We are consistently surrounded by messages regarding healthy customs we “ought to” be adopting. Every time we glance at social media or email, listen to a podcast, or watch TV, it seems, someone is promoting another must-do practice, “essential” supplement, or list of best and worst foods. However, when done excessively or without proper understanding, some of these customs may actually result in unexpected health problems. Here are a few that might actually hinder you from feeling your best, plus suggestions for adopting a more well-rounded approach to wellness.
Excessive Lemon Water
Lemon water has been praised for a wide range of advantages by some health experts, influencers, and celebrities. It is commonly suggested as a morning beverage to begin your day and is celebrated for its abilities to support ideal hydration, digestion, detoxification, and weight loss. Yes, it provides vitamin C, and some of the digestion-stimulating advantages may come from the combination of fluid and citrus (a natural diuretic). However, when consumed excessively, lemon water may contribute to issues such as gastrointestinal discomfort, heartburn, and nausea.
Erosion of tooth enamel is another potential risk, as lemon is highly acidic, and frequent exposure could have an adverse effect, according to the American Dental Association. Bear in mind that these effects are likely linked to consuming very large amounts of lemon water throughout the day and not limiting oneself to a small serving in the morning.
If you enjoy a cup of lemon water to start your day, you likely don’t need to worry (unless you’re prone to heartburn). But to protect your teeth, rinse thoroughly with plain water after drinking it and wait a while before brushing your teeth.
Undiluted Apple Cider Vinegar Shots
Derived from the addition of bacterial cultures and yeast to apple juice, apple cider vinegar (also known as ACV) receives a lot of attention on social media for alleged benefits like reversing or preventing diabetes, restoring gut health, and supporting weight loss. You’ve probably seen influencers taking a shot.
One topic that has received a lot of attention is the discovery that taking ACV before a meal was associated with improved blood sugar control after a meal. While several small studies have demonstrated a link between ACV consumption and improved glycemic control in individuals with Type 2 Diabetes, dietitians are concerned to see influencers advising people to take shots of undiluted apple cider vinegar. Due to its acidic nature, this can damage the esophagus and tooth enamel.
Jaclyn London, MS, RD advises against consuming shots of ACV due to concerns about gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort. “Drinking it on an empty stomach can be challenging for your GI tract in the long run and can trigger heartburn in individuals prone to it in the short term,” she explains. “The feeling of fullness after taking it in the morning is likely a result of the fact that your entire esophagus is now inflamed. And a tablespoon, shot glass, or bucket of vinegar in the morning will not aid in weight loss! Nor will any single food in the absence of a complete diet!” Instead, she suggests “consuming fiber and protein at meals and snacks” to promote a longer-lasting feeling of fullness. Regarding claims about gut health, London informs her clients that the benefits of probiotics are minimal at best and suggests incorporating other fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut.
With that being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying ACV as a condiment or as an ingredient in a beverage. At the very least, dilute a spoonful in a glass of water. Some of London’s preferred ways to incorporate ACV into everyday foods are “homemade salad dressings, as part of a marinade for seafood, and as a flavor enhancer for rice.”
While ACV gummy supplements have gained popularity, many of them contain added sugar and have not been proven to be effective. London suggests sticking to the liquid form if you want to include ACV in your routine.
Excessive Consumption of Vegetables
Indeed, consuming an ample amount of vegetables is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your health. However, if you notice increased bloating or gas since you started increasing your intake, or if you experience digestive discomfort, constipation, or diarrhea, it’s possible that you are overconsuming vegetables.
Vegetables are rich in dietary fiber, which plays a vital role in promoting satiety, maintaining stable blood sugar levels, and ensuring regular digestion. It is recommended that healthy adults aim for a daily fiber intake of 19-38 grams. However, if you suddenly transition from a low-fiber diet to a high-fiber diet without simultaneously increasing your water intake, you may experience gas, bloating, and cramping. This can also occur if you consume more than 50 grams of fiber per day.
Compounds in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale have also been linked to flatulence and bloating. This is because they can be challenging to digest, which leads to gas. Cruciferous vegetables also contain sulfur-containing compounds known as glucosinolates. As glucosinolates break down in the intestines, other compounds like hydrogen sulfide are produced, which explains the sulfurous smell that may accompany gas after consuming these foods.
Another reason cruciferous veggies may be hard on the digestive system is that they contain raffinose, an oligosaccharide that humans lack the enzyme to break down. When undigested raffinose-containing food reaches the large intestine, bacteria in the large intestine begin fermenting it, resulting in gas and bloating.
To support smoother digestion, especially if you’re increasing your vegetable intake, do so gradually. Additionally, you don’t need to have a large salad in every meal or constantly snack on vegetables.
There are other possible reasons why consuming a high amount of vegetables may cause discomfort, such as an underlying intolerance to specific carbohydrates found in certain vegetables, which is commonly referred to as FODMAPS. If you frequently experience digestive issues, it’s advisable to consult with a doctor or dietitian who can assist in identifying and addressing any potential sensitivities.
Drinking an adequate amount of water is crucial for optimal body function, but it is possible to have too much. Recently, London has observed an increase in the trend of overhydration due to social media challenges and extreme dieting practices promoting the unverified “benefits” of consuming one gallon of water per day (equivalent to about 16 cups). While this amount may be suitable for some individuals, London emphasizes that it is excessive for others.
