17 science-backed reasons to stop doing things you hate

We all have them — habits we think are healthy because we heard them somewhere on the news or from a health-conscious friend. And no matter how much we hate them, we just keep doing them because we think they’re good for us.

Take avoiding gluten, for example. Is it really healthy?

Or taking a daily multivitamin. Healthy habit or a little bit of nonsense?

The answers to these questions might surprise you.

Have some we missed? Send them along to science(at)businessinsider.com.

Using a standing desk

A recent long-term study looking at data on nearly 4,000 US adults found no benefit in terms of overall risk of dying from standing as opposed to sitting.

In the short-term, however, standing does burn more calories per minute, so if losing weight is all you're worried about, stand on!

Using toilet seat liners

Viruses like HIV and herpes are fragile, meaning they don't survive very well outside of a nice warm human body. By the time you sit down on a public toilet seat -- even if it was recently shared by someone else -- most harmful pathogens likely wouldn't be able to infect you.

Plus, your skin is a pretty effective block against any meandering microbes (unless of course you have a cut or open wound there, which could allow the bacteria to get in).

Avoiding gluten

Unless you're one of the 1% of Americans who suffer from Celiac disease, gluten probably won't have a negative effect on you. In fact, studies show that most people suffer from slight bloating and gas when they eat, whether they consume wheat or not. So go ahead and eat that bagel.

Swapping dairy for almond milk

Alternatives to dairy milk have been surging in popularity in the last few years, chief among them almond milk. Yet almond milk is practically devoid of nutrients.

By themselves, almonds are protein powerhouses. But a typical glass of almond milk, by volume, is just about 2% almonds, and contains almost no protein. And all the vitamins inside are added. So if you're looking for a truly healthy alternative, opt for soy, skim, or low-fat milk.


A bottle of Suja's 'Green Delight' has more sugar than a can of Coke.

When you juice fresh fruits and veggies, you remove all of their fibre, the key ingredient that keeps you feeling full and satisfied until your next meal.

What you keep is the sugar. In the short term, a high-sugar, low-protein diet means constant hunger pangs, mood swings, and low energy. In the long term, you can lose muscle mass since your muscles rely on protein.

Eating egg whites instead of whole eggs

An egg white omelette. Ew.

Lots of people began avoiding egg yolks when nutrition experts came out with a recommendation that eating cholesterol was bad for you because it raised your cholesterol.

But there's good news: A growing body of research shows that for the vast majority of people, dietary cholesterol (from foods you eat) doesn't really have much of an effect on your blood cholesterol. So unless you have high cholesterol, you can ditch those nasty egg white-only alternatives good-bye. Good morning, eggs benedict!

Ear candling

The practice of 'ear candling' -- yes, ear candling -- involves putting a lit, cone-shaped candle inside your ear. People who do it say it's helpful for relieving ear wax and treating some infections. According to the Mayo Clinic, not so much.

'Research shows,' they write on their website, 'that ear candling is ineffective at removing earwax and is also not an effective treatment for any other conditions.' Plus, the practice can actually end up pushing earwax even deeper into your ear, they write. Even worse, you can accidentally burn your face, hair, scalp, or ear while doing it. So don't.

Slathering on hand sanitizer

If you wash your hands regularly throughout the day, hand sanitizer is almost entirely unnecessary. Plus, it can't kill all the germs that plain old soap and water can.

Norovirus and C. difficile, for example, are immune to sanitizing gels.

Taking multivitamins

Close to half of American adults take vitamins every day. Yet decades-worth of research hasn't found any justification for our pill-popping habit.

That isn't to say we don't need small amounts of vitamins to survive -- without vitamins like A, C, and E, for example, we have a hard time turning food into energy and can develop conditions like rickets or scurvy. Here's the thing: Research shows we get more than enough of these substances from what we eat, so there's no need for a pill!

Avoiding MSG

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is an ingredient added to many foods to enhance their flavour. It's completely safe to ingest.

MSG is often associated with a series of symptoms, from numbness at the base of the neck to a general sense of fatigue, that are commonly lumped together and called 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.' Eating too much is the more likely culprit here, not eating MSG.

Holding your breath after someone sneezes or coughs

When someone sneezes or coughs without covering their mouth or nose, their bacteria shoots out into the air at speeds approaching 50-200 miles an hour.

If you're nearby, holding your breath won't do much good of preventing them from landing on your mouth, nose, or eyes. It will stop you from pulling in any bacteria hanging directly in front of your face, but that's about it.

Not cracking your knuckles

Up until relatively recently, it was common knowledge that knuckle cracking was not only annoying, but terrible for your joints. Several new studies have upended that idea, however. Some even suggest that it might serve as a good indicator that a joint is well-lubricated.

Commenting on a recent study in PLOS One, Greg Kawchuk, lead researcher and professor of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Alberta, said, 'Although speculative, we wonder if being able to crack ones joints is a sign that the joint is actually healthy and that the inability to do so could be a sign of joint problems to come.'

Going on a 'detox' diet

No one actually needs to detox. Unless you've been poisoned, you already have a super-efficient system for filtering out most of the harmful substances you eat. It's made up of two toxin-bashing organs: the liver and the kidneys.

While our kidneys filter our blood and remove any waste from our diet, our liver processes medications and detoxifies any chemicals we ingest. Paired together, these organs make our bodies natural cleansing powerhouses.

Using a recumbent bike instead of a regular one

You've seen these at the gym -- stationary bikes that've been revamped to position your body so that it's leaning slightly backwards with your legs outstretched.

Unless you have a specific injury, though, like a shoulder, knee, or hip injury, these types of bikes are wholly unnecessary.

Avoiding the microwave

Desperate times call for stovetop popcorn.

We've all heard the rumours about how 'nuking' foods robs them of their nutrients. Fortunately for most of us, this is entirely false. Microwave ovens cook food using energy waves. The waves cause the molecules in food to vibrate quickly, building up their energy as heat.

Of course, some nutrients begin to disintegrate when heated, whether it's from a microwave, a stove, or something else. But since microwave cooking times are typically much shorter than oven cooking times, microwaving something often does a better job of keeping its vitamins intact than other cooking methods.

Now that you've busted these health myths...

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