Every day, you're faced with dozens of directives from doctors, health experts, and well-meaning family members: exercise 30 minutes a day, eat fish twice a week, floss every night. But it's just not possible to do everything perfectly. You can't cut corners on some things, such as quitting smoking or giving up trans fats, but other health mandates offer wiggle room for sane shortcuts. Want real-life advice for healthy living? Here are a dozen easier ways to do good-for-you things:
1 Eat a balanced, healthy breakfast. Ideally, you’d like to have protein, complex carbs, and healthy fat, with about a third of your daily caloric intakes. Studies show that people who eat regular breakfasts maintain their weight and have a lower risk of diabetes.
Sane shortcuts: Breakfast bars are a tempting shortcut, but many of them have too much sugar, too many calories, not enough fiber, and very little protein. Read labels carefully. Other ideas:
2 Boost cardiovascular health with daily activity. About 30 minutes of vigorous activity every day—or even most days—can improve cardiovascular health, reduce LDL cholesterol, and normalize weight.
Sane shortcuts: If a 30-minute run seems out of your reach, break it up into manage-able bursts of intense activity—anything that gets your heart beating faster.
3 Get at least 8 hours of sleep. Less than that, and you’ll increase your risk of high blood pressure and weight gain; other studies show skimping on sleep is linked to a lowered immune system.
Sane shortcuts: Make sure your bedroom is the ideal sleep environment—quiet, dark, comfortable—and follow good sleep hygiene: avoid caffeine in the late afternoon, don’t watch scary movies, and follow a calming pre-bed ritual. Other ideas:
4 Meditate. A number of studies show that a daily meditation practice lowers blood pressure and reduces stress.
Sane shortcuts: The idea behind meditation is to calm the nervous system, slow your heart rate, and lower stress. Close your eyes, listen to your breath, and repeat the word "calm" or "relax." If spending 30 minutes cross-legged on a cushion is unthinkable: Get comfortable (you don't have to sit on the floor). Choose a comfortable chair that keeps your spine erect, but not so comfortable that you'll doze off. Start with short—no more than 10 minutes—sessions to establish the habit.
5 Eat 5—9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. They’re rich in fiber and disease-preventive antioxidants, and they help protect you from heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and many other illnesses.
Sane shortcuts: Fresh, seasonal, organic produce is the ideal, but that’s a tall order for many Americans. Other options:
6 Eat fish twice a week. Fatty varieties—such as salmon, sardines, and tuna—are rich in omega-3s that protect against heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and inflammation.
Sane shortcuts: Flaxseed, walnuts, and a few other plant foods are also rich in omega-3 fats, but in a form that must be converted by the body, so they’re not your best source. Fishy ideas:
7 Always wear sunscreen. One recent study found that using sunscreen on a daily basis reduced the risk of melanoma, the most dangerous kind of skin cancer.
Sane shortcuts: The idea is to reduce cancer risk and protect against aging and skin damage. But wearing sunscreen inhibits the skin’s production of vitamin D, and the American Medical Association recommends 10 minutes of direct sun exposure several times a week. Some ideas:
8 Eat 20—35 grams of fiber daily. Soluble and insoluble fiber are linked with a decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Sane shortcuts: Don’t count on grains. Calorie-for-calorie, beans, vegetables, and even some fruits are better bets. Other ways to get more fiber:
9 Brush after every meal, and floss daily. Besides preventing cavities, good oral hygiene protects against disease. In one study, people with periodontal disease were almost twice as likely to have heart disease.
Sane shortcuts: Brush after every meal when you’re eating at home, and tote a toothbrush when you’re out. If brushing is out of the question:
10 Lift weights. Pumping iron encourages bone density and lowers body fat, which increases metabolism and lowers heart disease risk.
Sane shortcuts: Get a personal trainer to show you the ropes. Even one session will give you the tools and know-how to stick to a regular regimen. If you can’t lift weights at the gym:
11 Stay hydrated. Try to drink at least eight glasses of water per day. It helps maintain blood pressure, promotes bowel regularity, and may prevent heart disease.
Sane shortcuts: Eight-a-day has long been the standard recommendation, but it depends on your size, level of activity, and overall diet (coffee, for example, acts as a diuretic, increasing your body’s need for water). How to hydrate:
Total Body Tune-Up
Feel like you need an overhaul? Here's a quick guide to targeted supplements for every system in your body.
For Your Brain:
PHOSPHATIDYLSERINE: This phosphorus-containing fat is essential to cell-membrane health, particularly in brain cells. Dosages of 300 mg daily have been shown to improve memory.
ACETYL-L-CARNITINE: Taking 2 grams daily led to improvement in mental fatigue and sharper thinking in a study of 66 centenarians.
For Your Eyes:
ZEAXANTHIN: Has been shown to reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, and it may help protect eyes from oxidative damage and UV rays. Try a combination formula with lutein and follow dosage instructions.
OMEGA-3s: Reduced the risk of age-related blindness by more than 30 percent in a study of more than 1,800 people Take 3 grams daily.
For Your Heart:
CoQ10/Ubiquinol: CoQ10 can significantly improve systolic and diastolic blood pressures, and even eliminate the need for some antihypertensive drugs. A daily dose of 300 mg is recommended. Ubiquinol is considered to be the most highly absorbable form of CoQ10.
RIBOSE: Has benefits for angina, heart attack, and heart failure. Patients with congestive heart failure who took 5 grams of ribose daily for three weeks developed more efficient heart-pumping action, improved stamina, and overall quality of life, while no improvement was seen in a placebo group. Take 1,000—2,000 mg daily.
PROBIOTICS: Have long been used for digestive issues. They're especially good if you've been on antibiotics, as they repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria. Follow label instructions.
DIGESTIVE ENZYMES: They break down proteins that, if left undigested, can cause inflammation in the body. They may also break down infectious bacteria in the gut. Dosages range from 5 mg to 100 mg.
For Bones and Joints:
GLUCOSAMINE SULFATE: May treat the root cause of osteoarthritis by helping the body manufacture and rebuild joint cartilage. Numerous studies have shown a clear benefit. Dosage is 1,500 mg daily. It must be taken for at least 8 weeks before benefits become apparent.
VITAMIN K: Prevents bone loss by helping with calcium utilization and is necessary for maintaining healthy bone. Look for it in combination products, along with MSM to protect cartilage and bones.
For Overall Energy:
GREEN FOODS: Spirulina, chlorella, and other algaes and grasses known as green foods, are super-concentrated sources of nutrition—including omega-3s, fiber, and trace minerals—that can give you incredible energy. Green foods powders can easily be mixed into beverages and smoothies. Follow label instructions.
RHODIOLA: Rhodiola rosea is an herbal adaptogen that combats physical and mental fatigue and stress. Take 500 mg twice daily.
|Solgar Wild Alaskan Full Spectrum Omega
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|Doctor's Best Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM Plus Hyaluronic Acid
Support joint and connective tissue health with this smart blend of nutrients, including BioCell Collagen.
|Nature's Way Primadophilus Optima High Potency Probiotics
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|American Health Digest HPE
Featuring bio-active naturally derived enzymes, this formula helps support thorough digestion and helps break down "hard-to-digest" foods.
Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Effervescent