Are Your Habits Healthy?

Much of people’s lives have to do with the sum of their habits. Good habits support health while bad habits could undermine it.

This is good news because while creating a healthy lifestyle may seem overwhelming, all lifestyle changes require is examining of individual habits and deciding if each helps or hinders health.

However, deciding if a habit is good sometimes gets a little complicated. While some habits are routinely good – eating vegetables, for instance — other habits may fall into a grey area. And sometimes, the degree of health offered by a particular habit depends on a particular person’s needs.

Here are several habits related to health and wellbeing, along with tips for seeing if those repeated behaviors are healthy.

What are you drinking?

Water is the healthiest beverage to drink. Not only is it free of sugar and calories, but the human body also needs water to survive. Our bodies consist of about 60% water, according to the Mayo Clinic, making the liquid the body’s single largest component.

Water helps to flush toxins from the body, deliver nutrients to cells, and keeps tissues in the nose, ear, and throat sufficiently moist. Dehydration is linked to fatigue, so if you’re feeling tired, drinking a glass of water may help reinvigorate you. According to Mayo Clinic, women need about nine cups of water daily and men need approximately 13.

The popular knowledge guideline of eight, eight-ounce glasses of water each day is roughly the same as Mayo’s nine recommended cups, the clinic says, and is a sufficient guideline. However, if you engage in heavy exercise, sweat a lot, or are living in hot or humid conditions, you’ll need more water.

With so many fluids needed to stay healthy, many people turn to other types of beverages to meet their daily fill. Flavored water is one of those beverages, but the popular drinks may cause more harm than good. Flavored water may be filled with artificial sweeteners that add to the calorie load and cause blood sugar levels to spike, according to the health website Greatist.

Similarly, many people believe diet soda to be healthier than regular soda because it doesn’t have any (or as many) calories. However, it’s filled with artificial sweeteners that a study in the journal Nature says may increase the risk of diabetes. Diet soda has also been linked to weight gain, headaches, and depression, according to Health magazine.

Fruit juice should also be avoided whenever possible because it’s high in sugar and can lead to weight gain and possibly increase a person’s risk for diabetes, according to research published in The Lancet. Most juices contain little actual fruit, and so offer little health benefit. Researchers said fruit juice could be just as bad as soda because of the high sugar content.

If you find water boring, try adding natural flavor such as fruit, cucumber slices, or lemon for a special treat. You could also drink unsweetened green or black tea for extra flavor.

Greatist also recommends against drinking bottled water because the liquid may contain bacteria or chemicals from the plastic. For the best tasting water with the most health benefits, purchase a water filter and run tap water through it. But if you’re on the go, drinking bottled water is better than a sweetened beverage.

Do you eat foods marketed as low-fat?

Foods with low-fat on their labels may sound like a healthy alternative, but these foods can have other hidden flavoring or sweeteners that are worse for your health than fat. To create taste in the absence of fat, food makers often stuff extra sugar, salt, flour, or other thickeners into the recipe, according to WebMD.

Keep in mind that some fats are healthy. Unsaturated fats such as those from nuts, fish, and some oils provide important health benefits, including for the heart.

Meanwhile, low-fat foods may also be low on taste, leading people to eat more of them, according to WebMD. Eating healthy fats helps keep the body feeling satisfied, and can prevent binging or overeating.

Do you skip dessert?

Don’t! Greatest says to enjoy your favorite sweets in moderation. Denying yourself could lead to binges. Indulging every now and again is a key to a healthy, balanced diet. Moderation and portion size is the key.

Do you eat nutrition bars instead of candy bars?

Some of these bars come loaded with calories and sugar, and have few redeeming qualities when it comes to nutrition, according to Greatist. These nutrition bars frequently have crafty advertising that positions them as a healthy meal replacement or snack for those of us on the go.

The word on health food bars is a little tricky because they’re not all the same, according to WebMD. Liz Applegate, a PhD and nutrition lecturer at the University of California Davis tells the health news outlet:

“They’re (nutrition bars) a convenient alternative for someone who would otherwise be reaching for a doughnut or using the vending machines for snacks at the office…But there’s nothing magical about these bars. Most of them are fine, but some are too high in fat.”

To make sure the bar you’re considering is a good fit, check the sugar content and overall ingredient list. Bars should ideally have fewer than 15 grams of sugar, and preferably from fruit instead of an artificial source, recommends Dr. Oz. Keep an eye out for granola, too, which can include a lot of sugar.

Ideally, keep snacking healthy, opting for unprocessed nuts, fruits, or vegetables instead of protein or nutrition bars.

Do you catch up on sleep?

Catching up on sleep isn’t an advisable strategy for missing out on sleep other times, according to Prevention magazine. If you do miss out on a few hours one night, the best bet is to make sure to sleep eight full hours the next few nights instead of piling missed hours into a single snoozefest.

And if you’re really tired, it’s better to fall asleep earlier in the evening than sleep late the next day, the magazine says.

Do you finish the day with chores?

Stop! Put down the pile of laundry. You may feel compelled to tidy up at the day’s end, but doing so can increase the levels of cortisol in the body—a stress hormone tied to inflammation, according to Prevention. Instead, let it go. Relax and enjoy the evening.

Do you have any healthy habits that turned out to be bad?

Image by Chad K via Flickr