These So-Called Vices Are Good for Your Health
Simple pleasures can go a long way to increasing well-being
If your doctor told you to stop taking your medication and not come back for a checkup so soon, you’d be confused. If she followed up by telling you that it’s okay to eat some chocolate and fatty foods, enjoy a glass of beer or wine, or have lots of coffee, you might reconsider her expertise. But in fact she would be doing something far too few medical professionals do: advising patients based on the latest available science.
Much of the health advice people receive today is misguided and based on old conventions rather than the latest research. We are led to believe that to be healthy, we must spend half our lives in doctors’ offices, ingest a constant stream of narcotic-strength drugs, consume a spartan diet, drink so-called health elixirs that look like witch’s potions, and exercise with the intensity of an Olympic athlete and the joy of a KGB recruit. We must worry about the food we eat, the tests we don’t take, and the pills we don’t swallow. Above all, we must worry. And all that worry costs us dearly — monetarily, emotionally, and physically.
But over the years, mainstream medical studies at respected institutions have repeatedly shown that many of the foods and behaviors we’ve been warned to avoid all our lives may not really harm us, and when consumed or engaged in properly, they may actually be beneficial. The list of good vices includes beverages like coffee, which research suggests can lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes and possibly protect from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia; foods like chocolate and whole-milk raw cheese; lifestyle choices like sleeping late and laughing a lot; and downright shocking practices like going to the doctor less, taking fewer medications, and avoiding many prescribed but often unnecessary medical procedures.
We don’t necessarily understand the reasons some of these vices can be good for us. It’s possible the joy we get from them is partly what makes them healthy. Feeling happy diminishes stress and seems to supercharge the immune system, which, among other things, may lead to better resistance to certain illnesses. The good news doesn’t stop there. Studies have even shown that being happy can help you live longer. Ancient Greek…