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Go ahead, eat at night and have that egg: 5 health rules you can break

Aug. 25, 2014 at 11:41 AM ET

It’s time to dust off some of the medical and weight loss advice you’ve been hearing for years.

Are you avoiding eggs? Banishing yourself from the kitchen after dark? Worried about how much sleep you get each night? There might be no need.

Dr. Roshini Raj, contributing medical editor for Health magazine, joined TODAY on Monday to reveal five health rules you can break:

Video: Dr. Roshini Raj joins TODAY to discuss some new research that takes a new look at long-standing health rules, including the belief that eating a big meal before bed is bad for you.

1. THE RULE: Eating at night makes you gain weight

THE NEW THINKING: Quantity and quality counts

Whether you gain weight or not is based on how many calories you take in, no matter what time of day, and how many calories you burn.

“The one caveat to this is we do tend to snack on unhealthy foods late at night — I’ve never craved carrots at 11 p.m. — so if you’re someone who does that, yes, you might want to give yourself a ‘nothing after 9 p.m.’ cutoff," said Raj. 

2. THE RULE: Do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week for heart health

THE NEW THINKING: Up the intensity and you can cut your workout time in half (or more!)

New research suggests that a very high intensity workout for very short intervals — even just a few minutes, including recovery time — can give you the same cardiovascular benefits as longer fitness routines, Raj said.

“This is great news for those of us who are very busy and find it hard to get that 30 minutes every day,” she noted.

Examples of very high intensity exercise include a fast sprint on treadmill and jumping jacks.

While the short high-intensity workout does have a heart protective effect, it’s important to remember that if you want to lose weight, the old rule applies: the longer you exercise, the better, Raj said.

3. THE RULE: You always need a solid seven to eight hours of sleep

THE NEW THINKING: Go ahead, stay up late -- you can make up for it

Raj still recommends a full night’s sleep, but if you skip a couple of nights, you can catch up and reduce the deficit.

“I’m not saying sleep in the next day,” Raj said. “What you want to do is go to bed earlier for the next few nights but wake up at your regular wake up time.”

This works for occasional sleep loss, but it's hard to make up massive amounts of sleep debt. Napping during the day is fine, but don’t do it for more than 30 minutes because it might affect your regular sleep cycle, she added.

Why 7 hours of sleep a night may be all you need

4. THE RULE: Limit your egg intake if you have high cholesterol

THE NEW THINKING: Eat the whole egg for protein and essential vitamins

“Eggs have been vilified for decades because of the cholesterol,” Raj said.

But researchers are now learning that there are different types of the “bad” LDL cholesterol and it appears eggs raise the type of LDL cholesterol that may not be harmful. Eggs are also a great source of protein and vitamins, including B12 and D, which are good for the heart.

“So over all, eggs are not so bad,” Raj said. “For the general healthy population, an egg a day is not a problem.”

5. THE RULE: Avoid reading in dim light

THE NEW THINKING: Take breaks while reading in dim light

Squinting at that book or e-reader as the days get shorter? It may not feel good, but poor lighting will not cause permanent damage to your eyesight or make you become nearsighted, experts say. Take a break once in a while, otherwise you might experience eye strain, which will go away after a day or so.

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