A healthy lifestyle has huge long term health benefits. By choosing a balanced diet, taking regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight for your age can add years to your life and reduce the risk of certain diseases including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and obesity. The key to reducing the risk of these diseases is making just a few small changes to our daily lives – here are our Top 20 Tips for a healthier lifestyle this Summer:
1. Don’t Drink Sugar Calories
Sugary drinks are the most fattening things you can put into your body. This is because liquid sugar calories don’t get registered by the brain in the same way as calories from solid foods
For this reason, when you drink soda, you end up eating more total calories. Keep in mind that fruit juices are almost as bad as soda in this regard. They contain just as much sugar, and the small amounts of antioxidants do not negate the harmful effects of the sugar. Sugary drinks are strongly associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and all sorts of health problems. So during this warm weather, it’s all about H20!
2. Eat more Nuts
Despite being high in fat, nuts are incredibly nutritious and healthy. They are loaded with magnesium, vitamin E, fiber and various other nutrients. Studies show that nuts can help you lose weight, and may help fight type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, about 10-15% of the calories in nuts aren’t even absorbed into the body, and some evidence suggests that they can boost metabolism. In one study, almonds were shown to increase weight loss by 62% compared to complex carbohydrates.
3. Avoid Processed Junk Food
All the processed junk foods in the diet are the biggest reason the world is fatter and sicker than ever before. These foods have been engineered to be “hyper-rewarding,” so they trick our brains into eating more than we need, even leading to addiction in some people. They are also low in fiber, protein and micronutrients (empty calories), but high in unhealthy ingredients like added sugar and refined grains.
4. Rejoice Coffee Lovers!
Coffee has an undeserved bad reputation. The truth is that it’s actually quite healthy. Coffee is high in antioxidants, and studies show that coffee drinkers live longer, and have a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and numerous other diseases.
5. Eat More Fish
Pretty much everyone agrees that fish is healthy. This is particularly true of fatty fish, like salmon, which is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and various other nutrients. Studies show that people who eat the most fish have a lower risk of all sorts of diseases, including heart disease, dementia and depression.
6. Get Enough Sleep
The importance of getting enough quality sleep cannot be overstated. It may be just as important as diet and exercise, if not more! Poor sleep can drive insulin resistance, throw your appetite hormones out of whack and reduce your physical and mental performance. What’s more, it is one of the strongest individual risk factors for future weight gain and obesity. One study showed that short sleep was linked to 89% increased risk of obesity in children, and 55% in adults.
7. Take Care of your Gut Health with Probiotics
The bacteria in your gut, collectively called the gut microbiota, are sometimes referred to as the “forgotten organ.” (Check out our Blog Post here https://bit.ly/2GlzqPx) These gut bugs are incredibly important for all sorts of health-related aspects. A disruption in the gut bacteria is linked to some of the world’s most serious chronic diseases, including obesity. A good way to improve gut health, is to eat probiotic foods (like live yogurt and sauerkraut), take probiotic supplements, and eat plenty of fiber. Fiber functions as fuel for the gut bacteria. However, eating too much fiber can cause digestive distress, gas and intestinal blockages.
8. Water! Water! Water!
Drinking enough water can have numerous benefits. One important factor, is that it can help boost the amount of calories you burn. It can boost metabolism by 24-30% over a period of 1-1.5 hours. This can amount to 96 additional calories burned if you drink 2 litres of water per day. The best time to drink water is half an hour before meals. One study showed that half a liter of water, 30 minutes before each meal, increased weight loss by 44%
9. Take Vitamin D
Back in the day, most people got their vitamin D from the sun. The problem is that most people don’t get much sun these days, even during an Irish Summer! Many people seek shade from the sun to protect from harmful UVA and UVB Rays, so if adequate sun exposure is not an option for you, then supplementing with vitamin D has been shown to have numerous benefits for health. This includes improved bone health, increased strength, reduced symptoms of depression and a lower risk of cancer, to name a few.
10. Eat more Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables and fruits are the “default” health foods, and for good reason. They are loaded with prebiotic fiber, vitamins, minerals and all sorts of antioxidants, some of which have potent biological effects. Studies show that people who eat the most vegetables and fruits live longer, and have a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and all sorts of diseases. During Summer, some of the best fruit, berries, herbs and vegetables are in abundance and taste even better when they are ‘in season’.
