These days, when we think of nature, we tend to think of idyllic, green landscapes. But historically, nature has been viewed as a powerful restorative force that's present within all of us. Our hectic, 24/7 world can obscure it, but it's there nevertheless-ready to be tapped into for a life-changing experience.
Over the next three months, our "Go Natural in 90" guide will offer simple ways to help you harness the power of nature. To kick it off, we've consulted a variety of experts and distilled their knowledge into 30 practical tips that can help you get started. Whether you're struggling with a soda habit, need to improve your diet, or could just use an energy boost, we invite you to join us on the journey of going natural.
This is a 3-part series-don't miss our July and August issues for more ways to overhaul your diet, health, beauty routine, and home environment!
Day 1: Get Lemons
Start your day with lemon water, recommends Steve Prussack, author of Juice Guru: Transform Your Life by Adding One Juice a Day. Squeeze between one-half and one lemon into a glass of water, drink it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, and wait for 20 minutes before eating. Although lemon tastes acidic, it has an alkalizing effect, which helps detoxify and rejuvenate your system.
Day 2: Read a Book in Bed
Reading a book at bedtime-the traditional kind, printed on paper-instead of looking at an electronic screen can help you wind down and get a better night's sleep. In contrast, looking at a screen can keep you awake and make it harder to sleep well during the night.
Day 3: Exercise Gently
Although high-intensity exercise has its place, if you want to de-stress, do it gently, recommends Christine Horner, MD, author of Radiant Health Ageless Beauty. When doing aerobic exercise, whether it's walking, jogging, cycling, or using gym equipment, work at 50 percent of what feels like your top capacity. Over time, she says, "That capacity increases in a gentle way."
Day 4: Dry Brush
Holly Lucille, ND, recommends dry brushing your skin with a loofah or brush with natural bristles-not synthetic ones. Before you get in the shower, spend five minutes brushing along each part of your body, toward the heart. It improves circulation, helps eliminate toxins, and feels great. Taking a shower after dry brushing will wash off dead skin cells and leave you feeling refreshed and energized.
Day 5: Eat Asparagus
Asparagus is one of the top prebiotic foods, meaning it nourishes beneficial bacteria in your gut. Feeding those bacteria improves digestion. Try steaming asparagus and, after cooking, season with extra virgin olive oil and natural sea salt.
Day 6: Drink the Right Coffee
The right kind of coffee is "the healthiest new superfood we have," says Bob Arnot, MD, author of The Coffee Lover's Diet. Coffee grown at high altitudes, lightly roasted, is highest in antioxidants and lower in caffeine than mass-produced, ground coffee on supermarket shelves. A fine grind delivers more concentrated nutrients. Whether you drink it hot or cold, black without sugar is best. Many of these coffees are fair trade, and some are organic.
Day 7: Replace a Packaged Food
If any packaged food is one of your staples, whether it's a nutrition bar or cereal, check the ingredients for any chemical additives, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, and refined oils. Soy, cottonseed, and canola oils are most often refined. If you find any of these, look for a different brand without the unnatural ingredients-your local health food store can help.
Day 8: Take a Multi-Every Day
Studies show that taking a good-quality multivitamin can immediately reduce stress and boost mood, and ongoing use can improve memory and mental performance. In a survey of 10,000 American adults, people taking a multi on most days were more than twice as likely to get recommended amounts of essential nutrients, compared to people who took no supplements..
Day 9: Get Rid of Toxic Candles
Scented candles most often contain synthetic scents made with hormone-disrupting toxins. Swap them for unscented candles or those scented with nontoxic, natural essential oils-sometimes labeled as aromatherapy candles.
Day 10: Eat Organic Strawberries
Among all produce commonly sold in the United States, nonorganic strawberries have the highest pesticide levels, according to the 2017 analysis of pesticide levels by the Environmental Working Group. Strawberries are high in vitamin C and other antioxidants, and are good for heart health, so it's worth finding the organic kind.
Day 11: Take Curcumin Daily
Curcumin, the active ingredient in the curry spice turmeric, can help improve the liver's ability to detoxify on an ongoing basis. Gaetano Morello, ND, recommends taking a patented form, such as BCM-95, Meriva, or Theracurmin, for enhanced detoxification. Turmeric supplements are another way to take curcumin and have been shown to reduce inflammation, enhance mental focus, and more.
