Cleanses, sometimes called detoxes, involve fasting, drinking or eating only certain foods or drinks, or taking supplements or herbs in order to remove toxins from your body or lose weight. But they're more likely to cause harm than do good. There isn't much scientific evidence to back up their claims, and some programs can even be unsafe.
It seems to make sense: Eat fewer calories, and you'll lose weight. But not all calories are equal. Your body burns them differently, depending on the kind of food you eat, your metabolism, and even the type of organisms living in your gut. A more sustainable plan for a healthy weight: quality foods, exercise, good sleep, and a doctor's guidance.
Turns out you can overclean your body. Washing with soap every day can strip your skin of protective oils, leaving it dry and more prone to infection. And if you're using antibacterial soap, that risk goes up further -- you can kill off the "good" bacteria on your skin and lower your immunity. Switch to three to four showers a week instead.
Low-fat doesn't always mean healthy. Often when you subtract fat, you also cut fiber, protein, or amino acids from your diet while adding a lot of carbs. A better plan is to cut trans fats and saturated fats while keeping good fats from foods such as avocados, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and salmon in your diet.
There's no doubt vitamin C is great for you. It's an antioxidant; builds skin, blood vessels, and bone; and helps wounds heal. But when it comes to treating colds, there's no proof it cures symptoms. Keep it in your diet, but take it off your cold remedy list.
Healthy teeth and gums are vital to overall good health. But when it comes to brushing, be smart about timing. Wait at least an hour after eating -- especially if you eat acidic foods or drink soda. That gives your enamel time to harden back up before you brush.
While multivitamins aren't bad for you, they won't provide protection from heart disease, cancer, or mental decline. You'll get the same (or even better) nutritional benefit from a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.
Your body needs antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene to help fight off free radicals -- chemicals that can damage cells and genes. But antioxidants in supplements aren't the same as the ones you get from food. To do their best, these free-radical fighters need to work along with nutrients, plant chemicals, and other antioxidants.
If your vitamin B12 levels are low, shots and pills can help you with memory, trouble walking, and weakness. But they're not a general health boost for people with normal levels. Despite claims they can help you lose weight and have more energy, there's no proof you'll see these perks if your B12 levels are already fine.
A British study from 2005 reported that leaving your bed unmade could help reduce allergens in your house by getting rid of dust mites. But before you cross bed-making off your chore list, know that there's not much research to back these claims up. You're better off using dust-proof allergen covers, washing sheets and blankets weekly in hot water, and not using down comforters or pillows. Keep curtains, wall-to-wall carpeting, and upholstered furniture out of the bedroom, and use a quality filter in your air conditioner.
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- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "'Detoxes' and 'Cleanses': What You Need To Know."
- Harvard Medical School: "Stop counting calories," "Showering daily -- is it necessary?"
- UChicago Medicine: "Is full-fat food better for you than low-fat or fat-free food?"
- Yale Scientific: "Mythbusters: Does Vitamin C Really Help?"
- American Dental Association: "8 Bad Brushing Habits to Break in 2021."
- Mayo Clinic: "When and how often should you brush your teeth?"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Is There Really Any Benefit to Multivitamins?"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Antioxidants."
- Cleveland Clinic: "Can B12 Shots Boost My Energy and Help Me Lose Weight?"
- AARP: "Is Making Your Bed Bad for Your Health?"
- Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America: “Dust Mite Allergy."