Old wives’ tales – true or not? Get the facts and dump the fiction

Old wives’ tales – we’ve all heard them: don’t go swimming right after a meal or you’ll get a cramp and drown; eat up your carrots because they help you see in the dark. Sure, sure, but are any old wives’ tales true?

Yes, and here are some of them.

An apple a day

Keeping the doctor away is a good thing, and apples are a great start. They contain antioxidants that help ward off cancer, and the fibre, vitamins and natural sugars keep your gut healthy and help you control your weight. But the same goes for most produce, so really the poem should be, ‘lots of fruit and vege every day keeps the doctor away.’

Fish is brain food

This is true, if you eat the right fish. Oily fish like salmon or sardines have large quantities of omega-3 and omega-6, which are important for healthy brain function.

Chicken soup for colds

Turns out that chicken soup can actually relieve inflammation and reduce cold symptoms. Slurping up a steamy bowl of chicken soup when you’re feeling rotten can rehydrate you, soothe your sinuses and generally make you feel better. There’s no cure for the common cold, but you might as well ride it out with less pain.

Carrots are good for your eyes

This is in the true list because carrots contain beta carotene, a form of vitamin A essential for eye health. Healthy eyes can see better in the dark, but that’s where the myth starts. During WWII, propaganda in England claimed that carrots improved eyesight so much that pilots could see in the dark, which is why they could pinpoint and shoot down German planes. Research since has debunked this – turns out the Allies wanted to keep the development of radar a secret as long as possible.

Old wives’ tales that aren’t true:

Catch warts from toads

Toad does look a bit warty, but he’s not going to pass them on to you. Warts are caused by a virus, and are specific to each species, so you can’t catch warts from animals. Toad didn’t catch his from you, either.

Spicy food gives you ulcers

If you already have a stomach ulcer spicy food can hurt, but doesn’t cause it. Too much aspirin, stress, a poor diet – any or all of these may cause ulcers.

Cracking knuckles gives you arthritis

If you go overboard cracking your knuckles, they may swell, and your grip could weaken. But you won’t be causing arthritis – that comes from an inflammatory diet, overuse, infection or simply old age.

Coffee stunts your growth

Such a myth! Not only does coffee not stunt growth but also research has found some health benefits. It can reduce the risk of cancers, strokes and plenty of other diseases. In moderation, of course.

Those old wives knew a few things

Our grandmothers (and grandfathers) weren’t completely ignorant, but it’s good to know you don’t catch cold from going outside with wet hair, and your face won’t freeze cross-eyed if the wind changes.