How many of these things you think are healthy, really aren't?

Maria Trimarchi

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Salads, smoothies, even your loofah may not be as good for you as you assume they are. In fact, some of our favorite things to eat may be misleading -- sabotaging our cholesterol, our immune system and our waistline. And that's just food! See if you know which is good, which is bad and why.

Which bread is the healthiest for you?

Aim to eat breads with whole grains as the first ingredients, such as sprouted whole grain loaves. But skip the ones baked with refined grains, like white breads and many labelled as grain-filled.

What is the main difference between ice cream and frozen yogurt?

The biggest difference between ice cream and froyo is the fat content. One cup of vanilla ice cream, which is made with cream, has: 275 calories, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of fat and nine grams of saturated fat. One cup of vanilla frozen yogurt, which is made with cultured milk, has: 221 calories, 38 grams of carbohydrates, six grams of fat and four grams of saturated fat. (Also, don't expect frozen yogurt to contain probiotics -- it's hard for those live bacteria to survive the freezer.)

Is it true that despite the spinach and the artichoke, traditionally prepared, spinach artichoke dip is not a healthy appetizer?

Spinach artichoke dip can contain upwards of 1,600 calories, 100 grams of fat and as much as 2,500 mgs of sodium (which is more sodium than a person should have in a day, not just in an appetizer). What makes it so bad for you? To begin with, the saturated fat-laden cream base.

A chicken Caesar salad can have more sodium than a party-sized bag of what?

Just because they call it a salad doesn't mean it's good for you. Sure, there are greens. But toppings can make a big difference. Adding 1/2 cup of grilled chicken to your salad adds 61 calories, but if you choose fried, instead, the calories jump up to almost 200 -- and that's just for one topping. Ruby Tuesday's Fried Chicken Caesar Salad, for instance, has 2,200 mg of sodium, while a 13.5-ounce bag of potato chips contains 1,836 mg.

To keep yourself from getting sick or spreading germs, which is the best way to wash your hands?

Studies find triclosan, an ingredient in antibacterial products, may play a role in making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. You don't need it to clean your hands, though. All you need to prevent illness is plain soap and water.

The average American drinks about eight gallons of fruit juice each year. But can it be just as unhealthy as soda?

Yes, it can be. Eating whole fruit is a good source of fiber, but turn that fruit into fruit juice and you end up with little to none. An orange, for instance, has 4.3 grams of fiber, while a cup of orange juice has only .5. And what's left is all the sugar: while there are 24 grams of sugar in an 8-ounce glass of Minute Maid orange juice, you may be surprised it's so close to the 26 grams in an 8-ounce serving of Coca-Cola.

Many of us step on the scale to make sure we're on track, without our weight creeping up unexpectedly. But what about a daily weigh-in habit can be bad?

A daily step onto the scale can give you good results with both short-term weight-loss and long-term weight management. But it's not for everyone. Too-frequent weigh-ins are also associated with low self-esteem, possible weight gain, an increased chance of developing an eating disorder and more.

Studies find when you drink a carbohydrate-rich beverage, like a smoothie, you end up eating 12 percent more ________ in your day than if you'd skipped the smoothie?

They can be an easy way to add fruits and vegetables to your diet, but smoothies can contain as much or more sugar than soda. Relying on one for your morning breakfast may mean eating 12 percent more calories in your day than if you'd had a piece of fruit instead.

Which breakfast cereal has more sugar in it than what's in a Hostess Twinkie?

Would you serve Chips Ahoy! cookies for breakfast? Pouring a serving of as many as 44 popular cereals equals a plate of three Chips Ahoy! cookies. And, a 1-cup serving of Honey Smacks cereal contains more sugar than a Hostess Twinkie. Dig'em!

What is the the 20-8-2 rule?

You can't give up sitting, and you shouldn't, but be sure to take frequent breaks when you sit for long periods of time. Be sure to stand for 8 minutes and move around for 2 for every 20 minutes you sit -- known as the 20-8-2 rule.

