We know that as we reach middle age and beyond, it’s even more important to take care of ourselves with good nutrition and regular exercise. But we may not be aware that there can be negatives to even the most healthful practices. Curious? Read on to learn about the downsides of 4 healthy practices and how to counteract the negatives:
- Drinking green smoothies
These grassy-toned cocktails have become the breakfast of choice for legions of wellness warriors for good reason. They can provide a day’s worth of fruit and veggies in several gulps, are full of fibre and easy to digest. Celebrity nutritionists, such as The Beauty Detox’s Kimberly Snyder, have evangelized about green smoothies and I’ve also become a convert and written about my own Shrek Shake routine .
So what’s the downside? The very green colour that signals the drink’s nutrients can, alas, stain teeth. In the past year, I thought my pearly whites were looking less pearly and wondered if it was due to aging. But after sharing this concern with a hygienist at my recent dental checkup, she quizzed me on my diet and the smoothie arose as the likely culprit.
The fix: Green smoothies are a healthy addition to most diets, so it’s not about shaking off the shakes. Instead, make sure the liquid isn’t sitting on your teeth for hours. If you can’t brush right after drinking, my hygienist recommended rinsing or even wiping teeth with a napkin.
- Avoiding the sun
For decades we’ve been schooled on the importance of sun avoidance to prevent skin cancer and premature skin aging. But there’s mounting evidence that catching some rays judiciously may be just what the doctor ordered.
Our skin makes vitamin D when exposed to the sun, and that’s a good thing. D “the sunshine vitamin” helps keep bones and teeth healthy but also may have a protective effect in fighting infections, reducing heart disease, and preventing diabetes, multiple sclerosis and some types of cancer. So while it’s important to avoid excessive sun exposure, never going sans sunscreen may prevent us from getting sufficient vitamin D. Further complicating matters, it’s difficult to get sufficient D from food.
Additionally, a study published in early April from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that people exposed to even moderately bright light in the morning had a lower body mass index than those who get their light fix later in the day.
The fix: For a dose of vitamin D and to help your metabolism, catch some morning rays. The caveat regarding vitamin D, however, is if you live in northern climes, it’s tricky to get enough of it from the sun from October through April. Also, darker skin tones require a longer time to produce it. In these scenarios, supplementing with vitamin D may be required. Check with your health-care professional on dosages appropriate for you.
Otherwise, a rough guideline for sun exposure is to expose your arms and legs (not face) without sunscreen to morning rays a few days a week for about half the length of time it would normally take to turn pink. For more detailed info, see this guideline from Dr. Andrew Weil.
- Applying self tanner
If you like the look of tanned skin, self tanner is healthier than baking in the sun. [It bears repeating that even “healthy-looking” tanned skin indicates sun damage.] However, I gave up using it on my legs because while I loved the sun-kissed shade it gave my otherwise ghostly gams, I wasn’t so fond of my allergic reaction to it. I’ve tried various self-tanner brands, always with the same itchy results.
Reading up on this, I’ve found that dihydroxyacetone (DHA) the colouring agent in most self tanners is linked to allergic reactions in some users. Additionally, one study connected use of highly concentrated amounts of DHA with production of cell-damaging free radicals. The U.S.-based skincancer.org, however, claims that the concentrations of DHA used in self-tanning products are non-toxic and non-carcinogenic.
Curiously, the couple of times I’ve tried self-tanner on my face, I haven’t had any allergic symptoms. So I think the combo of the freshly exposed pores on shaved legs and self-tanner may be the problem. Alas, while the facial self tanner wasn’t irritating, it emphasized the hyperpigmentation on my cheeks. Not the tanned look I was going for…
The fix: If you’ve had an allergic reaction to sunless tanning products or just want to avoid DHA, there are alternatives to conventional self tanner. For gams, I like Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs, which is basically a foundation for your lower limbs. [It may sound weird, but it actually gives a natural look]. There are also some DHA-free self tanners on the market. I haven’t tried any yet, but Lavera Self-Tanning Lotion has no DHA or parabens, is award-winning and has received high marks on review sites, like MakeupAlley.
For facial skin, tried-and-true bronzer adds a healthy look while not emphasizing hyper-pigmentation. A shade that works for a wide range of skin tones is Nars Laguna.
4. Using an electric toothbrush
I love the thorough cleaning the oscillating bristles on my Braun Professional electric toothbrush give my teeth. And the built-in timer ensures I’m brushing for the minimum two minutes most dentists recommend. But a few years’ back, after developing tooth sensitivity and slightly recessed gums, my dentist advised using the electric brush three times a day was taking its toll on my mouth.
The fix: Electric brushes are effective, and, especially if you let the brush do the action rather than putting your own force into the brushing, safe for most people. To reduce the risk of the brush wearing away at enamel and gum tissue, my dentist recommended I use it for only one brushing a day. She also advised using it with toothpaste can be too abrasive. Instead, and what I’ve followed since, is brushing first with the electric, just with water, and then following up with a manual brush and paste. For the other brushings of the day I use a manual.
Discussing these downsides of four healthy practices is not intended to dissuade you from trying or continuing with them. It’s just a reminder that we all need to analyze if something is working for us, even when it’s become the healthy trend du jour. As always, your body knows best.