the eyes to capture light allowing vision. As an excellent source of beta carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A, carrots will help correct a Vitamin A deficiency that can cause eyesight problems. There are many other sources of beta carotene, including leafy green vegetables, but carrots became the champions of eye sight when the British military explained that the Royal Air Force’s success in WWII was due to the fighter pilots eating a lot of carrots. In reality, they were successful because they had developed advanced radar.
2. An Apple a Day
One of my favorite old wives’ tales is, “an apple a day will keep the doctor away”. Since it is my favorite old wives’ tale, I was happy to learn that there is some truth to eating an apple every day for health. Apples are an excellent source of pectin, a soluble fiber that lowers blood pressure levels, glucose levels, and LDL cholesterol levels. Apples are also a great source of boron, which is needed for strong bones, and they have quercetin, a flavonoid that decreases the risk of various cancers. The mighty apple even helps clean teeth and kill bacteria in the mouth. Because of all of these health promoting properties, eating an apple a day can help you stay healthy. It might not keep you out of the doctor’s office forever, but regular apple consumption could lead to fewer doctor’s visits.
3. Wear a Hat
When I was little, I always wanted to play in the snow. As I prepared to go outside, I was told by my grandma to wear a hat because most of the body heat is lost through the head. Although I listened to her and always wore a hat, I didn’t realize how right she was until recently. In the 1950s, the US military conducted tests in the Arctic that demonstrated 80 percent of body heat escapes through the head. Originally this test seemed flawed because the test subjects were fully dressed from the shoulders down. However, subsequent tests have shown that a considerable amount of heat is lost through the head, primarily during exercise. When engaging in physical activity, 50 percent of your body heat can be lost through your head. Since I was running around playing in the snow, my grandma had a very good point that I should be wearing a hat.
4. Vitamin C for Colds
The concept of taking Vitamin C for colds was popularized by Linus Pauling’s book, “Vitamin C and the Common Cold”. In the book, Pauling claimed that mega doses of Vitamin C would cure the common cold. The problem with his claim was he didn’t have any research to support his theory. However, in 2007 a meta-analysis demonstrated that taking 200 milligrams of Vitamin C every day can shorten the duration of a cold and decrease the number of times a person gets a cold. Clearly, Vitamin C can help a person fight colds. It may not be the cure, but it certainly helps.
5. Chicken Soup
Another home remedy that is often given for colds is chicken soup. When you have a scratchy throat and a stuffy nose, a nice bowl of hot soup can be very soothing. Surprisingly, chicken soup can do more for a person with a cold than just provide food that goes down easily. It can actually help decrease the symptoms of a cold. The vegetables and chicken in chicken soup have been shown to help with inflammatory responses associated with upper respiratory infections. Chicken soup has also been demonstrated to have some inhibitory effect on viruses; however, these benefits are limited to homemade chicken soup. Even if it tastes nice, you probably won’t feel better eating a bowl of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle.
6. Cranberry Juice for Urinary Tract Health
Have you ever been told to drink cranberry juice for a bladder infection? Although it seems unlikely, cranberry juice can actually effectively treat a bladder infection. E-coli is the bacteria that causes bladder infections, and cranberry juice prevents the e-coli from sticking to the walls of the bladder. This means that the infection can be flushed out. For people susceptible to bladder infections, drinking cranberry juice can decrease recurrence by 35 percent. The only caveat to drinking cranberry juice for bladder infections, is it has to be unsweetened, 100 percent cranberry juice, which is very tart.
7. Thumb Sucking Ruins Teeth
While it is fine for babies and small children to suck their thumbs, it can cause problems once adult teeth start coming in. Children who suck their thumbs when their permanent teeth come in risk causing dental problems such as improper tooth alignment and improper development of the mouth. I have seen parents and teachers get fairly creative to prevent children from sucking their thumbs. In fact, my first grade teacher put hot sauce on a few of my friends’ thumbs to dissuade them from thumb sucking. Fortunately, I was not a thumb sucker and didn’t have to endure this.
Even though there are many old wives’ tales that are myths, there a some that are actually based in fact. I usually don’t listen to old wives’ tales, but I might pay a little more attention from now on and find out if there is any fact to what I am being told. Having been told many wives’ tales in my life I have learned most of them were simply entertaining, but these were based in fact! What old wives’ tales have you been told?