Isn’t it nice to know that not everything that’s pleasurable is bad for you? Here are some “vices” that have proven beneficial.
- Getting dirty. Normal exposure to dirt spurs the development of a healthy immune system. Being too clean can trigger asthma and allergies in kids and cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria to grow. Clean with chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide or plain old soap and water. These products kill germs, but don’t linger, giving good bacteria a chance to reestablish.
- Chewing gum. Stick with sugarless gum (xylitol is a good substitute). Gum-chewing stimulates saliva, which helps wash away tooth-decaying bacteria. It also boosts blood flow to the brain and reduces cravings for sweets.
- Drinking coffee. If you’re a moderate coffee drinker,relax. As long as it’s not causing heartburn or jitters, coffee drinking may do some good. It’s linked to a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, asthma, heart arrhythmia and stroke.
- Nibbling on chocolate. Flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease, help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow. Choose organic, dark, minimally processed forms of cocoa or chocolate.
- Sipping red wine. In moderation, red wine has long been thought of as heart healthy, preventing heart disease by increasing "good" cholesterol and protecting against artery damage. One component of red wine, resveratrol, also offers protection from diabetes, obesity and cancer.
- Catnapping. A daytime nap improves health and productivity way better than coffee and a donut. The trick to a good nap? Time it so that you wake up before you enter deep sleep (at about 20 minutes) or at the end of one sleep cycle (about an hour.)
- Goofing off. Taking a mini-mental vacation can reduce stress and maintain physical and mental health. In one study, people who spent time having fun had lower blood pressure, less body fat and lower levels of the health-damaging stress hormone cortisol than the all-work-and-no-play crowd.
- Sunbathing. Sunbathing not only helps restore healthy vitamin D levels, but some unknown aspect of sunlight exposure improves energy and mood. To get these benefits without the risk for skin cancer, expose your face and arms, but never so long that you turn pink or burn. How long that takes depends on your skin type, latitude and time of day.
- Eating red meat. As meat-eating habits change, red meat’s link to colon cancer has weakened. People are eating leaner cuts of beef, going for grass-fed meat with its healthier fatty acid profile, and eating less cured meat. Stick with “loin” cuts such as top sirloin, pork tenderloin, and lamb loin chops and reap red meat’s benefits: lots of iron and high-quality protein.