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Debunking Old Wives Tales: Fact Or Fiction

We’ve heard them all our lives, these little “sayings” of helpful tips, nuggets of wisdom and ways to learn information first hand. Are they true, are they false? What can we learn from “Old Wives Tales’? The term itself comes from the King James Version of the Bible in the chapter 1Timothy chapter 4 verse 7 where it says” to refuse profane and old wives fables.” This tradition came from storytelling, women passing stories along to each other as ways to help each other AND ways to help kids understand concepts of life. They also admitted to telling these tales to intimidate kids to not be into things that they shouldn’t be doing.

Old Wives Tales also have a place in literary history. Several writers of fairy tales and fables took ideas and story origins from women that would dive into storytelling and anecdotes and turned them into allegory-like stories for children. Interesting! How does that apply to us here in the modern day world? It apples in ways you probably aren’t even aware. Several Old Wives Tales are common known “facts”, but are they really facts? Some have been so widely repeated we believe they have medical driven stability behind them. Let’s investigate some of these tales and see which ones were in fact correct and which ones are not.

You Must Wait One Hour After Eating Before You Can Go Swimming

You’ve heard it your ENTIRE life, everytime you are near a pool, “you can’t swim until an hour after you’ve eaten because you’ll get cramps and you may drown.” Is it a myth or is it a fact? This one is a myth. Doctors say that it is NOT dangerous to swim after you’ve eaten. The concern came from the fact that as your body digests food, it can redirect some of the blood flow from the muscles to the stomach and that swimming somehow would limit that blood flow to the stomach causing cramps. Another reason given was because it was thought that your arms and legs while active, would not get enough blood flow due to digestion. Tracing this old wives tale, it dates back in written form to the 1908 Boy Scout Handbook.


Children Should Not Drink Coffee Because It Stunts Their Growth

If you were denied the chance to try coffee as a child, you were not alone. “Children should not drink coffee because it stunts their growth”is another widespread wives tale. Is this one a fact, or fiction? This one is definitely fiction! A Harvard Health study tells us that there is no scientific evidence to prove that coffee can keep someone from growing. The misunderstanding in this medical myth most likely came from the incorrect assumption that coffee causes osteoporosis. Two more myths because coffee does NOT cause osteoporosis and osteoporosis does not make someone “short”. Osteoporosis along with compression factors cause someone to lose height, but it’s not the only condition that causes height loss. Studies that were done showed that people who were heavy coffee drinkers did not consume as much milk and dairy drinks, causing a lower intake of calcium and Vitamin D, increasing their chances of one day possibly developing osteoporosis. You can see how easily things can get twisted from person to person, let alone generation to generation.

Eating Carrots Improves Your Eyesight

Growing up, did you hear the phrase, “finish all your carrots, they are good for your eyes!” Interesting enough this one is true AND false! It’s true because carrots are rich in beta carotene. The body turns beta carotene into Vitamin A, which is essential to the health of your eyes, making it true. BUT Vitamin A cannot actually improve your eyesight to 20/20, making it false. That being said, Vitamin A does help your eye health, just not your vision. So, this one gets a nod to both sides.

Eating An Apple A Day Can Keep The Doctor Away

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” is probably the most common old wives tale known to the majority of people. If this one fact or fiction? Apples are very high in Vitamin C and fiber, and certain phytochemicals that decrease the digestion of carbohydrates, which gives better results in controlling blood sugar. Medical research has shown that apples, when eaten on a consistent basis, help with weight control, digestive health and immunity, preventing cancer and helping to improve cardiovascular health. This one is a FACT! Eat your apples!

Chicken Soup Can Cure The Common Cold

“Chicken soup can cure your cold.” Who has not heard that one? If it were true, the soup companies would control the world! We all know, unfortunately, this one is false, but does chicken soup have any benefits for you when you are sick? Doctors were surveyed on this issue and agree that chicken soup does provide you with vitamins, protein, and antioxidants and all these nutrients are necessary to keep your immune system working well. Their findings show that these nutrients also help lower the amount of inflammation that can develop in the lungs and the steam from the hot soup can help to open up stuffy noses. Chicken soup will not cure your cold but it will definitely help you fight it off and ease their symptoms. when you get sick

Old Wives Tales In Pregnancy

One of the most common times in life that you will hear MULTIPLE Old Wives Tales is during pregnancy. Once you start showing that you are pregnant, everyone around you can’t wait to give you advice. During these times of sharing and caring you hear MANY of these sayings come into conversation. A few of the most popular are the following:

  • If the baby’s heart rate is more than 150 beats per minute then you are having a girl
  • If you are craving sweets, citrus fruits, then you are having a girl. If you are craving salty, spicy foods, then you are having a boy.
  • If you are having horrible nausea and morning sickness then you are having a girl.
  • If you are carrying your baby higher up, it’s a girl. If you are carrying your baby low, it’s a boy.


These are just a few highlights, there are THOUSANDS of these tales about guessing your baby’s gender lingering around the world, passed down from many generations. Are they true? Some prove to be true and some do not. What determines that? Babies are notorious for being unique, different, and re-writing the rules. No baby is just like another, no pregnancy is just like another. One pregnancy one of these might prove correct for your baby’s gender, the next one could throw you off completely.

The most interesting thing about Old Wives Tales is how widely known they are and how we are quick to take their advice. When it comes to health and wellness, the best advice is your doctor’s advice. But the science behind proving the validity of these old tales is quite fascinating!

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