8 Common Food Myths Debunked

There are hundreds of common myths and misconceptions about food which may influence your diet choices. However, some foods commonly believed to be unhealthy are actually just fine and some popular “healthy” foods are actually harmful. Here are eight common food myths debunked:

1. Low-fat Foods are Always Healthier.

Some types of fat are unhealthy, but others are an important part of a healthy diet. When foods are made low fat, the fat content is usually replaced with sugar or sodium to improve the taste. This definitely does not make it healthier, but many people associate fat with weight gain and heart attacks. Therefore, they choose “low-fat” foods even though the foods have an unhealthy amount of sugar or sodium.

2. You Need to Eat Dairy for Healthy Bones.

People tend to confuse dairy with calcium, so it’s a common myth you need dairy for strong bones. It’s true that dairy has lots of calcium, but plenty of other foods do as well. You can eat greens, broccoli, oranges, beans, and nuts to get enough calcium to keep your bones healthy.

3. Eggs Raise Your Cholesterol Levels.

Your cholesterol levels are mostly influenced by saturated and trans fats, and eggs contain very little of both. Eggs contain lots of important nutrients, so cutting them out of your diet to lower your cholesterol levels can actually be harmful. It won’t affect your cholesterol and it will prevent you from getting all the health benefits eggs have.

4. All Food Additives are Bad for You.

Some people believe all food additives are made of harmful, toxic chemicals. While some aren’t very healthy, most are completely fine. The panic over food additives mostly stems from a lack of understanding. For example, many people believe the additive carrageenan is toxic because it’s been proven to cause inflammation in lab animals. However, studies show human bodies don’t absorb or metabolize it, so it flows through the body without causing any harm.

5. Restricting Salt Prevents Heart Attacks.

Lowering your salt intake can reduce your blood pressure, but there’s no scientific evidence supporting the idea that restricting salt reduces your risk of a heart attack or stroke. If your doctor tells you to cut back on salt, you should listen. However, it’s a myth everyone needs to lower their salt intake to be safe and healthy.

6. High Fructose Corn Syrup is Worse than Sugar.

Many foods are labeled “No HFCS” as if this makes them healthier and many people buy these items because they’re so afraid of high fructose corn syrup. It actually is very similar to sucrose, or table sugar, in many ways. The composition of high fructose corn syrup is almost identical to that of table sugar and both have the same number of calories. They both have similar effects on insulin and glucose levels. Neither are particularly healthy, but one isn’t worse than the other.

7. All Organic Food is Healthy.

Organic food is free of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and other additives found in most non-organic foods. Choosing organic produce can reduce your chemical exposure, but junk food labeled “organic” is still junk food. You can buy organic chips, cookies, or crackers, but they’ll still have as much sugar and empty calories as their non-organic counterparts.

8. Coffee Makes You Dehydrated.

Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it does dehydrate you. However, coffee has a very mild dehydrating effect and all of the water it contains will make up for any fluid you lose. Coffee also contains lots of antioxidants, so you don’t have to worry about drinking a cup or two every morning.

5 Ridiculous Myths You Probably Believe About Schizophrenia

In any given year, approximately 1.1% of the U.S. adult population is affected by schizophrenia, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). That’s over two million people in the U.S. alone. In 2008, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found schizophrenia was twice as common as HIV/AIDS, and a major report revealed most Americans knew very little about the illness. Most people recognize the name, but beyond that, their facts get blurry.

A lot of what people think they know about this difficult condition is flat out wrong. Here are five of the most common myths about this condition, and why they aren’t true:

Myth #1: People who have it are dangerous and violent.

This is what the movies would have us believe, because that makes for a more exciting story and higher ticket sales, but in fact people most people with this illness never become violent or dangerous. In fact, they are much more likely to become the victim of a violent crime than to commit one.

Although research does show some association between people who have this condition and violence, it’s not nearly as tightly linked as many people believe. A small percentage of sufferers may become violent when they are experiencing acute symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions or extreme paranoia.

The likelihood of aggressive or violent acts increases when alcohol or drug abuse is added in, something that’s also true for people with no mental health diagnosis.

Overall, however, the majority of people with mental health conditions, including this one, are no more violent than their neighbors. In fact, research conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that affected individuals “typically withdraw from social interaction and simply prefer to be left alone.”

