In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death, taxes, and health marketing. Benjamin Franklin may have left out that last part, but if he were alive today I’m sure he would agree. From the moment you turn on a TV, pick up a magazine, or step into a grocery store, brands everywhere will try to tell you that their product can help you drop pounds, build muscle, and live healthier.
With all the talk of health foods and healthy living products, how can you know what’s helping you or hurting you? Not all health products are created equal, and some aren’t as healthy as you might think:
Many people supplement brushing and flossing their teeth with regular mouthwash rinsings, hoping to fight plaque and whiten their teeth. Some might use mouthwash as a spot treatment, fighting bad breath when it’s least desired.
However, some types of mouthwash can cause harm in ways you wouldn’t expect. Alcoholic mouthwash has been linked to increased risk of oral cancer, even in people that don’t drink or smoke. Even if your brand doesn’t contain alcohol, it might have chlorhexidine, which has been found to kill “good” bacteria that helps blood vessels relax. This can result in an increase in blood pressure, which in turn can raise your risk of heart attack or stroke.
If you’re unsure as to whether or not you should be using mouthwash, consult your dentist. Most people have no real hygenic need to include mouthwash in their cleaning regimen, but a dentist can make recommendations based on your specific needs.
A product of the past decade’s health fads, fruity smoothies are everywhere now. Packed with fruits, vegetables, and other health goodies like soy and whey protein, smoothies are marketed as healthy alternatives to other drinks and a great way to add fruits and veggies to your diet. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, smoothies are often packed with calories from sugar or other sweeteners. High amounts of sugar are present in most fruit, so this is somewhat unavoidable. However, concentrating that much fruit into a large drink (and then adding more sweeteners) will result in a very high calory count. If you’re drinking a fruit smoothie after stepping off the treadmill, you’d better be ready to jump back on afterwards – excess calories from sugar are stored in fat, resulting in weight gain if you don’t burn those calories off.
Are there still ways to get a healthy smoothie? Of course. Avoid anything with added sweeteners, sugar or not, and substitute some of those flavor fruits with low-calorie alternatives like wheatgrass or soy milk.
3. Diet soda
As much as a third of regular soda drinkers choose diet over regular, according to a recent clinical study. If you like the taste of soda, but not the excessive sugar or calorie count, doesn’t switching to diet make sense?
Perhaps not, suggests ongoing research aimed at uncovering why drinkers of diet soda have a greater risk of obesity and related health problems than drinkers of regular soda. While nothing has been solidly concluded just yet, studies have shown that artificial sweeteners increase food cravings, possibly resulting in diet soda drinkers consuming more than regular soda drinkers.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but soda in general is not a very healthy drink choice. If you really want to cut your calorie and sugar intake, cut soda (“diet” or otherwise) and drink water instead.
2. Toning shoes
Want to burn fat and tone your legs just by walking as much as you already do? Of course you do! That’s why toning shoes, or rocker bottom shoes, have been flying off the shelves since the 90s. So what’s the catch?
The theories behind the rocker design might not pan out in practice. Several studies have indicated that rocker bottom shoes have no greater benefit during exercise than other types of shoes. Even the toning effects are not permanent, as the muscles in your legs would quickly adapt as soon as you stopped wearing the toning shoes.
Rocker bottom shoes have been known to alleviate some strains and aches, and should be commended for that. However, they shouldn’t be considered a shortcut to toning muscle and burning fat, and neither should any other miracle apparel. The secret to a fit body isn’t that much of a secret: a healthy diet and regular exercise.
1. Fat-free food
Ah, “fat-free”. The golden standard of diet products. No mass-produced food could call itself healthy without a fat-free emblem on its packaging. The premise is simple: the food doesn’t have any fat, so you won’t gain any fat. If only life were that simple.
Unfortunately, the fat that was removed from the food’s recipe is often replaced with fillers like sugar or flour. This results in a minimal drop in food calories, at best, since fat isn’t much richer in calories than carbs or proteins. Since calories are the same regardless of their source, and excess calories are stored as fat either way, you can still gain fat by eating fat-free foods.
Instead of looking for that “fat-free” label, check the nutrition facts for the calorie count and overall nutritional balance. Make sure you’re getting a sufficient amount of fat, protein, and carbohydrates in your diet, and that you aren’t exceeding the daily calorie intake that your doctor recommends.