The idea that we are destined to fall victim to one of the many chronic illnesses that plague Americans is just not true. Our environment largely determines the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the habits we develop. Through common-sense lifestyle changes, we can improve our chances of avoiding serious illnesses. Below are 10 tips to improve your health destiny and to help you feel better every day.
1. Fruits & vegetables
It's easy to forget to eat daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables; however, the effort can pay huge dividends. The vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals found in them protect your body from a variety of illnesses. They can act as antioxidants, improving overall general health and even retarding the growth of certain cancers. The American Cancer Society recommends eating six to eight servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
2. Avoid sugar
Elevated blood sugar levels create myriad physiological problems. Consuming large amounts of it results in "glycation"-a process in which sugar in the blood sticks to proteins, hormones, and cells. The resulting damage can contribute to increased vulnerability to diabetes and heart disease. More than 80 million Americans have elevated blood sugar levels-and the number is growing. There aren't many ways you can improve your diet more than cutting down on excess sugar. If you can't eliminate it, at least reduce it by switching to all-natural substitutes, such as stevia.
3. Healthful fats
Essential fats are critical for the functionality of the human body. The problem lies in the vast amounts of bad fats — trans fats and saturated fats — that we consume in processed foods found in the typical American diet. Healthful fats, such as omega-3 fish oils and polyunsaturated fats, can improve a number of health areas, including cardiovascular health, cognitive function, and even in the regulation of blood sugar. Work good fats into your diet by consuming nuts, seeds, and healthful oils such as olive oil, and make cold-water fish, such as salmon, part of your weekly diet.
Sleep is much more important than we used to think, and most of us aren't getting enough. A good night's sleep not only rejuvenates your body's energy levels, it also benefits other less obvious health concerns. Maintaining a balanced immune system, fending off the effects of aging, and keeping your memory sharp all depend on getting good, restful sleep. Lack of proper sleep increases your susceptibility to disease, as was demonstrated in a recent University of Chicago research study that discovered increased blood sugar levels in those with insufficient sleep patterns.
Studies show that people who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight and have higher blood sugar levels, both markers for increased risk of chronic disease. So begin each morning with a healthful breakfast that includes ample protein and fiber. You'll not only find it easier to control your weight, you'll have more energy and improved concentration. If your mornings are rushed, find a good protein powder that's fortified with vitamins and minerals and contains fiber. Blend it with frozen fruit or your favorite beverage for a quick, nutritious breakfast substitute.
6. Reduce ‘body burden'
The average American has 400-800 toxic environmental chemicals in his or her body at any given moment. And those are just the ones we've tested for-there are more than 85,000 additional EPA-registered chemicals that haven't even been analyzed. "Body burden" is the accumulation of these chemicals in your body, with your level of burden being equal to your total exposure to toxic chemicals minus your body's ability to get rid of them. To reduce your body burden, you have to minimize your exposure to environmental toxins and improve your body's ability to eliminate them. (Editor's note: See Morello's book, Whole Body Cleansing, which describes a scientific approach to lowering body burden.)
7. Take supplements
High-quality nutritional supplements (and there is a difference) can have a positive impact on health. At a minimum, you should adopt a daily supplementation routine that includes a solid multivitamin-mineral supplement (one with phytonutrients), triglyceride-based fish oil (one that provides stable oil, free of peroxide), probiotics, and fiber (at least 35 grams).
Don't accept that the prospect of facing chronic illness is entirely a matter of fate. Adopt these simple lifestyle habits and you'll not only give your body the foundation it needs to prevent many illnesses, but you'll also look younger and feel better every single day.
Water is a precious nutrient. The average human body is, after all, 57 percent water! Water is also the solvent that flushes impurities and toxins from your system. Keeping cells hydrated is important for proper physiological functions. Drink at least eight glasses every day.
See Also How Much Water Should I Drink?
9. Stress less
You've heard it said many times-stress kills! It's been linked to heart disease, cancer, and a host of other ailments. But what can you do about it? You can't expect simply to ignore life's stresses-the bills will keep coming and the boss will keep pushing, but you can reduce the physical impact stress causes. Exercise, meditation, yoga, and prayer can all help you deal with stress. Also, relax! Take time to smell the flowers along the way. Rhodiola rosea is an incredible botanical extract that can help the body cope with stress (make sure you take it on an empty stomach in the morning). If stress is causing you to lose sleep, there are cortisol-reducing natural products that can help.
You've heard it a million times and now you'll hear it again-exercise is vital! You need to move your muscles, not only to keep them toned but also because your body releases important chemicals when you do-chemicals that research shows can help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Try to include 20-30 minutes a day of exercise such as walking, jogging, swimming, weight lifting, or yoga.