For 77 percent of Americans, living a healthy lifestyle is something they try to do nearly every day.
But in an effort to either lose weight, clean up their diets or achieve a certain fitness goal, people often heed advice that's sometimes counterproductive.
Here are eight health myths you've probably believed to be true, but really aren't:
Eating celery is basically 'negative calories'
While celery is a great healthy snack — only about 6 calories per medium stalk — you're still consuming more calories than you're burning. That said, celery is rich in vitamins K, A and C, and tastes delicious with peanut butter, ranch or hummus.
Load up on sports drinks while you work out
For the average person working out an hour or less per day at a moderate level of intensity, experts say chugging a sports drink full of electrolytes isn't necessary after a workout.
Michael Bergeron, Ph.D., a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, explains the exception to that rule is if your workouts are between 2 and 3 hours long:
“When you’re doing intense exercise sessions almost every day and losing a lot of sweat every time, you might need to do a little extra to boost your electrolyte levels."
Weight lifting will always make you look 'bulky'
For some reason, women in particular tend to think that if they start lifting weights, they'll automatically look 'bulky' or 'puffy.'
Alexander Koch, Ph.D., an associate professor of exercise science at Lenoir-Rhyne University, explains that women's testosterone levels are 20 times lower than men's, meaning it's much harder to get 'jacked' just by lifting a dumbbell:
“The fear that one will suddenly grow large amounts of muscle from lifting weights is akin to worrying you'll be involuntarily drafted by the WNBA if you shoot a few hoops at the Y —it just won't happen.”
Spending more time on cardio is key to weight loss
While running, biking or using an elliptical machine at your gym for hours might seem like the ticket to weight loss, think again.
Jillian Michaels, one of the nation's leading health and wellness experts, says some celebrities spend up to three hours or more getting in shape for a role, but a 'killer' one hour workout might be more effective:
“In fact, when you exercise for more than two hours straight — even at a moderate intensity — your body releases stress hormones such as cortisol, which inhibits weight loss, causing your body to react by storing fat and retaining water out of self protection.”
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), where you complete various exercise for shorter periods of time, but at a more intense level, has proven to burn more fat than a steady paced cardio workout.
Carbs are the enemy
But a long-term low-carb diet is actually dangerous for your health. Darwin Deen, MD, senior attending physician at Montefiore Medical Center's Department of Family and Social Medicine, says:
“If you stop eating carbohydrates, you rapidly lose water weight as your body breaks down the stored carbohydrates The problem is that a low-carbohydrate diet is not a normal balance of physiologic nutrition. As soon as you start eating carbohydrates again, your body replenishes your carbohydrate stores and your weight comes back."
A recent Harvard study found that eating more whole grains is associated with 15 percent lower mortality. Choosing options like whole wheat bread, pasta, brown rice, fruits and vegetables will keep your diet full of flavor.
Fat-free and low-fat foods are better than full-fat foods
It's tempting to pick up an item at the grocery store that says 'fat-free' splashed across the front, but what manufacturers aren't telling you is that they've used other ingredients, like sugar, flour thickeners and salt, to beef up lost flavor.
Also, your body needs fat! The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains fats give you energy to work properly, keep your skin and hair healthy and help absorb some vitamins.
However, limiting intake of saturated and trans fats is suggested to keep your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels low. This will also reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and other major health problems.
Microwaving food decreases its nutritional value
Chances are, you've heard about the rumor that microwaving your food depletes it of all nutritional value.
But registered dietician and certified food scientist Catherine Adams Hutt tells CNN that microwaving is actually better if you're trying to get the most nutritional value out of your meal:
“Whenever you cook food, you'll have some loss of nutrients. The best cooking method for retaining nutrients is one that cooks quickly, exposes food to heat for the smallest amount of time and uses only a minimal amount of liquid.”
Just be sure to heat up food in 'microwave safe dishes' to avoid chemicals making their way into your meal.
Eating small meals throughout the day boosts metabolism
Some health experts suggest eating smaller amounts of food throughout the day to keep your metabolism revved up.
But grazing all day long actually prevents you from burning fat. A recent study found that switching from three larger meals to six did nothing to increase fat loss and actually made people more hungry.
At the end of the day, it's really about doing what's best for your body type — every person reacts differently to food and exercise.