Old Wives Tales that are actually true


My girlfriend sent me one of those old wives tales articles that said a mixture of honey, cinnamon and lemon can help with weight reduction. I immediately flew into a rage and chastised her for it. This led me down a rabbit hole to discover old wives tales are actually true. Turns out that some old wives tales are actually true.

Old wives’ tales are often passed down from generation to generation and, while some are purely superstitious and have no basis in fact, others actually have some truth to them. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at 25 old wives’ tales that have been proven to be true, supported by facts and figures.

18 True Old Wives Tales

  1. An apple a day keeps the doctor away: Apples are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and are low in calories, making them a healthy choice for a snack or part of a meal. Research has shown that apples may help to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. According to this University of Western Australia (UWA) and Edith Cowan University (ECU) has shown the consumption of apples has a direct impact on human health by improving cardiovascular health. Remember Apple Cider Vinegar one of the most powerful health elixirs used by many people all over the World is made from Apples.
  2. Eating carrots can improve your vision: This old wives’ tale has been proven to be true. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body and helps to maintain healthy eyesight. Vitamin A is essential for the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, to function properly. A deficiency in vitamin A can lead to vision problems, including night blindness. This scientific American article looked at the issue and found while carrots do improve sight,  exactly how much was not clear.
  3. Feed a cold, starve a fever: This study cited by the Guardian newspaper actually showed the old adage might actually be true. They found that mice with flu – like the common cold, caused by a virus – were helped to recover and survive when they were fed. In contrast, feeding animals infected by bacteria only hastened their death. This maybe because bacteria feed on sugar or others forms of energy and multiply. While having plenty of food helps the body have the resources to build virus fighting anti bodies.
  4. Eating a banana gets you a boy: While this may seem laughable one news article from the Guardian cites a study that found that mothers who consumed bananas had a 56% chance of conceiving a boy compared to 45% on other diets. Having a high potassium which bananas was associated with having a boy, as was a high sodium intake.
  5. Eating raw garlic can help lower blood pressure: Garlic contains compounds called allicin and alliin, which have been shown to have blood pressure-lowering effects. According to this study listed on NCBI garlic lowers blood pressure in hypertensive subjects, improves arterial stiffness and gut microbiota.
  6. Honey can help to soothe a sore throat: Honey has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for sore throats. Research has shown that honey can help to reduce inflammation and may have antibacterial properties. This analysis listed on NCBI found evidence that a single dose of honey might reduce mucus secretion and reduce coughs in children. In a study offering 500 mL of water, water with buckwheat honey, black tea, black tea with sugar, or black tea with buckwheat honey to 25 healthy men, honey showed good demulcent effect and antioxidant properties, and it increased cytokine release, which might have antimicrobial effects. Honey can also help with burns and wounds. Honey has antibacterial and antioxidant properties, which can help prevent infection and promote healing. But remember honey is still sugar and can lead to weight gain, diabetes and other illnesses. So use strategically.
  7. Consuming ginger can help to alleviate nausea: Ginger has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for nausea and vomiting. A study listed on NCBI found that ginger can be effective at reducing nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy, chemotherapy, and surgery.
  8. Eating chicken soup can help to relieve a cold: Chicken soup has been referred to as “Jewish penicillin” because of its reputation for helping to relieve cold symptoms. While it may not be a cure-all, research as sighted here has shown that chicken soup may help to reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract and may have a mild, decongestant effect.
  9. If you have a headache, you should drink coffee: This old wives tale is also true. According the Mayo clinic health system  While caffeine can help to constrict blood vessels that send the pain signals to the brain and provide temporary relief for some types of headaches, it can also cause headaches in some people and may not be suitable for everyone. When caffeine is taken in combination with pain medicines, it increases the absorption and strength of the medication to provide faster relief. It is always best to speak with a healthcare provider for advice on managing headaches.
  10. Chocolate causes acne: According to this Healthline article the evidence is mixed. While the article found one study showing a positive correlation between unsweetened chocolate and acne they mostly attribute it sugar. However, since most chocolate is consumed with sugar we could say this old wives tale is mostly true.
  11. Men who want children should skip the hot tub:  According to Reuters article Dr. Paul J. Turek, of the University of California, San Francisco, and his team found in a small study that not taking hot baths could improve the sperm count in some infertile men. The same logic could apply to wearing tight clothes, particularly underwear, can increase the temperature of the testicles, which can have a negative impact on sperm production.
  12. You should not swim for at least an hour after eating. Or have a shower within an hour of eating. Swimming immediately after eating can cause cramps, but this is due to the body being busy digesting food rather than any effect of the water. It is recommended to wait until you have fully digested your food before swimming to avoid cramps. This NY times article also agrees. However there may be some justification to wait a while according to this Healthline article as it may interfere with digestion. We will give this old wives tale a mostly true mark because we have felt uncomfortable taking a shower immediately after a meal.
  13. You should not sleep on your back while pregnant: Sleeping on your back while pregnant can cause the weight of the uterus to press on the back, which can lead to discomfort and reduced circulation.  This NY times articles cites research showing women who slept on their backs had babies who were three times as likely to be in the lowest 10th percentile for birth weight.
  14. You should avoid taking cinnamon while pregnant: This is certainly true. The aroma of cinnamon especially the powerful cinnamon oil can cause premature uterine contractions that can result in a premature birth. This metanalysis study states that you should be avoid taking during pregnancy since cinnamon can lead to uterine contractions, miscarriage, or premature labor.
  15. Drinking milk can help to strengthen bones: Milk is a good source of calcium, which is essential for strong bones. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that milk consumption can help to increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. According to this study intake of milk and dairy products is beneficial for every age group but especially for children and adolescents, when the development of bone mass is dynamic.
  16. Chocolate can improve mood: Chocolate contains compounds called flavonoids, which can help to improve mood and reduce stress. A study found that consuming chocolate can increase the levels of endorphins and serotonin in the brain, which can help to improve mood and reduce anxiety. This study concluded there is some evidence that consumption of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, may be associated with reduced odds of clinically relevant depressive symptoms. But be aware chocolate often has sugar mixed in which is detrimental to your health on many levels.
  17. Drinking green tea can help to boost weight loss: Green tea contains catechins, which are compounds that can help to boost metabolism and promote weight loss.  This study concludes that drinking four cups of green tea led to a significant reduction in weight and systolic blood pressure.
  18. Drinking coffee can help to improve memory: Coffee contains caffeine, which is a stimulant that can help to improve cognitive function and memory. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that caffeine can help to improve memory and cognitive function in older adults. This study also found Caffeine enhances memory performance in young adults during their non-optimal time of day.