Overhydration can lead to a dangerous condition called hyponatremia, where the bloodstream becomes excessively diluted, causing a decrease in serum sodium levels. This can have severe consequences, including seizures, coma, and even death.
If you’re unsure about your hydration levels, London suggests checking the color of your urine. It should be a light straw color. Dark yellow urine may indicate the need to drink more water, while very light or almost clear urine may suggest excessive water intake. Keep in mind that certain medications and supplements can alter the color of urine.
By using this simple and calculation-free method to assess your hydration levels on a daily basis, you can make more informed choices.
Choosing to only consume egg whites and avoiding egg yolks is a common practice.
If you’ve been avoiding egg yolks, you may consider adding them back to your diet.
Since they provide protein while being low in calories, egg whites have always been a popular choice for health-conscious individuals. However, it’s in the yolks where you’ll find essential nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, and choline, which is vital for brain function. Additionally, the yolk contains carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are crucial for eye health and require the fat present in the yolk for optimal absorption.
Dr. Melina Jampolis, MD, a certified Physician Nutrition Specialist who collaborates with the American Egg Board, states that “Eggs are a high-quality source of protein. Nearly half of the protein is found in the yolk.” Eggs also offer portion control, with around 70 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 6 grams of protein in a large egg.
If you’ve been concerned about the cholesterol in eggs, Dr. Jampolis explains that since 2015, cholesterol has not been considered a significant dietary concern according to the USDA Dietary Guidelines. While it’s still recommended that individuals at higher risk of heart disease or those with type 2 diabetes or a history of heart attack limit excessive cholesterol intake, numerous studies have shown that regular egg consumption is not associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
So how many eggs can you safely consume? The American Heart Association suggests one egg per day is appropriate. Dr. Jampolis adds, “For vegetarians who include eggs in their diet, higher amounts can be consumed as their overall dietary pattern is lower in cholesterol-rich foods.”
It’s worth noting that the accompaniments you choose for your eggs also matter. Experts recommend using healthy cooking oils like olive oil or avocado oil and minimizing processed meats such as bacon, sausage, and ham. Eggs also complement nutritious foods like avocado, leafy greens, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and whole grains.
Skipping Meals For Weight Loss
Thinking of skipping meals to reduce calorie intake? Well, how’s that working out for you? There are several reasons why this approach can backfire. One common experience is overeating during subsequent meals or struggling with compulsive snacking. Additionally, it’s difficult to make mindful choices when excessively hungry. In the long run, meal-skipping can even disrupt metabolism.
Tina Haupert, FDN-P, RCPC, the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake, advises her clients that skipping meals isn’t particularly effective and may even be harmful.
The largest [factors] are decelerating your metabolism, depletion of crucial nutrients, heightened appetite and potential compulsive overeating, muscle depletion, and fluctuating levels of blood sugar,” she clarifies. “Every one of these aspects can result in periods of weight stagnation or even weight gain once you revert back to your usual eating patterns.
Instead, Haupert advises her clients to concentrate on portion control and consuming regular, well-balanced meals throughout the day. Achieving a balance of protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates during meals and snacks, as well as staying hydrated by drinking enough water, helps to maintain satisfaction and energy levels throughout the day, enabling more mindful food choices.
If you struggle to give up skipping meals, feel apprehensive about increasing your food intake, or notice a problematic relationship with food or your body, seeking assistance from a registered dietitian and/or a therapist specializing in disordered eating can be extremely helpful in fostering a healthier and more peaceful mindset.
Staying physically active is crucial for overall well-being, but it is important to allow your body time to rest and recover.
Haupert has openly shared how her personal experience with excessive exercise made her realize the significance of rest days. “Overtraining is a common issue among women, and many of us disregard the signs for years, even decades, until the symptoms become too difficult to ignore and cause lasting harm to our health.”
There are various ways in which excessive exercise can work against you and actually hinder your progress towards health and fitness goals. Haupert explains, “Overtraining can lead to an elevated risk of injury, exhaustion (physically, mentally, and emotionally), disrupted sleep, muscle loss, hormonal imbalance, difficulty recovering from workouts, diminished athletic performance, weakened immune function, decreased thyroid activity, and more.”
She recommends incorporating regular rest days into your schedule (or even entire rest weeks if necessary) to allow your body to fully recuperate. “Sleep is also remarkable for recovery, so I aim for 8 to 9 hours of sleep per night,” she adds. “Ultimately, it is crucial to listen to your body and pay attention to how you feel after your workouts.” Take note of whether you feel tired or energized, or whether you have to exert more effort than usual to meet your regular performance standards (such as a specific number of repetitions or a certain pace per mile). If your performance is declining, it is probably time for a rest day. In the long run, you will perform better and have a more sustainable relationship with exercise.
Looking for specifics? When planning your exercise routine, create a well-rounded workout regimen that promotes strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health while preventing overuse injuries. Alternate the muscle groups you target to avoid overtaxing one group, and incorporate cross-training and restorative activities. For example, if you enjoy running, balance it out with some strength training, pilates, and stretching.
However, taking a rest day doesn’t necessarily mean spending the entire day in front of the television (unless, of course, that is truly what you need that day!). Some of Haupert’s preferred activities for an “active rest day” include “walking, gentle yoga, light hiking, swimming, dancing, stretching, and foam rolling.”
It is definitely possible to have too much of a good thing when it comes to certain “wellness” practices.
Pay heed to what brings pleasure to your physique and if you’re facing difficulties in achieving equilibrium, seek assistance from an accredited expert.