Not all fats are the same. Although we've long-believed low-fat is the healthiest, emerging evidence finds that which type really is the healthiest dairy fat for weight loss?

Dairy recommendations have long pointed at low-fat and fat-free as the healthiest options. But emerging research finds milk fats may be beneficial, and, in particular, full-fat dairy eaters may gain less weight and have a lower risk of obesity.

Dried fruits are a good source of fiber. But what's their downside?

Dried fruits in small amounts can be good for you. But it can be easy to eat too many of them, upping your carbohydrate and calorie content. You'd need to eat four cups of fresh plums, for instance, to consume the same 66 grams of sugar you'd eat in one cup of dried plums (prunes).

Scrubbing your skin in the shower a few times a week can be invigorating and can enhance circulation. But for those who like loofahs, what's the bad news?

Loofahs, poufs and other exfoliating brushes may contain bacteria, germs and mold -- including those that can cause boils, rashes, conjunctivitis and other skin infections. If you must, dry it completely between uses and replace it every 3 weeks.

What home remedy should you use to remove ear wax?

If there's too much, reach for over-the-counter cerumen (wax) softeners, not swabs. Cotton swabs were not made to clean your ear canal. In fact, using one could push wax deeper, against the eardrum, which can become painful and require a healthcare professional to remove. So leave the wax alone -- it's normal, and it provides a barrier against bacteria and more.

What's the best way to get rid of a pimple?

It's patience, not popping, that solves a pimple problem. Popping a zit can push bacteria into it, which can cause infection. Popping can also leave a permanent mark behind. If you need to dry it up in a hurry, try an over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide product.

Which is the correct ending to this sentence: Pretzels are nutritionally ____.

While you may reach for them because they're low-fat, pretzels are high in sodium and nutritionally empty.

Which is the healthiest type of peanut butter?

Reduced-fat peanut butters cut the fat, usually by about one-third, but they replace that missing fat with sugar, usually doubling it. Stick with small portions of full-fat peanut butter, a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats -- and choose types without added oil or sugar.

Some studies have a found an association between burning candles in your home and what health problem?

Scented candles and incense may make your home smell great, but some studies have associated their smoke with indoor air pollution, certain cancers, asthma and skin irritation.

Which is the healthiest sweetener option if you want to skip the sugar?

Corn syrup and molasses are liquid sweeteners, but they're still sugar. Agave nectar, which is a sugar substitute made from agave cactus nectar, hasn't been proven to be any better nutritionally than sugar.

What type of diet completes this sentence: Eating ___-free is beneficial when you have celiac disease, but not if you don't.

Don't believe the hype: eating a gluten-free diet when you don't have to can be unhealthy -- and you won't lose any weight. Cutting out gluten-rich grains cuts out important nutrients, which could cause constipation, fatigue, hair loss, mood changes and more. You can't self-diagnose a gluten problem, but there are tests your doctor can order for an answer.

There could be as many as 600 calories, mostly from sugar, in just one cup of what popular breakfast option?

While certain brands (and homemade) may be exceptions, most granola -- and granola bars, aren't the healthy breakfast or snack we assume they are. In fact, just one cup of the stuff can reach 600 calories and is usually packed with sugar and fats.

What's the benefit of taking a daily multivitamin?

Scientific evidence shows that taking a daily multivitamin can't cure the common cold, prevent age-related diseases or help you live longer.

Which is the least healthy of these oatmeal options?

The thing about oatmeal is that the more of the whole grain you eat, the better it is for you. Most instant oatmeal lacks the fiber of other types and uses guar gum as a thickener instead.

After trying low-carb dieting for 6 months, what side effects can you expect?

Weight loss can happen quickly during the first 6 months on a low-carb diet. But for most people, the weight quickly returns after that -- and the carb-restriction could end up slowing down your metabolism. Plus, your body needs a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrates every day to keep your brain running smoothly, according to the Institute of Medicine, and low-carb diets can limit your intake to half that.

Fresh, frozen or canned, when it comes to eating your vegetables, the more the merrier, right? Which has the most sodium?

