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Home Page BLOG 4 health rules you can break

4 health rules you can break


By Leslie Goldman

They're the imperatives for well-being that have been drilled into us forever--"Drink

eight glasses of water a day!" "Eat nine servings of fruits and veggies!" "Stay

away from red meat!" But it turns out that taking care of yourself isn't quite so

black-and-white, says

Harvard Medical School


Alice Domar

, PhD, coauthor of Live a Little! Breaking the Rules Won't Break Your Health. "Research

is revealing that whoever wrote the old guidelines didn't have the whole picture,

and that there are more paths to optimal health than we previously thought," Domar

says. Happily, the new rules are more user-friendly than the old ones. Here, four

tips to live by.


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Old Rule: Drink eight glasses of water a day.

New Rule: Eat your water.

The recommendation to chug all that H2O was likely based on guidelines published

in 1945. However, says

Howard Murad

, MD, author of The Water Secret, much of your daily requirement is contained in

foods: Fruits, vegetables, beans, and cooked whole grains like oatmeal and quinoa

(which soak up moisture in the pot) all deliver servings of water. And, as Murad

points out, they offer the added bonus of nutrients: "Watermelon and cucumber are

more than 90 percent water, but they also contain antioxidants. With a glass of

water, all you get is water." You'll know you're hydrated when your urine is colorless

or pale yellow and you're rarely thirsty.


Top 10 Rules for Eating Right

Old Rule: Eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables.

New Rule: Fill half your plate with produce.

A serving of broccoli is about five florets. A serving of raw spinach, one cup.

A serving of mango, roughly the size of a fist. "It's not surprising that people

get confused over what, exactly, a serving is," says Washington, D.C., dietitian

Rebecca Scritchfield. Her advice: Stop counting and instead make half of every meal

produce. "You don't need a big mound on your plate. Six asparagus spears at dinner,

a spinach salad at lunch, and a sliced banana and some berries at breakfast should

do it." And quality counts: Even two or three daily servings of deeply hued fruits

and veggies (like blueberries, bok choy, or red peppers) may help reduce your risk

of cancer and heart disease, Scritchfield says. "It's like darts. The goal is to

hit the bull's-eye. But hitting nearby is good, too."


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Old Rule: Avoid

red meat


New Rule: Beef in moderation can be healthy.

Red meat was long considered a heart attack on a plate because it's high in saturated

fat. But a 2010 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that the cardiovascular

risk comes from processed varieties, such as sausage, hot dogs, and cold cuts--not

from steak, hamburgers, and other nonprocessed cuts. (The real culprits may be salt

and preservatives). Red meat is a good source of iron and immunity-boosting zinc-two

nutrients some women don't get enough of. Beef (especially grass-fed) also contains

high concentrations of conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fat that may decrease

cancer risk and help reduce body fat.

"But not all red meats are created equal," says Leslie J. Bonci, director of sports

nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Sports Medicine. She recommends

choosing very lean cuts and avoiding anything labeled "prime," as it will have more

fat marbling. And try not to eat more than three 4- to 5-ounce servings (about the

size of an iPhone) per week.


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Old Rule: Keep your BMI between 18.5 and 24.9.

New Rule: Eat healthy, exercise, and let your weight settle naturally.

Physicians use BMI (body mass index)--a ratio of your weight to your height--as

a tool to diagnose obesity. But critics say BMI ignores muscle mass, and a 2011

Obesity study notes that it also ignores a person's hip circumference. "People come

in different sizes and shapes," says

Joanne Ikeda

, nutritionist emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. "The idea that

everyone should fall under 25 is ludicrous." A person can have a high BMI and still

be healthy, Ikeda argues. Research supports the theory: A Journal of the American

Medical Association study found that fit women--even if they were overweight according

to their BMI--were less likely to suffer a heart attack than those who were out

of shape. Ikeda advises her patients to stop obsessing over their BMI, eat a nutritious

diet, and log 150 minutes of exercise per week. "A healthy lifestyle results in

a healthy weight."


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