10 Stranger-than-fiction health tips and tricks
Sometimes it can be hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to your health, and whilst most tips for staying fit, healthy and losing weight makes sense - such as get plenty of exercise and eat a healthy diet - there are others that might seem totally counterintuitive. We've got 10 health tips and tricks that really do work, even if they seem a little odd!
#1. For a healthy smile, don't brush after eating
Huh? We always thought it was a good idea to brush your teeth after eating, but actually you could erode the enamel on your teeth, especially if you brush after consuming acidic food and drink such as orange juice, tomatoes or even sports drinks. It's recommended to wait 30 to 60 minutes after eating before brushing - if you must freshen up, some sugar-free gum is a great option.
#2. Gain weight to drop a dress size
If this idea leaves you scratching your head, let us explain. It's muscle weight you want to gain, not fat. Take two women, each weighing around 9 stone. The woman who regularly lifts is more likely to fit into a smaller dress size than her sedentary friend. Yes, it's true that a pound of fat weighs the same as a pound of muscle, but muscle is leaner and so takes up less space - which means the more muscle you have, the smaller your dress size (to a degree!) Women shouldn't worry that lifting will make them bulk up - that only happens if you don't work to lose fat, so add weight to your workout and cut back on calories and saturated fat to tone up.
#3. Eat more to eat less
Um....ok....what does this mean? Well, many of us look at calories in completely the wrong way. Sustaining yourself mid-afternoon with a 100-calorie Special K bar (that's more than likely sugar-packed) or bag of pretzels might seem virtuous, but in reality it's more likely to make you hungrier later than if you snacked on some healthy protein. An apple with some peanut butter or string cheese is a far healthier choice - more calories but also more protein rather than empty carbs which could cause blood-sugar spikes. The fat and protein found in this snack helps you to feel fuller for longer and you'll end up eating fewer calories overall, throughout the day.
#4. Ditch the diet drinks to lose weight
It's a good idea to cut fizzy drinks out of your diet altogether, not just diet drinks - they're loaded with sugar and empty calories and are bad for you! But if you do have a craving for fizzy pop, diet isn't always the best choice. A study in the US revealed that overweight and obese adults who stuck to diet drinks consumed more calories from food than those who had regular fizzy drinks (1). Low-sugar doesn't always mean fewer calories and you could be consuming nasty additives such as artificial sweetener when you choose a diet drink.
#5. Avoid energy drinks when you're tired
Many of us turn to energy drinks when we need energy - but that could be a bad move! Because they contain up to five times more caffeine than coffee, energy drinks also come with a range of side-effects including irritability, nervousness and rapid heartbeat. With many energy drinks containing more than 50g (13 teaspoons!) of sugar and taurine, a stimulant that affects the central nervous system, you'll find your blood sugar levels spike temporarily and then come crashing down, taking your energy levels with them and leaving you feeling sluggish.
#6. Stay cool by drinking hot drinks
This is something your mum has probably told you and it's actually really effective. In countries such as India, tea has been drunk to cool down in the sweltering summer months for hundreds of years. Now two studies have shown that hot drinks are more effective at cooling you down than cold ones. When you sip a hot cup of tea or coffee, your body senses the change in temperature and as a result, you'll sweat more. The sweat evaporates from your skin, cooling you off naturally! Now, where did we put those green tea bags?
#7. Exercise when you're tired
This makes sense to us - whilst heading to the gym might be the last thing you feel like after an exhausting day at the office, that workout will actually energise you and make you feel good. According to a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, a 30-minute moderate-intensity workout can improve fatigue, mood and depression - it can also help you to function better mentally (2).
#8. Boost your brainpower by handwriting notes
With so much technology around us, not many of us put pen to paper all that often. But it seems that handwriting notes could benefit your brain! According to research from Indiana University (3), you're more likely to remember what you've jotted down if you write it by hand, because you're processing and learning more information. Looking at the piece of paper or Post-It you've written on allows you to review it and helps to reinforce it in your mind.
#9. Prevent illness by ditching that antibac soap or hand gel
Antibacterial hand sanitisers and soaps are popular, but they don't necessarily reduce your risk of spreading germs to other people or getting sick yourself. Long-term exposure to ingredients such as triclosan could affect hormone levels and affect bacteria resistence - both good and bad bacteria! Whilst more research into the effects of triclosan are needed, some states in the US have already banned the use of triclosan in products.
#10. Enjoy a coffee to have a better nap
A 'coffee nap' could leave you feeling energised and ready to take on the world (or at least that paperwork you've been putting off) according to a Japanese study. Consuming around 200mg of caffeine followed by a 20-minute snooze left study participants performing better on computer tests and reporting feeling more alert. It's thought that the reason for this is because the caffeine kicks in just as the 20-minute nap ends, clearing a molecule called adenosine from the brain. When levels of this molecule in our brain increase, the result is feelings of tiredness. A nap clears out the adenosine and combined with caffeine's adenosine-blocking effects, gives your body the full benefits of a power nap.
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