Food & Nutrition

10 “Healthy” Habits That Really Aren’t Good for You

You always choose low-fat or fat-free salad dressing

a glass bottle with salad dressing consisting of balsamic vinegar, honey and olive oilZoeytoja/ShutterstockThey may be healthier on their own, but a 2012 Purdue University study shows that the lack of fat might make it more difficult for you to absorb your salad’s nutrients, making you lose some of the disease-fighting properties that the vegetables offer. Carotenoids, which are linked to combating cancer, heart disease, and vision loss, are more readily absorbed from veggies when paired with fat-based dressings. So while you’ll save on calories, slashing the veggies’ benefits isn’t worth it. What should you eat instead? The study found that monounsaturated fat-based dressings—those with avocado, olive oil, and canola oil—were most effective in nutrient absorption and limiting fat intake. Check out these other myths about fat that keep you from losing weight.

You slather on the sunscreen

Close up on woman's upper arm and hand spreading sun cream at the beach on a hot, sunny day. Tanning, sunblock spread, skin care, ultraviolet rays protection, cancer prevention conceptJosu Ozkaritz/ShutterstockYou should apply sunscreen daily, and make sure you put on enough and as often as needed. But you need to read the ingredients. Certain consumer health groups suggest looking for octinoxate, a commonly used chemical compound in sunscreens and skincare products, which has been ranked by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) as a moderately high health hazard. If you have concerns about chemicals and sunscreen, many dermatologists recommend choosing products that physically block harmful rays, such as those containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are not absorbed into your skin.

You buy “all natural” groceries

Man doing grocery shopping at the supermarket, he is pushing a full trolley, hand detail close upStokkete/ShutterstockMany so-called “all natural” or “100% natural” foods are actually heavily processed with ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, sodium benzoate, and genetically modified plants, according to the Wall Street Journal, because the USDA and the FDA do not share a definition of those terms (along with other marketing words like “free range” or “cage free”). Yet in a 2011 survey, 25 percent of over 1,000 consumers thought the best description to read on a food label was “100% natural” or “all natural.” Here are 13 more “healthy” food habits that really aren’t good for you.

Your diet includes several small meals a day

food, new nordic cuisine and people concept - woman eating vegetable pumpkin-ginger cream soup with goat cheese and tomato salad with yogurt in bowl at cafe or restaurantSyda Productions/ShutterstockThough claims have been made that eating smaller, more frequent meals help your metabolism, some interesting new research doesn’t support the theory. Scientists from Purdue University put a panel of men on a low-calorie, high-protein diet, and found that those who ate six smaller meals felt hungrier than those who were given three larger ones—and the frequent-meals group didn’t lose any more weight. Check with your doctor if you have questions about what might work best for you. Don’t miss these other 19 “healthy” eating rules nutrition experts ignore.

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You drink bottled water instead of tap

Close-up plastic water bottle in woman hand After ExerciseEkkasit Rakrotchit/ShutterstockAccording to the MayoClinic, bottled water is not healthier than what comes out of your faucet. Though the FDA oversees bottled waters and the EPA reviews tap, both use similar safety standards. With packaged products, you may not always know what you’re getting: In 2011,18 percent of bottled waters failed to list their sources and 32 percent did not disclose water treatment, contaminant, or purity information. As for the environment, up to 1.3 million tons of plastic PET water bottles were produced in the United States in 2006, which required the energy equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil.

You down OJ to get rid of a cold

Young woman drinking glass of orange juice at gymtmcphotos/ShutterstockVitamin C is touted as a panacea for the sniffles, but it isn’t the quick cure you’re hoping for. A large review found there was no consistent evidence that taking vitamin C after symptoms crop up helps people get over colds faster. Taking it regularly all year might help, but only for highly active people like marathon runners or military personnel. For everyone else, the amount you’d need to take to see results (8 grams) would likely cause stomach issues like nausea and diarrhea. The study’s bottom line: There’s no reason for “ordinary people” to take vitamin C as a cold prevention.

You clean your ears

Woman is cleaning ear with a cotton swabBLACKDAY/ShutterstockFirst things first: Earwax isn’t a bad thing. It feels gooey and gross, but earwax cleans your ears by keeping dirt and dust out. When wiping it out with a cotton swab or even your finger, you not only get rid of that protection but also risk pushing the wax further in, causing earache, hearing loss, itchiness, and more, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery. It’s fine to wipe the wax away from the outside of the ear, but never stick anything in the canal. Watch out for these other 15 health myths that make doctors cringe.

You give up gluten

Cous Cous whit meat and vegetablesGoskova Tatiana/ShutterstockWhen people with celiac disease eat gluten, an immune response damages the small intestine and causes everything from bloating and diarrhea to heart disease and infertility. For them, going gluten-free is a must, but that only applies to about 1 percent of Americans. While some people’s digestive systems are sensitive to gluten without having full-fledged celiac, a 2015 study found that 86 percent of patients who considered themselves gluten-sensitive could actually tolerate it. For that majority, giving up gluten doesn’t provide any health benefits and won’t necessarily lead to weight loss.

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You swap sugar for sugar-free sweeteners

Cup of tea with sweetener sorbitol in a spoonPhotosiber/ShutterstockWith zero calories denting your diet, Splenda and diet sodas seem like a no-brainer, but the science shows a different reality. A 2017 review of 37 studies, researchers found that artificial sweeteners actually were actually linked with weight gain. Experts have a couple of theories about the connection. For one, people might assume that cutting calories on their coffee or soda gives them permission to overeat other things. Or maybe there’s a mechanism that encourages the body to gain weight when digesting artificial sweeteners. Your best bet is probably to avoid all sweeteners (sugar and non-sugar). Dress your coffee up with milk, and sip sparkling lemon water when you’re craving something fizzy. Don’t fall for these other 15 food myths that are making you gain weight.

You avoid all carbs

Male hands cutting wheaten bread on the wooden board, selective focusLithiumphoto/ShutterstockCarbs are an important source of energy for the body, but they get a bad rap because the ones you don’t burn are stored as fat. The thing is, not all carbs are created equal. Refined carbohydrates like white bread and sugar are nutritionally empty because they’ve been stripped of the healthiest parts of the grain. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and starchy vegetables contain fiber and nutrients that keep your heart and weight healthy. Instead of avoiding all carbs, cut down on processed snacks and sub whole grains in for white breads and pastas. Learn the truth behind 55 other rampant health myths that need to die.

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Healthy Eating – Reader's Digest