Ignorance is abundant when it comes to our health. People spread all kinds of misinformation about our bodies and minds that simply should not be shared. It’s honestly a little shocking to see that misleading information continues to be disseminated because everything we need to know (and don’t) can be confirmed through legitimate sources such as the Mayo Clinic or the National Institute of Health. Somehow, misconceptions are often still presented as facts. Truth is, they’re anecdotal at best.

In order to be our strongest selves and cultivate healthy communities, we have got to stop sharing incorrect information. Let’s start by debunking some common health myths.

Black people don’t need to wear sunscreen.

health misconceptions
Photo: Giphy

I don’t know who started telling people this, but it’s garbage. We have skin, right? So that means that we are being exposed to the sun’s rays and have the potential to get skin cancer.

Some people might argue that black people don’t need sunscreen because black people don’t burn. Also untrue. Just because you’ve never been sunburned or because no one you know personally has ever been sunburned does not mean it doesn’t happen. It just means that it hasn’t happened to you — or maybe it has happened and you just didn’t notice. The widely publicized symptoms of sunburn do not appear the same in people of color as they do on white folks. We might not experience exactly the same symptoms, which would make it hard to know whether or not we’ve been sunburned.  

Some people might say things like “Our slave ancestors didn’t need sunscreen,” “Black people in the islands don’t need sunscreen,” “Our African brothers and sisters don’t need sunscreen’ or some variety of these arguments. Please allow me to clarify. There is this thing called adaptation, which is when a species adjusts to their environment after years and years of living in it. Adaptation can explain why each of these groups of people may not be (or have been) sunburned. Even so, just because those people don’t use sunscreen doesn’t mean they don’t need it. We do not know the stats for skin cancer amongst these groups!

Just because there are some groups of people who do not use sunscreen does not mean that black people living in the U.S. do not need it. WE need it. There is a huge hole in the ozone layer that did not exist when our ancestors worked the fields. And we are not adapted to the climates that our Caribbean and African brothers and sisters live in, increasing the chances for sun-related damage to our bodies.

Bottom line: You need to wear sunscreen. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

There’s an ideal weight for your body type.

health misconceptions
Photo: Giphy

BMI is bullsh*t. Forget what the other people around you look like. Forget what the Kardashians look like. Screw the scale. You are a beautiful being with a fantastic body. Do your best to keep it healthy and you are good to go.

You have to eat less to lose weight.

It’s not that you have to eat less, it’s that you need to make healthier, more balanced choices when you do eat. Instead of ordering wings and french fries for example, order a chicken wrap with a side salad. Fill up on lots of veggies, a few carbs and a little protein — and that doesn’t mean it’s cool to eat more steak or hamburgers. Red meat isn’t great for you either.

Fruit is totally healthy.

health misconceptions
Photo: Giphy

Fruit is healthy, but it should be eaten in moderation because of its high sugar content. If you need to watch your sugar intake (which many people do because of diabetes, prediabetes or general fear of getting diabetes), you need to be careful when it comes to fruit. The tastiest fruits are extremely high in sugar. These include: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, mangoes, apples, bananas, grapefruit, oranges, pineapples, cranberries, peaches — basically all of the best fruits.

Fruit is delicious, and it has some great benefits such as vitamin C in citrus and the antioxidants in blueberries. And, of course, eating fruit is not as bad as cakes, pies and ice cream. But sugar is sugar at the end of the day. It’s time we face the cold, sad truth: The healthiest diet consists of some protein, some carbs and a whole lot of veggies. Everything else should be eaten in moderation.

Your behavior is the reason you have acne.

health misconceptions
Photo: Giphy

Breakouts are caused by factors outside of your control. ‘Acne is a result of your genetics and hormones,’ so you can stop blaming yourself for your acne because it’s probably not your fault.

This food is healthy because I found it in a health-food store.  

So false. You might think you’re eating healthy, but those companies are honestly laughing straight to the bank. When it comes to several health foods — such as Naked juice, for instance — the only healthy thing about them is their packaging. It’s all marketing. Many of the brands that seem super healthy are actually owned by goliath companies. It’s called the ‘illusion of choice.’

health misconceptions
Photo: huffingtonpost.com

The companies want you to think that their protein bar is healthier than a candy bar, but have you taken a look at those nutrition facts? Do a side-by-side comparison between a protein bar and a candy bar, and you’ll likely find more similarities than you expected. Stick to eating fresh foods and healthy snacks (such as peanut butter, almonds, carrots or a few cheese slices) whenever possible.

Men can’t get breast cancer.

It’s rare, but not impossible. Everybody has breast tissue and can get breast cancer.

You must brush your teeth right before bed.

According to experts, you need to brush your teeth at least twice within a 24 hour period and timing doesn’t have to be exact. You should brush your teeth for the night sometime after dinner but before bed. So for those of you, like me, who fall asleep to Netflix before getting a chance to brush your teeth, you can brush after dinner and be good to go. 

Fit teas, waist trainers or any other products claiming to be ‘revolutionary’ are effective for weight loss.

health misconceptions
Photo: mirror.co.uk

Just because celebs post about how great they are, does not mean that they work. All it means is that those celebs have a nice paycheck headed their way. Many of these products aren’t safe — they aren’t even FDA approved and haven’t undergone extensive testing. And don’t even get me started on the ridiculousness of waist trainers, which reshape your bones and have the potential to crush your ribs.

For those of you who might want to argue against the ineffectiveness of these products, consider that it’s possible to be using the product without the product causing you to lose weight. Chances are, you probably made some other changes to your life since you began using the product. For instance, diet pills claim ‘revolutionary’ weight loss. But they also state plain as day on the nutrition facts that you must exercise and eat a healthy diet for the pills to work. It’s the diet and exercise causing the weight loss, not the gimmicky product.

If you’re still looking for a way to jumpstart your weight loss, try drinking green tea (or water) before eating your meals. You’ll fill up on the liquid (thereby consuming less food) and apparently green tea jumpstarts the metabolism (in the exact same way that fit teas claim to). But, please, whatever you do, don’t spend your hard-earned money on these products. There is no such thing as a quick weight-loss gimmick that works in the long-term. You need a healthy, balanced diet, lots of water and exercise in order to lose weight over time. That’s it. No ifs, ands or buts.

With all the information that’s out there, it can be difficult to keep up with what is right and what is wrong. Let this be the start of us discussing the things that can make us healthier and throwing away the misconceptions and stereotypes that are holding us back.

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