Myth #2: People who have it will never be able to hold down a productive job.

Struggling with the illness can make holding down a “regular” job more challenging, but it’s often still possible.

In fact, there are quite a few famous people who became career stand-outs in their fields, despite experiencing this condition. Famed mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr., whose life story is told in the book “A Beautiful Mind,” won a Nobel prize in Economics and other accolades.

American novelist Jack Kerouac was reportedly diagnosed with it during his service in the military, yet he went on from there to become a beloved poet and novelist.

For people whose symptoms prevent them from traditional employment, non-traditional work that provides a more flexible schedule may be a workable alternative.

Even if someone goes through a period where they are unable to work due to a symptom flare-up, their condition may substantially improve in the future and allow a return to work on a limited or even full-time basis.

Myth #3: People who have it have multiple personalities.

NAMI research about public attitudes regarding the disease discovered that 64% of people wrongly think that “split or multiple personalities” is a symptom of the condition.

This myth most likely originated from the nature of the word itself.

The prefix schizo means split, but in this case, the split refers to a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, not split personality.

People who are experiencing hallucinations and delusions may behave erratically, but it has nothing to do with having multiple personalities. That’s an entirely different condition named dissociative identity disorder (DID).

Myth #4: If a parent or sibling has it, you’ll get it too.

People who have a family member with this condition often want to know: Is schizophrenia genetic or not? Inheritance does play a role, but does not guarantee whether someone will or won’t get it.

Having a relative who has it doesn’t mean you are certain to develop it also, although it can increase the likelihood.

According to published research, identical twins have the highest genetic risk, with nearly a 50% chance of developing the disease.

A child of two parents who have the illness is at high risk as well – about 46%. The risk drops off substantially for other family members but is still significant.

According to research studies, the child of a person with it has about 13% chance of developing the condition. A sibling has a 9% risk of also developing the disease.

Genetics are only one of many factors in the development of the condition. Life trauma, drug abuse, and other components of a person’s environment can contribute to triggering the condition as well.

Myth #5: Schizophrenia is untreatable

This myth has its roots in the persistent and debilitating nature of the illness.

It’s hard to treat, and for some people it’s a lifelong struggle, but it’s also possible to recover completely from it.

With treatment, 25% of patients fully recover and never experience another episode again. Half or more are able to achieve improvement in their symptoms with medication and therapy.

It’s is a challenging and difficult condition, but ultimately treatable and even curable. According to a study by the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), the average age first symptoms appear is 20.5 years old – just when individuals are entering their adulthood and making key decisions regarding family and career.

Typically, 5 years or more pass before the condition is diagnosed. While some people struggle with it throughout their lives, others achieve complete recovery. Most people are able to achieve improvement in symptoms and live an independent life.

It’s understandable why these myths have graduated to the status of real thoughts in our minds, but for those who suffer from schizophrenia, having informed people around them is at least one less problem to deal with. Let’s do us all a favor and keep an open mind!

Three Myths about Latino Immigrants That It’s Time to Bust

Photo by Monivette Cordeiro

As a counseling professor, I train my students to ask their clients: “If you succeed in making the changes we’re talking about, what will be better?” So I have to ask: Has the President thought through the consequences of his actions on immigration?

America was built on positives. We didn’t become great by preventing, arresting, and deporting. Why does the President want us to return to a past we never had? Is it even possible to build something great while focusing on tearing down or walling off?

I’ve conducted more than two decades of research on population studies, and here’s what I can tell you about Latino stereotypes: It’s time to get rid of them. The fact is, immigration is at the core of America’s greatness, and Latinos are very much a part of that greatness.

Here are some of the key facts from analyses of Census data that I’ve done with my colleague Jorge Garcia and from other sources:

First, Latinos do share our culture and do adapt.

The wall-builders say that “Latinos don’t share our culture and won’t adapt — they just aren’t like us.” But in the past, some Americans said the same thing about each wave of Irish, Italian, and Polish immigrants.

Research shows that after three generations of being here, Latinos look remarkably similar to those previous immigrant groups. (Of course, most Latinos in the US aren’t immigrants but have been here for many generations – much longer than many other groups.)

