Scientists have already given their blessings to guilty pleasures such as nibbling chocolate (it's high in antioxidants) and sipping wine (red vino is heart-healthy). Now, studies are finding upsides to other so-called bad behaviors. Some thingsÃ¢â‚¬”like smoking or an addiction to cookies 'n' creamÃ¢â‚¬”we'd never endorse, but these six naughty habits can feel good and be good for you.
Getting pissed off can keep stress in check.
A little anger may be a tonic for both your mind and body. For example, new studies suggest that riled-up people make better decisions. And researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that angerÃ¢â‚¬”as opposed to fear or anxietyÃ¢â‚¬”can prompt your brain to release less cortisol, the powerful stress hormone linked to problems like obesity, bone loss, and heart disease. "Traditionally, it has been difficult for women to express anger effectively, because we're 'supposed' to act nurturing and sensitive," says Julie K. Norem, Ph.D., author of The Positive Power of Negative Thinking. So let your ire out. Just don't go overboard; chronic rage is unproductive.
Downing coffee could cut your cancer risk.
Coffee's most exalted attributeÃ¢â‚¬”energy-boosting caffeineÃ¢â‚¬”has nothing on its real health superpowers. Studies show that drinking daily joe may minimize your risk for Parkinson's disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Why? Most chronic diseases are related to inflammation, and coffee is chock-full of anti-inflammatory compounds, says Shelley McGuire, Ph.D., an associate professor of nutrition at Washington State University. Coffee also has more antioxidants than almost any other food. Sip one to three high-octane or decaf cups a day, but make sure you steer clear of fat traps such as whipped-cream-topped lattes. "If you're piling on calories," warns McGuire, "you're probably wiping out the benefits."
Being a slob may help you breathe easier.
Messy women everywhere cheered when a British study found that an unmade bed could nix in-house allergens (turns out, tucked-in sheets can offer dust mites a covered breeding area). But here's even more encouraging news for the not-so-tidy: Environmental and internal medicine expert Kenneth Rosenman, M.D., says you should focus on keeping your home reasonably clean, not entirely pristine. "The huge push to disinfect our homes isn't healthy," he explains. "A little messiness is OK." Zapping every germ aroundÃ¢â‚¬”including the harmless onesÃ¢â‚¬”can clear the way for more serious or resistant strains. Plus, certain household disinfectant sprays and air fresheners release chemicals that can heighten asthma risk. Skip spray cleaners in favor of environmentally friendly pourable onesÃ¢â‚¬”and don't forget that a simple clean damp cloth can do wonders.
Drinking beer may benefit your heart and bones.
Go ahead, crack open that brewski: Research indicates that beer could be an even better heart-disease fighter than red wine, says Charles Bamforth, Ph.D., a professor of food science and technology at the University of California at Davis. The refreshing stuff is made with malted barley, which happens to contain the same heart-protecting antioxidants that give red wine its good name. But beer also packs high levels of vitamin B6, which keeps our bodies from building up homocysteine, a chemical linked to increased coronary risk. And your whole body gets a boost in the form of silica, a compound that helps strengthen bones. Bamforth suggests sticking to one beer a day. Look for brews made with ample pale malt and hops (i.e., pale ales), which are especially rich in silica.
Surfing the Internet might tune up your brain.
All that online shopping may yield more than a fab pair of heels. A new study at the University of California at Los Angeles found that just one week of frequent Web browsing can fire up your brain's complex-reasoning hubs. "Time online may improve your ability to make decisions," says study coauthor and psychiatrist Gary Small, M.D. It's possible that the more we surf, the more efficient our brains can become at strategizing, he explains. "It's like going to the gym. After a while, you can lift more weight with less effort." But scientists aren't giving i-geeks free license to click around all day and night. Take regular breaks and, adds Small, be sure to socialize with actual humans.
Chewing gum can keep you trim.
We hate to burst the bubble of etiquette watchers, but recent research shows that chomping on gumÃ¢â‚¬”ever so politely, of courseÃ¢â‚¬”can improve both short-and longterm memory (scientists are still figuring out exactly why). And chewing the stuff might also help you slim down, according to new research from the University of Rhode Island. Animal research suggests that frequent chewing can stimulate the brain's satiety center, which is responsible for making us feel full, says lead study author Kathleen Melanson, Ph.D., R.D. (Bonus: Her subjects also had higher energy levels.) Go with a stick of the sugar-free kind.