10 Guilty Pleasures That Are Good For You

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  • Here's a prescription for improving your health that doesn't have to be filled at the pharmacy! Simply indulge in these 10 satisfying delights, all of which you may have grown up thinking were bad habits. Recent research has proved otherwise! Every item on our list is actually beneficial for body and soul – unless you overdo it, of course. But in moderation, these treats are just what the doctor ordered. Enjoy!
  • Shopping A little retail therapy really does banish the blues. So if you want to lift your spirits, hit the mall! A study published in the Journal of Psychology and Marketing reported that shopping can have a "lasting positive impact on mood" with "few if any negative emotional side-effects." The researchers, Selin Atalay and Margaret Meloy, interviewed scores of shoppers and had them keep diaries about whether they were happy with their purchases or regretted them. "Retail therapy purchases were overwhelmingly beneficial, leading to mood boosts and no regrets or guilt," they wrote. Just don't splurge. A small impulse buy will make you feel happier, but racking up credit card debt certainly won't!
  • Napping Take a tip from your cat. Some midday shut-eye, according to a NASA study, increases your alertness after you wake up again. Other studies have shown that napping makes you less prone to errors, improves your memory, helps you cope with information overload, keeps you from getting frazzled, lowers your levels of the stress hormone called cortisol, makes you more creative, and heightens your senses. Catch a few ZZZs and reap the rewards!
  • Sipping Red Wine You've surely already heard that the reseveratol in red wine may lower your risk of getting cancer, diabetes, and other dreaded diseases. But did you know that sipping a Merlot or a Cab just might prevent Alzheimer's? That's what several recent studies have shown. Why not pour yourself a glass and toast to your health. (Just one glass a day, though, for women and two for men. More than that may be harmful.)
  • Eating Chocolate Chocolate is in the news again! The traditional lover's gift boosts your serotonin -- the feel good hormone -- and even though chocolate is high in calories, it may in fact help you lose weight. Lead author Dr Beatrice Golomb of the University of California at San Diego reported on his team's recent study by saying, "Our findings appear to add to a body of information suggesting that the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining their ultimate impact on weight." Bon bons, anyone?
  • Daydreaming When your mind wanders, you may end up in a mental place that taps into your creative potential, refreshes your thought processes, and improves your brain's "executive functions," including problem-solving and planning. That's what the research done by Gordon Christoff and colleagues at the University of British Columbia in Canada suggests. They presented their study at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their work seems to corroborate what artistic types have long said: They get their best ideas in the shower or when they're staring out the window.
  • Drinking Coffee Java lovers rejoice! A large study done by researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that people who had two or more cups of coffee every day lowered their risk of untimely death by as much as 16%. And here's the kicker: Those who drank four to five cups a day had the biggest benefit. The coffee drinkers had fewer strokes and heart attacks and fewer complications of diabetes. The study was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. Also, previous studies have shown coffee drinkers may be less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
  • Gossiping Psst! Dishing about your pals can vent your frustrations, ease your stress, and improve your heart rate. Spreading nasty rumors isn't recommended, but when someone is untrustworthy or unfair, getting that off your chest is a positive move, according to researcher Robb Willer and colleagues from the University of California at Berkeley. They published their study in the Journal of Personality and Social Behavior. In a statement Willer said: “Spreading information about [a] person whom they had seen behave badly tended to make people feel better, quieting the frustration that drove their gossip.” Lead author Matthew Feinberg added: “A central reason for engaging in gossip was to help others out more so than just to talk trash about the selfish individual. We shouldn’t feel guilty for gossiping if the gossip helps prevent others from being taken advantage of."
  • Snacking Hey, just call it "grazing" and that habit you have of popping tasty morsels in your mouth between meals is suddenly not a sin anymore! The catch, as you surely know, is that those morsels can't be loaded with unhealthy fats, sugars, and oils. So pass up the doughnuts and opt for heart-healthy almonds or some fruit instead. You won't be starving when dinnertime rolls around, which means you'll be less like to stuff yourself. And you'll be keeping your body supplied with fuel all day long so that you can be at your best. Mini-meals can also help keep your blood sugar in the right range.
  • Chewing Gum Your mother may have scolded you for chewing gum, at least in public, but scientists have shown that you get a lot more than oral satisfaction from that habit. You'll curb your appetite, exercise your jaw, relieve stress, and even reduce your risk of getting cavities. Best of all though, you'll improve your thinking skills. A study done by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and sponsored by the Wrigley Science Institute showed that among students who were boning up for a math test, the group that chewed sugar-free gum had a 3% increase in standardized scores and had final grades that were significantly better than the non-gum-chewing control group. The findings were presented at the Annual Meeting of Experimental Biology in New Orleans in 2009.
  • Playing Hooky If you're a classic good girl who would never shirk your responsibilities at work or at home, you may be missing out one of the best health boosters of all. Once in a while, when you're reaching a state of exhaustion and burnout, consider taking a much needed break. Call in sick if you have to, even though fibbing probably goes against your grain. But look at this way: You're taking a sick day so you won't get sick! The idea is to do something totally relaxing and fun, even if it's just staying in bed with trashy novel, or hitting the movie theater in the middle of the day, or getting in the car and going on day trip. The time off will refresh you and you'll be ready to get back to the grind with renewed vigor.