9 Old Wives tales that are partially true

  1. You should drink 8 glasses of water a day: The amount of water a person needs to drink each day can vary based on their age, gender, weight, and activity level. The general recommendation is to drink at least 8 cups (64 ounces) of water per day, but this can vary. It’s important to listen to your body and drink when you’re thirsty, and to drink more when you’re exercising or in hot weather. This Healthline article explores the issues in more depth.
  2. If you make a face, it will freeze that way: This old wives tale does not literally mean it remains frozen in that position. Rather it probably refers to facial expressions we make like frowning, scowling, grimacing.  Facial expressions are controlled by the muscles in the face so it is possible some people have cause to do this more frequently due to a health condition or patterning behavior which becomes a habit. Certainly I have a tendency to frown when concentration on this things and I have frown line on my forehead. Is it possible a lifetime of frowning while concentration has caused this? This blog post discusses these ideas.
  3. If you have a headache, you are dehydrated: This old wives tale is not necessarily true. Headaches can be also caused by a variety of factors, including stress, tension, illness, and eyestrain. Dehydration can also cause headaches, but it is not the only cause.
  4. Eating chocolate causes acne: It is often believed that eating chocolate can cause acne there are no studies to prove this except this one study  Acne is caused by a combination of factors, including hormones, genetics, and certain medications. While it is possible that eating large amounts of chocolate may contribute to acne in some people, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.
  5. You should not eat fish while pregnant: Fish is a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and it is generally safe to eat during pregnancy. However this is partially true due to the high levels of mercury found in fish especially large fish. This research indicates that prenatal exposure to the nutrients in fish improves neurocognitive development, including IQ, communication, and other developmental outcomes.6,7 Children whose mothers consumed a mean of 588 g (21 oz) of fish per week, the fourth highest quintile of consumption in the study population, had higher total scores for verbal, motor, memory, and overall cognitive development.
  6. You lose most of your body heat through your head: It is often believed that you lose most of your body heat through your head, but this need a qualification. Only if your head is exposed to the elements. If go naked the then you would lose body heat evenly through all parts of the body. The human body is designed to regulate its temperature through the circulation of blood, and the amount of heat lost through the head is no different from the amount lost through other parts of the body. However even this statement is not backed with any studies. So, one could say you will lose more heat through your head especially if you have a bald head and otherwise well dressed. Mama was right.
  7. Drinking coffee before bed keeps you awake: We put this on the partially true because some people actually sleep better with a cup of tea or coffee. While caffeine is a stimulant that can interfere with sleep, the effect it has on an individual can vary depending on their tolerance and their personal sensitivity to caffeine. This articles states that many people to suffer from sleeplessness, anxiety, frequent nighttime awakenings, and overall poorer sleep quality with coffee.
  8. Biting your nails is a sign of anxiety: It is often believed that biting your nails is a sign of anxiety, but this is not always true. While nail biting may be a sign of stress or anxiety in some people, it can also be a habit that is formed for other reasons, such as boredom. According to this Psychology Today article Nail-biting can be a temporary, relatively non-destructive behavior that is merely a cosmetic concern, but it can also develop into a severe, long-term problem.
  9. Wearing tight shoes can cause bunions: Bunions are bony protuberances that develop on the joint of the big toe. Wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes can increase the risk of developing bunions, as they put pressure on the toes and force them into unnatural positions.

