8 Surprising Health Mistakes You're Probably Making
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8 Surprising Health Mistakes You're Probably Making

These seemingly harmless habits are actually sabotaging your health goals.

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By Rose Hayes

You work hard to stay fit, eat right and avoid risky behaviors, but you might be sabotaging your hard work without realizing it. Even the healthiest people can make these surprising mistakes. Here are eight health pitfalls you’re probably making and simple ways to avoid them. 

Want more? Live your healthiest life with easy-to-implement tips from Dan Buettner's Blue Zones, or the areas of the world with the highest concentrations of people over age 100. 

You don’t smoke, but you inhale cooking fumes

2 / 9 You don’t smoke, but you inhale cooking fumes

You may be exposing yourself to a shocking source of second-hand smoke. Experts believe frying fats release harmful chemicals associated with lung cancer into the air. Fried meats, especially, produce toxic chemicals called heterocyclic amines, or cancer-causing compounds that also can be found in cigarette smoke. To avoid exposure, cook in a well-ventilated area and grill meats outdoors whenever possible.

You avoid pasta

3 / 9 You avoid pasta

Skipping pasta may not keep the pounds off, after all. In fact, people who ate more pasta had lower body mass indexes (BMIs) and smaller waistlines, according to a study from the Journal of Nutrition and Diabetes, which looked at the eating habits of over 23,000 Italians.

That doesn’t give you the green light to eat bucket-loads of pasta, says Frances Largeman-Roth, registered dietitian nutritionist, author of Eating in Color and co-author of The CarbLovers Diet. Eat a reasonable amount, along with other things like extra virgin olive oil, herbs, vegetables and lean protein. “Treat the pasta more as an ingredient in the total dish, and not as the center of the plate,” she explains.

You put aspartame in your coffee

4 / 9 You put aspartame in your coffee

Coffee is associated with a number of brain-boosting effects. It may improve mood and even offer some protection against Alzheimer’s disease, though more research is needed.

But don’t counteract the positive effects of coffee by adding aspartame, which can be found in some artificial sweeteners like Equal. In one study, people who consumed just half the FDA’s recommended daily limit experienced greater levels of depression, irritability and scored lower on cognitive tests. Opt for natural coffee enhancers like honey or nutmeg instead.

You eat well, but leave out entire food groups

5 / 9 You eat well, but leave out entire food groups

Just because you consistently choose healthy foods, doesn’t mean you’re getting the full range of nutrients you need. Keep a journal for a week to take stock of your habits. You may realize you’re neglecting entire food groups like lean dairy—86 percent of Americans don’t get enough. Or, you may discover you're over-eating others like sugar—70 percent of Americans get too much. Your notes may reveal surprising trends in your routine and kick-start better habits. One large study suggests keeping a food log can even double weight loss when dieting. 

You touch the menu—and then your food

6 / 9 You touch the menu—and then your food

You may wash your hands before sitting down to meals, but still wind up seasoning your entrée with bacteria if you then touch the menu. Menus often harbor fecal matter and germs because:

  • Even though they're often-touched surfaces, restaurants rarely clean them.
  • About 95 percent of people don’t wash their hands properly after using the restroom.

One study from the Journal of Environmental Health found menus to be covered in bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, which continued to spread to people’s hands for up to 24 hours. Salt and pepper shakers are also frequently used, but rarely washed surfaces. The next time you eat out, wash your hands after ordering and use a napkin to grab the condiments.

You overlook allergy hot zones when cleaning

7 / 9 You overlook allergy hot zones when cleaning

You keep a tidy home, but allergens like mold, pollen and dust mites can settle into some surprising places. Did you know your AC filter should be cleaned or replaced once a month? The small-particle filters in both central AC systems and wall units, which capture household allergens, can clog easily, causing particles to flourish and spread. Duvets and stuffed animals also should be washed on a hot cycle or frozen monthly to kill dust mites.

The inside of your trash can and the back of your shower curtain can be mold hideaways too. Regularly disinfect them with diluted bleach; aim to clean your trash can weekly and your shower curtain monthly.

You only apply sunscreen once

8 / 9 You only apply sunscreen once

Sun damage can happen after just 15 minutes, yet the majority of Americans don’t wear the proper amount of sunscreen. Applying it once at the start of your day isn’t enough. For optimum protection, reapply at least every two hours—more frequently when swimming or sweating. Remember to lather up on overcast days too, when 80 percent of the sun’s rays can still reach you.

The best approach is a combination of sun-safety strategies, including seeking shade, using a full-spectrum SPF and wearing a hat and cover-up. Remember: Sunscreen doesn’t protect against 100 percent of the sun’s rays and you can still get burnt in the shade since sun bounces off reflective surfaces like sand and water.

You're always eating on-the-go

9 / 9 You're always eating on-the-go

If you consistently scarf down meals to save time, you might be hurting your health in the long run. People who eat faster are more likely to have a higher BMI and be obese, according to a review of 23 studies published in the Intentional Journal of Obesity. 

When you frantically shovel food, it piles up in your stomach before your brain can realize you’re full. Give your mind a chance to catch up by timing your meals so they last at least 20 minutes. Add fiber-rich foods like raw vegetables, which slow down your chewing and encourage healthy digestion. 

Wellness

Wellness

Wellness is a difficult word to define. Traditionally wellness has meant the opposite of illness and the absence of disease and disability. More recently wellness has come to describe something that you have personal control over. ...

Wellness is now a word used to describe living the best possible life you can regardless of whether you have a disease or disability. Your wellness is not only related to your physical health, but is a combination of things including spiritual wellness, social wellness, mental wellness and emotional wellness. Wellness is seen as a combination of mind, body and spirit. Different people may have different ideas about wellness. There is no single set standard for wellness and wellness is a difficult thing to quantify.
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