6 everyday 'healthy habits' that could be damaging your health

Woman in bed sleeping
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Could your daily routine be doing you more harm than good?

So many of us have learnt particular habits that we swear are beneficial to us. Whether it’s brushing our teeth straight after eating, to catching up on lost sleep at the weekend, there’s a whole host of everyday things that we do, which we think are helping us lead a healthier, happier life.

However, the experts have spoken and suddenly, these habits aren’t as great as we thought. In fact, they could actually be detrimental to our health…

1. Brushing your teeth straight after eating

This isn’t wise if you’ve consumed acidic foods and drinks, as Guy Barwell, dental surgeon at The Implant Centre, explains, “The acid softens the tooth surface and then the abrasive action of tooth brushing removes the enamel – it’s best to wait around 30 minutes.”

Guy also recommends we stop brushing so hard. “You could be damaging your teeth and gums – it’s far more beneficial to use a medium bristle brush and massage your teeth.”

Rising your mouth after brushing also won't do you any favours. A diehard habit for most of us, and one we’d generally think nothing of. But Guy advises against it, “In actual fact, our mouths and teeth would be far healthier if we just spat the toothpaste out without rinsing with water. The toothpaste works topically as an antibacterial, and the fluoride helps strengthen our teeth.”

2. Cutting fat out of your diet

You may think you’re doing the right thing opting for low-fat varieties of your favourite treats, but they could be damaging you more than you thought.

“There are fats that are really good for you, and that’s what people tend to misunderstand,” says health coach Elaine Luck. “People still think all fats are the devil’s work, but low-fat options will most likely have extra sugars or sweeteners in.”

Healthy fats that will benefit your diet:

  • Walnuts: One of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids that can help lower cholesterol and improve blood vessel function
  • Olives: High in monounsaturated “healthy” fats that can help unclog your arteries
  • Dark chocolate: Around half the fats are healthy, and it also contains numerous other nutrients, such as vitamins A, B and E

3. Drinking bottled water

“You’d be better off drinking tap water, which, in the majority of areas, is fluoridated and endorsed by The World Health Organization,” says Guy.

“It’s proven to reduce tooth decay.” Plus less plastic is better for the environment too.

4. Going flat-out in the gym

Working out is important, of course, but we have to listen to our bodies.

“We are all different, built differently, have different likes and dislikes, and how we ask our bodies to move should reflect that,” says Elaine. If doing a super tough hour-long workout is your thing, fine, but don’t force it on your body. “That does way more damage than good!”

And then where are you left? Unable to exercise at all, that’s where.

5. Catching up on lost sleep

Did you go to bed late in the week and sleep later at the weekend in an attempt to make up for hours missed? It doesn’t work, according to Silentnight’s sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan.

“This belief that you can catch up could be seriously damaging your sleep pattern,” he warns. “While you can catch up to some extent, you can’t fully recover. Get into a good, regular routine if you want to really reap the healing benefits of sleep.”

6. Cleaning the house to excess

Too much of a good thing, for sure.

“We’re often using products that have so many chemicals in them, compared with the vinegar and lemon our grannies used to clean everything with, that we’re causing more illness,” says Elaine.

“Our bodies are losing the ability to fight off illnesses as they haven’t built up the resistance. The chemicals in our cleaning products can also have real detrimental effects on our bodies – our skin, our lungs – causing and increasing allergies.”

Five healthy habits you need to embrace

1. Choose organic

Eating more organic foods may help lower your overall risk of developing cancer, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers studied 68,946 volunteers and found that those who most frequently ate organic food products had 25% fewer cancers than adults who never consumed organic foods.

2. Socialise more

Social isolation increases the risk of premature death from every cause and for every race, according to new research from the American Cancer Society. Without human contact our blood pressure rises, inflammation is boosted and many end up engaging in a poor diet and lack of physical activity.

3. Switch up your carbs

Despite their bad reputation, certain carbs offer great fibre, vitamins and minerals. “The key to consuming carbs healthily lies in the foods you choose,” explains Lifelab Testing’s nutritional therapist Sian Baker. “With white flour having been stripped of fibre, vitamins and minerals, switching to wholegrain pasta and bread will increase the value of carbohydrates, enabling you to feel the benefits.”

4. Get intimate

A Caerphilly-based study found that those who make love twice a week have a 50% reduced risk of death, compared with those who had sex less than once a month. This is because women who have regular sex have longer telomeres – a DNA component that indicates longevity – so the longer it is, the longer you live.

5. Say thank you

Saying thank you more isn’t just polite, but it can reduce symptoms of depression. Scientists at the University of California found that “gratitude therapy” – deliberately expressing thanks to those close to you for support – can combat depression, ease pain and improve heart health.

Natalia Lubomirski is a health journalist with 14 years experience in the publishing industry. She has worked for a number of well-known magazines and websites including Marie Claire, marieclaire.co.uk, woman&home, Top Sante, Boots and The Telegraph. 

She likes to think she practices what she preaches when it comes to health and fitness. She loves the great outdoors and you’ll often find her up a mountain somewhere. She’s climbed eight major mountain ranges across four continents and hit the summit of Half Dome (in Yosemite) during her honeymoon.