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7 Eating Habits That Are Destroying Your Body

Dietitians share the eating habits wrecking your body and what you can do to avoid these mistakes.
FACT CHECKED BY Samantha Boesch

Your eating habits can have a significant impact on your body. In some instances, your diet can positively impact your health, like when you eat fiber to aid in digestive regularity and enjoy omega-3-rich fish for its cardiovascular benefits. However, the food and drinks you choose to enjoy can also have negative effects on your body. When choosing the items that make up your regular diet, you likely consider flavor, texture, and ease of preparation, but you should also take into account how it can affect your overall health. And sadly, there are certain eating habits that may be destroying your body without you even realizing it.

No single diet is perfect, and it is reasonable to occasionally enjoy foods that aren't traditionally considered to be healthy. These items may include candy, desserts, fried foods, sugar-sweetened drinks, and snacky items that provide calories with little nutritional benefit. These types of foods have the potential to become more problematic when they make up a large portion of your diet on a regular basis, and aren't in conjunctions with nutrient-dense foods. Additionally, the timing of when you eat and how much you eat could also be negatively impacting your body.

When choosing foods to support your body, focus on a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, minimally processed whole grains, lean proteins, and plant-based fats. To further allow your eating habits to have a positive impact in your body, also practice portion control, try not to lay down immediately after eating, and ensure each meal and snack contains more than one macronutrient.

If the majority of your food intake is not made up of these types of food, and your habits aren't aligned with these suggestions, chances are you aren't supporting your body to the best of your ability. In fact, your food choices and eating habits might be destroying your body. Read on to learn more, and for more healthy eating tips, check out What Is the Best Oil for Cooking?

You're eating too much sugar

sugary foods
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First, let's differentiate between types of sugar. The sugar that naturally occurs in fruit and dairy is not at fault here. However, the added sugar incorporated into food and drinks to enhance sweetness could be harming your body.

Research indicates added sugar, and especially sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and juice, are linked to weight gain and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer. The American Heart Association recommends men consume fewer than 36 grams of sugar per day, while women should aim for fewer than 25 grams.

If you are consuming more than this recommendation, you can swap sugar for alternatives like stevia, and reduce your portions of sugar-sweetened foods.

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You're eating too much at once

If you have ever experienced indigestion, gas, or bloating after a meal, it could be because you ate too much food at once. These symptoms could also be due to specific foods you ate, but don't underestimate the significance of portion control on digestive symptoms.

According to research, both upper and lower gastrointestinal symptoms could result from eating too much food, too rapidly. Additionally, eating large portions of food at once could promote excess calorie intake that could lead to obesity, further harming your body. To avoid these complications, try to take at least 15 to 20 minutes to eat a meal. Slowing down your rate of eating allows time for your digestive system to send fullness cues to your brain before you're uncomfortably stuffed.

You're eating too late

If you are eating too close to bedtime, you could be damaging your body. Research suggests time restricted eating, which means you are only eating food during specific designated times, like from 7 am to 7 pm, may generate beneficial health effects.

While research on weight gain related to eating too late is inconclusive, we do know eating an earlier dinner could reduce reflux symptoms. Additionally, nocturnal eating appears to be associated with binge eating, another habit that could be detrimental to your body. As a rule of thumb, try not to eat within two hours of going to bed. If you find yourself hungry within that window, or during the night, you may need to assess your day time eating habits to ensure you are eating enough and are getting a healthy balance of nutrients to keep you satisfied throughout the day and night.

You're not eating enough fiber

fiber rich foods
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If you are skipping out on whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, you may not be getting enough fiber. This nutrient is found only in plant-based foods, and has a long list of benefits. Fiber "feeds" the healthy bacteria in your gut, and may aid in weight loss and lower blood cholesterol.

These only name a few of benefits related to fiber, and if you aren't eating enough, you could experience more digestive issues, have challenges with weight management, and have higher blood cholesterol. To increase your fiber intake, incorporate fruits or vegetables at each meal and snack, swap your processed grains for whole grain options, and add more nuts and seeds into your meal plan.

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You're eating too much animal fat

Plant-based fats, like those found in nuts, seeds, and oil actually possess many health benefits. On the other hand, the fat you may be consuming from animal sources could be destroying your body if consumed in excess. Saturated fat is a type most often found in animal-based foods like red meat, dairy, and eggs, and it may have a negative impact on your cardiovascular system.

One study found that replacing dietary saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat may reduce your risk of heart disease. To reduce the saturated fat in your diet, choose lean cuts of meat and cut off visible fat when possible. You can also choose lower-fat dairy products and increase your intake of fish to further benefit your heart.

Your food and drink choices are too acidic

Your dental health may be at risk based on your food and drink choices. Items that are too acidic, like soda and coffee, could contribute to poor dental health and increase tooth erosion. This is true even for diet soda, but soda and coffee that contains sugar is especially damaging for teeth, as it can also increase your risk of cavities.

Even acidic fruit and dried fruit can lead to an acidic environment in your mouth, leading to oral issues. To lessen your risk, avoid eating and drinking these acidic items throughout the day, and try to brush your teeth shortly after consuming them.

You're not combining nutrients

meal on plate
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If you are just having a bowl of cereal for breakfast, you're not eating an ideal balance of nutrients. A balanced meal is one that includes protein, carbs, fat, and produce. While a bowl of cereal is not inherently bad, it likely doesn't contain much protein or fat, and is not a source of produce. While carbohydrates are the fastest digesting macronutrient, protein and fat take longer to digest, which results in higher satiety. This increase in satiety can help control appetite ,which may result in a more appropriate calorie intake to support a healthy weight.

Additionally, balanced meals are more likely to contain a wider variety of essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, that support numerous bodily systems. To make the cereal meal more balanced, add a portion of chopped nuts to incorporate some fat and protein, top with berries for produce, and drink the cereal milk at the end for another boost of protein.

Kelsey Hampton, MS, CSSD, RDN, LD
Kelsey is a Texas-based dietitian and professor who specializes in sports nutrition. Read more about Kelsey
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