11 Old Wives tales that not true

  1. Drinking milk can cause phlegm: There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that milk causes phlegm. Phlegm is a thick, sticky mucus that is produced by the respiratory system to help protect and moisturize the respiratory tract. While milk and other dairy products may contribute to mucus production, they do not cause phlegm as found in this study.
  2. Reading in low light can damage your eyes: Reading in low light can strain your eyes, but it will not permanently damage your eyesight. This article goes into a more in depth analysis of the subject. However, one thing to keep in mind is that your eyes do need Vitamin D which is best got from exposure to some late morning sunlight.
  3. Honey, Cinnamon and lemon will help you lose weight. This health line articles does not find any credible evidence to support this theory. Perhaps cinnamon or lemon alone could help you lose weight but you would have to consume quite a bit of it which is not practical. Honey at the end of the day is sugar and is composed of 40% fructose and 30% glucose. Of particular concern is fructose which increases body fat in this mouse trial as cited in this article.
  4. If you swallow gum, it will stay in your stomach for seven years: This old wives tale is not true according to Healthline. If you swallow gum, it will pass through your digestive system like any other food and be eliminated within a few days. Swallowing a large amount of gum at one time may cause digestive issues, but it is not likely to stay in your stomach for seven years.
  5. Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis: There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis. Knuckle cracking is caused by the release of gas bubbles from the joints, and while it may be annoying to some people, it is not harmful. This study found there was no increased preponderance of arthritis of the hand in either group; however, habitual knuckle crackers were more likely to have hand swelling and lower grip strength.
  6. Shaving makes hair grow back thicker: Shaving does not affect the thickness of hair. When hair is shaved, the blunt tip gives the appearance of thicker hair, but the hair is not actually thicker. Read this fascinating on Scientific American article which thoroughly debunks this old wives tale.
  7. If you cross your eyes, they will get stuck that way: This old wives tale is not true. The muscles that control the movement of the eyes are strong and capable of moving the eyes back into position. Crossed eyes can be a sign of a medical condition called strabismus, but this is not caused by making faces or crossing your eyes on purpose. However, if you develop an obsessive-compulsive behavior with crossing eyes it is certainly possible to cause eye fatigue.
  8. Eating at night makes you gain weight: It is often believed that eating late at night can cause weight gain, but this is not true. This study also comes to the same conclusion. Weight gain occurs when the number of calories consumed exceeds the number of calories burned, and it does not matter when those calories are consumed. As long as you maintain a calorie deficit over time, you will lose weight, regardless of when you eat. Read this Healthline article for a more in depth view.
  9. Getting a haircut during a full moon can make your hair grow faster: There is no scientific evidence to support this claim, but it is believed that the extra moisture in the air during a full moon can help hair grow faster.
  10. Wearing wet socks can cure a cold: It is often believed that wearing wet socks can cure a cold, but this is not true and there is no evidence to prove this either way. While wearing wet socks may make you feel slightly warmer due to the evaporation of the water, it is not likely to have any significant effect on the symptoms of a cold.
  11. Knocking on wood prevents bad luck: It is often believed that knocking on wood can prevent bad luck, but this is not true. This old wives tale has its roots in ancient superstition, and it is not supported by scientific evidence. This habit dates back to pagan times, when it was thought spirits who protected us lived in trees, and touching or knocking on the tree would protect you from bad luck.
  12. Avoid drinking milk after eating fish: Once again there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. Guess there is no money for such a study. But to be honest I have never had a milk or cheese after having fish. Wait a minute I did have a McDonald’s milk shake after gulping down two fillet of fish burgers. Had no effect. Maybe this rule applies to particular types of fish. It certainly is possible.