11. Make Sure to Eat Enough Protein
Eating enough protein is so important, and many experts believe that the recommended daily intake is too low. Protein is particularly important for weight loss and works via several different mechanisms. A high protein intake can boost metabolism significantly, while making you feel so full that you automatically eat fewer calories. It can also cut cravings and reduce the desire for late-night snacking. Eating plenty of protein has also been shown to lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
12. Get active!
Doing aerobic exercise (or cardio) is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health. It is particularly effective at reducing belly fat, the harmful type of fat that builds up around your organs. Reduced belly fat should lead to major improvements in metabolic health. Just 30 minutes walking a day improves heart health and reduces chances of getting Diabetes. Now is a great time to start as the weather is warm and dry with long bright evenings. Check our our Blog on Benefits of walking here https://bit.ly/2RpXTcz
13. Don’t Smoke. Don’t take Drugs. Only Drink in Moderation
If you’re a tobacco smoker, or abuse drugs, then diet and exercise are the least of your worries. Tackle those problems first and get advice from your local Haven Pharmacist. If you choose to include alcohol in your life, then do so in moderation only, and consider avoiding it completely if you have alcoholic tendencies. For more advice on drinking alcohol responsibly check out https://www.drinkaware.ie/
14. Minimize Your Intake of Added Sugars
Added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. Small amounts are fine, but when people eat large amounts, it can wreak havoc on metabolic health. Avoid taking sugar in tea, coffee & breakfast cereals. Remember to avoid drinking Sugar Calories (Reference point 1) A high intake of added sugar is linked to numerous diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many forms of cancer.
15. Don’t Eat a Lot of Refined Carbohydrates
Not all carbs are created equal. Refined carbs have been highly processed and have had all the fiber removed from them. They are low in nutrients (empty calories) and can be extremely harmful. These include white bread, pizza dough, pasta, pastries, white flour, white rice, and many breakfast cereals (Yes all the nice things!) They digest quickly and their high glycemic index causes unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels. You may have heard about the White Diet which basically means cutting out anything White from your diet. Studies show that refined carbohydrates are linked to overeating and numerous metabolic diseases.
16. Avoid Artificial Trans Fats
Artificial Trans fats are one of the worst fats you can eat when it comes to your cholesterol levels. It’s best to avoid them altogether – deep fried fast food, pastries, cakes, biscuits, doughnuts, frozen food, crisps and crackers. Artificial trans fats are harmful, man-made fats that are strongly linked to inflammation and heart disease. instead, focus on choosing foods that contain unsaturated fats such as Salmon, Avocado, Nuts which are all a good source of Omega-3 and are great anti-inflammatory foods to include in the diet.
17. Use Plenty of Herbs and Spices
There are many incredibly healthy herbs and spices out there. For example, ginger and turmeric both have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, leading to various health benefits. Try make an effort to include as many different herbs and spices as you can. Many of them can have powerful beneficial effects on your health and a great substitute for salt and sugar filled sauces.
18. Track Your Food Intake
The only way to know exactly what you are eating, is to weigh your foods and use a nutrition tracker like MyFitnessPal or keep a food diary. This is important to know how many calories you are eating. It is also essential to make sure that you’re getting in enough protein, fiber and micronutrients. Studies show that people who track their food intake in one way or another tend to be more successful at losing weight and sticking to a healthy diet. Not only can you measure your food intake but you can measure your waistline too – the first step to starting your healthy lifestyle. Measure your steps, measure your calories intake, measure your weight… when you start to see the difference it will motivate you even more.
19. Get rid of excess Belly Fat
Not all body fat is equal. It is mostly the fat in your abdominal cavity, the belly fat, that causes problems. This fat builds up around the organs, and is strongly linked to metabolic disease. For this reason, your waist size may be a much stronger marker for your health than the number on the scale. Cutting carbs, reduce sugar, eat more protein and eating plenty of fibre are all excellent ways to get rid of belly fat. Get that measuring tape out!
20. Short term “Diet”, short term solution
Diets are notoriously ineffective, and rarely work well in the long term. In fact, “dieting” is one of the strongest predictors for future weight gain. Instead of going on a diet, try adopting a healthier lifestyle. Focus on nourishing your body, instead of depriving it. Remember, weight loss should follow as a natural side effect of better food choices and improved metabolic health.
Improving your lifestyle with small steps in the right direction will have a big impact on your well-being. Start Today!