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Dieting Habits That Are Shortening Your Life, According to Science

All it takes is a few simple switches to turn things around.

You really are what you eat. The old adage may be hard to comprehend, but it's true: our diets do affect our bodies, especially in terms of longevity. Our dieting habits—or just our daily eating habits—make a huge difference for our overall health for the long term. This is why it's important to understand the types of bad dieting habits that can affect your life in a negative way.

But do not fret—it's easy to switch it around. If you find yourself following one of these bad dieting habits below, all it takes is a few simple switches to your usual meal plan throughout the week and you'll see a huge difference in your life—both immediately and in the long term. Here are the bad dieting habits you should start to avoid, and for more eating tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

You're consuming too much sugar and you don't realize it.

granola bar

While your favorite grocery store foods may seem like they're healthy—with deceiving labels like "reduced free" and "natural flavors"—those pantry staples may be hiding more sugar than you realize. According to the The American Heart Association, the average adult should only have about 25 grams (women) or 37.5 grams (men) of sugar a day, which equals out to about 6 to 9 teaspoons. But the average amount Americans actually have is around 22.2 teaspoons, and according to a study published by the JAMA Internal Medicine, an increased amount of sugar on your diet can cause a higher risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease.

Instead of stocking up on those grocery items that deceive you into thinking they are healthy, look for foods that are made of real ingredients, or at least don't have sugar (in all of its forms) as one of the top ingredients on the nutrition label. Another easy way to consume less sugar is to shop for your groceries along the perimeter of the grocery store, like Michael Pollen suggests in his book The Omnivore's Dilemma, because those foods are the freshest and aren't as processed as the ones found in the middle aisles.

Here are the 30 Worst Grocery Foods With the Most Sugar.

You're eating too much protein.

eating steak

Consuming protein is good for your body—but it's true: you can have too much of a good thing. According to Harvard Health, eating higher protein diets can cause a higher risk of kidneys stones, as well as heart disease and colon cancer due to the high amount of saturated fat found in red meat. Sure, a higher protein diet focused on plant-based proteins or lean proteins may be good, but be wary: diets higher in protein can still cause weight gain and add belly fat if you're consuming a higher amount of calories due to too much protein. Instead, the key is to calculate the proper amount of protein for your body. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) says that each person should eat 0.36 grams of protein for every pound of bodyweight they have. You can make the calculation, or follow their average guidelines—56 grams of protein for men, and 46 grams for women.

Here are 7 Ways Eating Too Much Protein Can Harm Your Health.

You're drinking a lot of sugary beverages.

jar of fresh squeezed orange juice with cut orange halves

Again, similarly to how much sugar you are consuming in your food, there's also sugar in a lot of your favorite soft drinks and bottled beverages—which includes those bottled "healthy" smoothies! There are a lot of negative side effects of drinking too much soda, which include heart failure, stroke, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease.

You're not eating carbs.

roasted potatoes on grill pan

It may be hard to believe, but did you know that carbohydrates are the one food you should be eating for a longer life? And no, we're not exactly talking about eating pizza and french fries every day. We're talking about naturale, whole foods that have carbs that aren't stripped of their nutrients including fiber, which is an important nutrient to have for weight loss. When portioned correctly, having a diet that is rich in complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats while cutting out higher-caloric foods has been scientifically proven to lead to a longer life. Which is why the Mediterranean diet has garnered so much success for dieters long term.

You're drinking too much.

drinking alcohol

Let's be clear—a glass of wine every now and then isn't such a bad thing. In fact, wine is encouraged for the Mediterranean diet and actually has a ton of health benefits for your body. However, if you're drinking alcohol on a regular basis, you're likely going to experience a few ugly side effects of drinking alcohol every day. Which, unfortunately, does include liver problems and an increased risk of cancer.

Now that you know the dieting habits not to follow, instead, you should take note of these Best Nutrition Tips from 2020.

Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a freelance health and nutrition journalist. Read more about Kiersten