The canning process can rob some foods of vitamins and nutrients, and many canned vegetables can be high in sodium -- canned tomatoes, for instance, can be as much as 15 times higher in sodium than the low-sodium option. In addition, some canned foods, in particular, green beans, contain up to 200 times the safe level of the industrial compound Bisphenol A (BPA).

Which popular sandwich has more calories and sodium, a McDonald's Big Mac or a Subway footlong Big Philly Cheesesteak?

The average Subway sandwich has about 780 calories, higher than those from McDonald's, which average about 580 calories. But if you're not choosing wisely you could be eating double the calories and sodium than if you'd gone to McDonald's. Subway's footlong Big Philly Cheesesteak, for instance, lands at about 1,000 calories and 2,560 grams of sodium. If that sounds like a lot, it is. McDonald's Big Mac, which many of us assume is worse, has 550 calories and 970 grams sodium.

Is "no pain, no gain" good or bad advice?

Pain doesn't mean you're pushing yourself hard and getting a good workout. Pain is your body telling you that you're injured. Take a rest, and if you still have pain after a few days, it's time to have it checked out by your doctor.

Since the '80s, we've thought eating low-fat and fat-free foods was a good choice for our heart health. Is it?

When it comes to fats, there's no reason to pass on (full-fat) monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids -- they help keep your immune system strong, and your brain, gut, heart and nervous system healthy. But if the fats aren't from healthy sources, pass.

What's the better choice for a hangover cure, water or a sports drink?

Sports drinks were developed to replace electrolytes in athletes. If you're not exercising at least 60 to 90 minutes on a hot summer day, you'll be better off without all the extra sugar. Stick with water.

About 30 percent of Americans use DEET-based bug repellents every year to prevent not just bites, but illnesses such as the West Nile and Zika viruses. Is it safe?

DEET has been the most effective insect repellent since 1950, and it comes in sprays, lotions, towelettes, among other convenient options. Although it's the best for repelling mosquitoes, ticks and other biting bugs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) "slightly toxic" to humans. If you choose to use DEET-based repellent, doctors recommend those with concentrations between 20-50 percent.

Most protein bars offer about six grams or more of protein, but are they good for your diet?

While snacks shouldn't be more than about 200 calories, look for meal replacement bars with about 400 calories. And don't forget to check out the label. Some brands contain as much or more sugar than a candy bar, while others can have dozens of ingredients.

Recently, diet soda has been linked to what health concern?

The artificial sweeteners in diet soda can trigger your body to start storing fat, which equals weight gain. And that can mean a growing waistline, an increased risk of elevated insulin levels and has also been connected to a 30 percent higher chance of depression than if you didn't drink soda. Additionally, certain sweeteners, such as aspartame, are considered potentially dangerous by the EPA.

Americans buy about 10 million humidifiers every year. How often should you clean yours?

An informal survey by Consumer Reports found as many as 59 percent of people who use a humidifier don't clean it daily. And 25 percent clean it only once or twice a month. Because your humidifier is a good environment for mold and bacteria to grow, it's important to clean the tank daily to prevent inhaling harmful microorganisms, which can lead to what the Consumer Product Safety Commission experts call humidifier fever.

There's no lack of sugar-free options on store shelves. Are artificial sweeteners a healthy option?

In the '70s, evidence suggesting artificial sweeteners may not be so great emerged, and saccharine was given a warning label -- which it had for decades. Some people report bloating and stomach pain from certain artificial sweeteners made from sugar alcohols, such as aspartame. Best of the bunch? Dentists like xylitol because of its ability to fight cavity-causing bacteria.

Ninety percent of aluminum cookware sold is non-stick, with a Teflon coating. Despite its easy cooking and cleaning surface, concerns about toxic cookware persist. Is non-stick safe?

Cooking for just 2 to 5 minutes at high temperatures can release toxic fumes from the Teflon, a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroethylene. These chemicals, some of them known to cause cancer, are associated with flu-like symptoms in people, known among scientists as "polymer fume fever."

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes