3 Health Mistakes Smart People Make

You buy organic food, go for regular runs, use fat-free dressing on your salad, and strenuously avoid being near people who smoke. You can relax-you're doing as much as you can to stay healthy, right? Wrong! You may be surprised that some of the smartest, most educated people around make health mistakes that are easily corrected. Are you guilty of one of these common health errors?

  • You use too much artificial sweetener. We've all had it drummed into our heads that sugar is bad-it causes cavities, weight gain, and hyperactivity. So we turn to sugar substitutes that let us have a little sweetness without all the calories and other negative stuff. Good idea? Not necessarily. Artificial sweeteners can cause stomach upsets in certain people, even in small amounts. The safety of some artificial sweeteners in still in question, with some studies claiming a link to cancer. And while artificial sweeteners are meant to mimic sugar without the negative effects of sugar on the body, some sweeteners do still have an impact on blood sugar. The latest studies have found that artificial sweeteners train the body to expect extra calories to go along with the sweet tastes. When those extra calories aren't delivered, you end up still craving the sugar-laced treats you were trying to avoid. Cut your artificial-sweetener consumption in half if you can.
  • You skip the weight room. Avoiding strength training in favor of nothing but cardiovascular exercise is a common mistake. Sure it's intimidating to peer into a gym and see a room full of grunting, flexing muscleheads, but they do have the right idea. You naturally lose muscle mass as you age, so even if you weigh the same at 50 as you did at 20 your body is holding a higher percentage of fat. How to change this? Strength train. Whether you use dumbbells, barbells, machines at the gym or old-fashioned resistance bands, it's important to challenge your muscles as well as your heart and lungs. You'll bolster your bones, stave off weight gain, and feel stronger and healthier. Book a session or two with a trainer-it's a worthwhile investment to make sure you're using proper form and avoiding injury.
  • You shun all dietary fat. That fat-free dressing on your salad? A mistake. Dietitians say that eating the right fat, not completely avoiding fat, is a smarter move. In fact, studies show that a salad paired with an oil-based dressing will help you absorb the nutrients from your food, while a low-fat or fat-free dressing doesn't have the same effect. The right fats also aid your heart and keep your cholesterol levels in check. Heart-healthy fats include olive oil, avocado, walnuts, and cold-water fish such as mackerel and salmon. Fats to avoid include butter, lard, and any fat from red meat.