9 Old wives' health tales that are actually onto something

May 8, 2015 at 3:30 p.m. ET
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In an era of technology and science, you may feel tempted to roll your eyes at common old wives' tales. As it turns out, though, the following tales have hints (or heaps) of truth.

1. An apple a day keeps doctors away

If you add an apple to your diet each day, you might not notice a significant improvement in your health right away. Instead, think long term. Scientists have shown that the phytochemicals in the skin of an apple are protective against heart attacks and various cancers.

2. Carrots boost your eyesight

Sorry, but eating carrots won't take your 20/30 vision to 20/20. The beta-carotene in carrots, however, can protect the eyesight you have and reduce your risk of macular degeneration as you age.

3. Chicken soup cures a cold

There's nothing like warm chicken soup when you're battling a cold. Sure, the warm broth feels good, but the enjoyment of chicken soup extends far beyond a psychological effect. Scientists have found that chicken soup reduces inflammation, and thereby eases the symptoms of a cold or flu.

More: Two huge ways you're sabotaging your energy every day

4. Houseplants clean the air

If you struggle with allergies, you may be surprised to hear that adding plants to your home may reduce your symptoms. Back in the 1980s, NASA tested several houseplants and found that certain varieties — like the ficus and peace lily — significantly reduce indoor air pollution.

5. A full moon causes triggers major health events

Admittedly, studies on human behavior during a full moon have mixed results. Some studies have shown no significant increase in seizures, psychosis, violent behavior or births during a full moon, as the old wives' tale claims. However, a National Institutes of Health study found that the rate of non-epileptic seizures actually does increase during a full moon cycle.

6. Swallowed gum can get stuck in your stomach

You've likely heard that the gum you accidentally swallowed yesterday will stay in your stomach for seven years. This simply isn't true. Gum usually passes undigested straight through your body. However, chewing and swallowing large amounts of gum can cause an intestinal blockage. To play it safe, you should avoid swallowing gum altogether.

More: Are you taking the right multivitamin?

7. Warm milk can help you sleep

Remember how your mom gave you a glass of warm milk before bed to help you sleep? Scientists have found that the chemical makeup of warm milk has nothing to do with the fact that it really is a natural and effective sleep aid. It appears that the sleep benefits of warm milk before bed are psychological and comforting, rather than chemical.

8. Gain a child, lose a tooth

Here's a lovely surprise for all you mamas out there: A study recently found that a woman's risk of periodontal disease — including missing teeth — increased with each pregnancy.

9. Pregnancy heartburn means your baby is hairy

This random piece of folklore wisdom is totally true! I know, I couldn't believe it either. The National Institutes of Health completed a study that found that women with moderate to severe heartburn during pregnancy mostly gave birth to babies with average or above average amounts of hair. And, on the flip side, women with mild or no heartburn mostly gave birth to babies with very little hair. Mind = blown.

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