Day 12: Get Herbal Pain Relief
"Prescription and over-the-counter drugs can make chronic pain worse, since many medications are designed to block the transmission of pain from the site to the brain, and over time, nerves send even stronger pain signals," says Dave Foreman, RPh, ND, aka "The Herbal Pharmacist." Instead, he recommends supplements with Perluxan, a patented extract of hops that relieves pain by fighting inflammation. Topical creams containing Celadrin, applied to painful areas, are also high on Foreman's list.
Day 13: Ditch Diet Soda
Studies show that people who drink diet soda can gain more weight than regular soda drinkers because artificial sweeteners trick the brain into craving more food. Research also shows that diet soda contributes to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke risk just as much as regular soda. And, according to the latest new research, diet soda can even raise the risk of dementia. Take it one day at a time-for today, go without that daily fix of diet soda. And then one day will turn two days and so on. Try natural or organic sodas with a hint of sweetness from fruit or stevia. Or make your own: Combine sparkling water with a splash of pomegranate juice and a squeeze of lime for a refreshing, soda-like beverage.
Day 14: Switch to Nontoxic Soap
Antibacterial ingredients in soaps can destroy beneficial bacteria without improving cleanliness, and synthetic fragrances can disrupt hormones. Look for a soap that is either unscented or gets its scent from natural essential oils. Tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial ingredient that doesn't destroy beneficial bacteria.
Day 15: Get a Nature Boost
Studies show that spending as little as five minutes being active in nature, whether it's walking in a city park, gardening in your back yard, horseback riding along a local trail, or hiking in the open country, lifts mood and self-esteem. Water, such as a stream or lake, enhances the effect even more. Being in nature also reduces stress and makes people more caring and generous.
Day 16: Check Your Computer Position
Having your computer in the right position can prevent neck and back problems. "Work in comfort," says Karen Jacobs, EdD, a professor of occupational therapy at Boston University. The top of the monitor should be at or just below eye level. For the right distance, hold your arm straight in front at shoulder height and make a fist. Your knuckles should touch the monitor.
Day 17: Get Plants
Plants don't just look pretty. Indoor air pollution in offices and homes can emanate from particle board, furniture, window coverings, carpeting, and paper products. Formaldehyde is a major culprit, but indoor plants can absorb and neutralize significant amounts. Korean scientists tested 86 different plants and found that ferns are most effective, the top one being a Japanese royal fern (Osmunda japonica).
Day 18: Exercise Outdoors
Getting out of the gym and taking your exercise routine outdoors can enhance the effects. "It's a different environment for your lungs and makes you work harder," says Lacey Stone, a Los Angeles-based celebrity trainer. The change can improve fitness results by adding variety, which can also be motivating.
Day 19: Use Aromatherapy for Summer Travel
Pack essential oils in checked baggage, sealed tightly in plastic food storage bags to avoid spills. Include several empty one-ounce plastic spray bottles that you can fill with bottled water and essential oils for blending on the fly. Make your own travel-friendly face mist: Before you take off, create a facial mist for
easy access that incorporates balancing geranium, uplifting grapefruit, and calming lavender-key essential oils that will protect skin from airborne germs and stale airplane air. Grapefruit will also help lessen puffiness from dehydration caused by air conditioning. Mist your face regularly to soothe dry, taut skin.
Day 20: Take Breaks from Sitting
If you sit at work all day, taking short breaks to move around can help protect you against an expanding waistline and greater risk for heart disease and diabetes-two hazards of prolonged sitting. While there is no hard-and-fast rule, consider a move-around break at least once per hour, and do other things that involve moving around. Cleaning out a closet or garage, or even walking around while talking on the phone, are helpful.
Day 21: Sip Some Magnesium
Lack of magnesium contributes to stress, muscle cramps, poor sleep, and lack of energy, but getting enough can help prevent and relieve these and other problems, including headaches, pain, PMS, and depression. Adequate magnesium also helps lower risk for asthma, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. Try mixing a powdered magnesium supplement into a water bottle you can sip from during the day.
Day 22: Balance Hormones with the Sun
"Get some morning sun," says Alan Christianson, NMD, author of The Adrenal Reset Diet. It will help balance hormones and improve your mood, energy level, and metabolism. Within an hour of waking up, get 20-30 minutes of sunlight, even if it's cloudy. At the very least, have your morning brew or breakfast near a window or on a sunny porch.