Like Americans in general, Latinos are more likely to live in big cities and are more likely to be married. Like earlier generations of immigrants from Europe, they have a preference for coastal cities and their families are slightly bigger than average.

Latinos are on average younger. However, that’s a big benefit for a US population that would otherwise find it much more difficult to grow the economy and pay for programs like Social Security that are based on younger people funding older people.

Second, Latinos are not criminals.

Several studies have failed to show any relationship between immigrant presence and increased crime rates. In fact, a recent study showed that areas with the most immigrants have lower crime rates. It’s important to remember that to be here without documents is a civil violation not a crime; think of it as the equivalent of traffic tickets.

Third, Latinos are not taking your jobs.

The biggest difference between Latinos and the total US population is in their types of occupations. In both 2000 and 2010, the majority of Americans overall were employed in managerial and sales jobs. For Latinos, the majority were employed in either low-level white collar or blue collar occupations, both skilled and unskilled. So, are they taking our jobs? Not as long as these types of occupational differences persist. And yesterday’s Day Without Immigrants protest is a prime example of this fact.

When Latinos do what other immigrants did and become more educated, they’ll move up and start taking some of those white collar jobs. And that will be a very good thing for America, because we’re already looking at huge shortages of educated people as the baby boomers retire.

Are Latinos a drain on our society because they use social services? They do use services, but also contribute significantly to the tax base that pays for those services.

Other Americans, for example those in rust belt states with aging populations, use a lot more services than Latinos, and already are benefiting from younger people supporting the tax base.

Sadly, Latinos who are undocumented, provide an especially big boost to the economy – they pay the taxes but aren’t eligible for benefits. These aren’t the only myths about Latinos. Language acquisition? Same as previous immigrants. Educational attainment? If Latinos get to college they tend to major in similar disciplines as the rest of the country. Military service? Latinos have a long tradition of serving in the US military.

Even the causes of death are similar for the total US population as for Latinos – both die from the same top diseases: heart disease and cancer. Many Latinos, especially in border areas, have retained the ability to speak Spanish. But English is their primary language and American culture –from sports to movies – is the only one they know or care about.

Begging the question of whether it’s possible to build greatness by tearing things down, the obvious conclusion is that Latinos are more like other Americans than they are different. Let’s build relationships and not walls.

Myths and Facts about Social Work

“All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why. Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others,” said Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. People who are passionate about helping others might want to consider a career in the field of social work.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those interested in this career would be joining a large and ever-growing professional community, in 2010, there were 650, 500 social workers in the United States. What exactly do social work professionals do? The answer to this question is more complicated than it may seem. To begin the discussion about what the role of a social worker is let’s start by dispelling some common myths about the profession.

factormythMyth: “Social workers do not make much money.”

Fact: Salaries can vary based on several factors, including educational background, qualifications, geographic location, and specialization. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a social worker employed in the field of individual and family services earns a median salary of $39,310 per year while the median salary of a social worker employed in an elementary or secondary school is to $54,260 per year.

Myth: “Social workers work primarily with the poor.”

Fact: It is true that the practice of social work was rooted in helping individuals living in poverty, when the profession first originated in the 19th century which is also why social work is often mistakenly only viewed as charity work. However, in modern times, social workers provide services to individuals with all backgrounds, ages and socio-economic status.

Myth: “The majority of social workers are employed either in social services or child welfare.”

Fact: Social workers work in a variety of venues, including hospitals, emergency rooms, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, mental health clinics, substance abuse divisions (like me!), prisons, private practices, schools, nonprofit agencies, welfare agencies, children and family services, government offices, policy divisions, etc.

Myth: “Social work is depressing because you are always involved with individuals’ problems.”

Fact: It is true that social workers try to improve others’ lives by helping those in need cope with and solve personal problems and other issues. Social workers may also work to assist those who face disabilities, life-threatening illnesses, homelessness, unemployment, domestic violence or substance abuse. Yet, the job of a social worker is not always depressing. Social workers aim to enhance others’ well-being with a focus on empowering individuals and recognizing their needs, strengths and abilities, and social workers are often rewarded when they are able to witness their clients personal victories. Additionally, there are also special trainings to help social workers manage their feelings of stress or sadness.

It is surprising how little people know about the field of social work. Once you get past the myths, you will realize what an important role a social worker plays in society and that it takes a very special kind of a person to do social work.

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