A “Bad” Habit That’s Good

Q: I chew a pack of gum a day to prevent bad breath and keep me from snacking. Is this unhealthy?

A: Here’s the rap sheet on gum: It may cause pressure headaches or jaw pain, create gas (at either end, unfortunately), sound annoying to people around you and terrorize the bottoms of shoes. But as long as you’re chomping on the sugarless kind, it’s a perfectly fine habit. Why? The sticky stuff often contains xylitol, a sugar substitute that may clear your mouth of bacteria to help prevent tooth decay (especially good for kids), and chewing it even burns a few calories—though we don’t recommend subbing a few sticks of Trident for your gym membership. During times of stress, unleashing pent-up emotions in a low-calorie stick of cinnamon can foster healthy coping and, more importantly, keep you from cramming more dangerous foods into your mouth. After all, if you’re going to have a pack-a-day habit, this is certainly the kind to have.

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