Day 23: Pep Up with Protein
When afternoon doldrums hit, mix your favorite protein powder with water or a plant milk, such as almond. If you don't have access to a blender, use a shaker cup to mix well and create a bit of froth. "Avoid artificial flavoring and fillers," says Tim McComsey, RD, fitness trainer and founder of TRYM Fit in Dallas, who favors plant proteins. Per serving, look for about 100 calories, 15-20 grams of protein, and no more than 5 grams of sugar.
Day 24: Indulge Your Skin
Instead of using body lotions with synthetic fragrances and other toxins, indulge in naturally moisturizing lotions with shea butter or natural oils such as coconut, vitamin E, almond, argan, or sea buckthorn oil. All have a long history of being used to enhance beauty.
Day 25: Use a Natural Face Serum
For brightening skin, reducing fine lines, evening out tone, and creating a natural glow, serums deliver concentrated nutrients to skin. Vitamin C brightens and strengthens. Hyaluronic acid nourishes and helps skin retain its natural moisture. Collagen supports structure. Vitamin A targets wrinkles and discoloration. And turmeric helps brighten, lighten, and firm skin. Select a serum for your personal needs and use daily.
Day 26: Strengthen and Support Muscles
After age 30, the human body begins to lose muscle, which eventually leads to frailty later in life. If you don't already do any resistance-style exercise, squats, lunges, and push-ups can get you started. Push-ups can initially be done against a wall, gradually working toward floor push-ups. Working your muscles improves body shape, helps bones stay strong, and enhances metabolism in a way that reduces risk for diabetes.
Day 27: Trade Plastic for Glass
Plastic food containers can have BPA (bisphenol-A), a hormone-disrupting chemical that can leach when in contact with acidic food, when heated in a microwave, or as the plastic degrades over time. Although BPA-free containers are now easy to find, glass ones are preferable.
Day 28: Drink Pure Water
Tap water can contain an assortment of contaminants, from lead and other toxic metals to a variety of chemicals. For drinking and cooking, use spring or filtered water from a trusted source. Or, consider installing a filter for all the water in your home. When comparing filters, look for third-party certifications, and check which types of contaminants each filter is designed to trap.
Day 29: Take a Brisk Walk
Walking-30 minutes daily on most days-is the basic recommendation to maintain health and help reduce risks for diabetes and heart disease. To get the full benefits, walk briskly enough to speed up heart rate and breathing a bit. That way, the heart works a little harder than normal and gets stronger. And if time is an issue, you can break your 30-minute trek into a series of shorter walks. New research shows that walks boost mood-another reason to get out there and take a summer stroll.
Day 30: Harness Beauty from Within
Although all nutrients affect our appearance, collagen is the go-to ingredient to plump up and support skin from within. One of the beneficial components of bone broth, collagen is found naturally in gelatinous joint tissue. In supplements, it can be taken in pills, in liquid supplements, or as a powder in smoothies and in a variety of recipes.
Basic Cheat Sheet
The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that more than 80,000 different chemicals are used in food and other products that are part of our daily lives. While no one can completely avoid them, there are ways to reduce our exposure, decrease the harmful effects, and enhance our natural detoxification systems.
Two key characteristics can make it easier to identify products with fewer or no added chemicals:
- Organic: Foods, beverages, skincare and household products, and even clothing can be organic-and, thus, produced without toxic chemicals. It isn't possible to buy organic versions of everything we use, but these days, there are more organic options than ever. Studies have found that switching to a predominantly organic diet reduces blood levels of pesticides in a matter of days.
- Non-GMo: Genetically modified foods or food ingredients, generally referred to as GMOs, are likely to contain more pesticides and herbicides, because GMO plants are designed to withstand stronger agricultural chemicals or to produce pesticides in the plant to resist pests. Although organic foods cannot contain GMOs, those that are labeled or certified "Non-GMO" are a good option when organic versions aren't available or practical.
It wouldn't be fair to say that every organic or non-GMO product is ideal for health. Processed organic foods or beverages can contain added sugar or other problem ingredients, such as gluten. But choosing organic and non-GMO products can help reduce your toxic burden and contribute to an overall natural lifestyle.