Most of us believe that we know intuitively what is good for us and what is bad for us. As a general rule we will tend to assume that if something is fun, tasty or pleasurable then it's probably not good for us. Things that are new, things that are cheap and things that are abundantly available must be bad for us because if they were good that would just be too good to be true. If something is good for us, we assume, it is probably going to be dull, expensive and hard work. Like apples, exercise and long books (though I personally enjoy all those things being a bit of a dweeb…).
Only the reality is often the exact opposite of this. In fact when you think about it, this whole concept makes no sense. We have evolved to want the things that are good for us because this results in us seeking out healthier things and thus living longer. Sometimes our bodies have trouble adapting to our new environment (which is why it thinks stocking up on sugar is such a great idea) but for the most part it's a reliable compass. Why would our biology tell us to seek out things that are bad for us and to avoid things that are good for us?
And as it happens, a lot of the things that you probably think of as 'guilty pleasures' are actually very good for you. Read on for some of the best examples of things that might seem to have all the hallmarks of a vice, but are in fact very beneficial for you.
Coffee feels like a guilty habit seeing as it is essentially a psychoactive drug. Combine that with the fact that it's often covered in full-fat cream, and that we tend to use it as a crux for waking up in the morning and you would think that this addictive substance would be something to avoid.
But in fact many studies have shown that coffee is good for you. Like, really good for you. Not only can coffee boost your brain power and combat against neurodegenerative diseases and cancer, but it can even help you to fight diabetes. Give up coffee thinking you're doing your body a favour and you will actually be increasing your chances of getting Type 2 diabetes which is a very serious condition.
Remember though: everything in moderation. Drinking too much coffee will make you jittery and cause headaches and can lead to insomnia.
Masturbation is the definition of 'guilty habit' and so much so that many of us will vehemently deny doing it, even when everybody knows otherwise.
Actually though you should wear your masturbating with pride: not only does this help people to relax, improve sleep and combat stress, but it also helps sexual performance and decreases your likelihood of getting prostate cancer! Again, giving this one up might actually be a bad thing. On the other hand, porn can be bad for you as it enforces subversive ideas about sex and you do need to be careful not to become addicted to masturbation which can result in seminal leakage and end up interrupting your lifestyle.
Computer games are full of bright colours, they're addictive and they involve staring at a screen. That must be bad for you, right?
Nope – computer games actually have incredible benefits as far as brain training goes, helping with everything from visual acuity, to memory, to confidence to problem solving and visualisation. On top of this, computer games are not bad for your eyes (unless you play in darkened rooms or don't account for glare), and can be a great form of stress relief/escapism.
Likewise, despite concerns to the contrary, all early signs also suggest that the internet is good for us too. The web has helped us all to become more open-minded and accepting, to extend our knowledge and to improve literacy. Some people worry that it's reducing our attention span, but on the flip side this has improved our short-term memory and our ability to quickly switch our focus.
Fry ups are big fatty meals that could be described as 'a heart attack on a plate'. Actually though, they're pretty good for you.
For starters, fry ups don't need to be all that fatty if you grill the bacon and forego the sausages (or grill those too). And in that case you then have a plate of protein and baked beans – which are both very good for you.
Starting the morning with protein is a great way to encourage your body to burn fat and to build muscle throughout the following day subsequently, and a big meal like this is also a perfect way to fill yourself up and prevent cravings later on which could lead to snacking and weight gain.
Wine isn't great for you in the conventional sense but in some ways it's not all bad for you either. For one, a little alcohol a day has actually been shown to be quite good for your heart as it helps you to get a little rest and calm down after a stressful day at work. Further, a glass of wine may be beneficial for creativity as it helps your mind to relax and that way take in the 'bigger picture' by seeing more connections between disparate topics.
But more to the point, red wine also has one very powerful ingredient as far as health goes which is called 'resveratrol'.
Resveratrol is an antioxidant meaning that it can eliminate cancer-causing free radicals. Moreover, it is a substance that encourages optimal function of the mitochondria – which are the outer layers of our cells tasked with providing our bodies with energy. Thus strengthening these can not only improve energy levels, but also prevent against cellular damage which may lead to cancer. Don't go crazy with this, too much wine will lead to a gut and a damaged liver, but if you enjoy any of these things in moderation you'll find they're actually surprisingly healthy!