Top 5 Diet Hacks For A Healthier Life
1. Increase Fiber
Dietary fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate that comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, found in oats, barley, legumes, citrus, apples, and some vegetables, dissolves in water to form a gel. It lowers cholesterol levels and moderates blood sugar. Insoluble fiber mostly keeps things moving through your gut at a good pace. All fiber slows down digestion so that even sugary foods spike blood sugar less. Fiber also fills you up so that you feel less hungry, even after consuming fewer calories.
2. Eat Your Veggies
Vegetables contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and numerous phytonutrient compounds that we have only recently begun to recognize. Human beings evolved to eat a lot of vegetable matter. And while there may be some extreme populations that get by without vegetables, by and large, the more veggies that are included in a diet, the healthier its people tend to be.
3. Eat Healthy Fats
Fats can be saturated or unsaturated. Generally speaking, unsaturated fats are considered healthier than saturated fats, particularly the omega-3 fats from fish and seafood, as well as walnuts and flax seeds. Polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, avocados, sunflower seeds, and cottonseed oils, seem to have heart-protective qualities, especially when they replace saturated fats.
4. Discover Fermented Foods
Diets rich in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled olives, and cheeses seem to have a host of health benefits. A study published in 2013 in the Journal of Medicinal Food tracked 100 young men who ate an identical diet except for the amount of kimchi they consumed (none; approx. 1 ounce; approx. 8 ounces). After one week, the kimchi-eating groups had lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and fasting blood glucose than the control group—and those who ate the most kimchi had bigger drops.
5. Eat More Fresh Fish
Many of the world’s healthiest diets include a lot of fish. Fish has quality protein and healthy fats, particularly omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce CHD through their anti-inflammatory and other properties. Fish and seafood are also seen as beneficial because they typically replace red meat in a meal, which often has a less desirable fat profile (i.e., more saturated fat).
Do you follow these diet “do’s”?
3 Chemicals That Are Making You Sick
The chemicals and germs that we encounter daily can have disastrous effects on our health. Infectious diseases are bouncing back to new levels of virulence after decades of largely being pushed back by advances in vaccines, antibiotics and other treatments. Industrial and agricultural chemicals are often found to be harmful only after having been in widespread use for years. For example, a 2014 report conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and published in Lancet Neurology found that a growing number of chemicals are linked to brain disorders in children. The report found new evidence about six newly recognized neurotoxicants that have negative health effects on children: manganese, chlorpyrifos and DDT (pesticides), tetrachloroethylene (a solvent), and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants). The report’s authors warn that many more chemicals likely remain unidentified as neurotoxicants. Of course, these chemicals were harmful all along but are only now understood to be so. How many more chemicals that we encounter daily are harming our health? To me the answer is to minimize contact with these chemicals as much as possible.
Washing our hands frequently with soap and water and avoiding touching our eyes, nose and mouth where these invisible threats can actually enter our bodies creates a create a clean zone around our bodies so that nothing gets in. This powerful “first line of defense” is one of the best ways to protect ourselves from getting sick. In fact, simple hand washing can prevent about 30% of diarrhea-related illnesses and about 20% of respiratory infections (such as colds).
Taking things one step further, there is a very simple habit you can create that will eliminate an enormous amount of pathogens, pesticides, and heavy metals from entering your living space: simply take off your shoes when you step inside your house.
The bottom of your shoes have several hundred times more bacteria than your toilet seat!
What do you do to protect yourself and your family from these hidden chemical threats?
Stop Getting Sick – Stay Healthy Instead
Our bodies are remarkably good at taking care of themselves. Why then, do we get sick at all? We get sick when our bodies’ defenses are overrun.
Most of the time, we think about being “well” as avoiding colds and the flu so we can go about our daily schedule. We eat right, get some sleep, try not to drink too much, and generally keep healthy so we don’t miss a lot of work or feel lousy. That is the working definition of staying well for a lot of people.
For some people, however, staying well has an entirely different meaning. To those who battle ongoing diseases like MS, cancer, lupus, multiple sensitivity disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other conditions, staying well can mean the difference between a productive life and one spent as a prisoner to their disease.
It’s my belief that the key to staying well is two fold: to minimize exposure to pathogens and environmental chemicals that can make us sick and also to keep our defenses strong through adequate sleep, exercise, a health-promoting diet, and practices that preserve our beneficial microbiome. I’m not a doctor, but when I look at people who are sick, it often appears to me that not only was there exposure to the disease, but there was a simultaneous lowering of the defenses that let the illness take hold.
Throughout my book, “Living Well”, I discuss good practices for promoting robust health: getting eight hours of sleep each night and setting regular daily schedules; exercising and avoiding sedentary behavior; seeking out healthy foods and avoiding empty calories and additives; and protecting and fostering the beneficial microbes that play an integral role in our good health. Following the Living Well Program will give anyone an excellent foundation in warding off illness.
What do you do to avoid getting sick?
Don’t Procrastinate – If You Dread It, DO IT!
Not all tasks are of equal importance and not all are enjoyable. It’s easy to procrastinate on the difficult ones. When you’re working with your list of daily tasks, take a moment to figure out what is really important. Which items on your list must get done? Once you figure those out, put a star by them and do them first.
When you do your hardest or most important tasks first in the day, it ensures you’ll get them done with your most energy and focus. You’ll also avoid the urge to procrastinate any further.
Is there something on your list that you dread? Then that’s the thing you need to put first. Typically, we tend to procrastinate on the things we dread or dislike. This sets up the pattern of checking email, replying to a few letters, or doing any of a number of low-priority tasks to avoid the harder ones. It’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we’re checking things off our task lists, but we’re really killing time. This is a recipe for suddenly realizing in shock that it’s noon and you haven’t accomplished any of the things you really should have done.
Invariably, the tasks we dread are important ones. (Because if you don’t like it, and if it isn’t important, then why are you doing it at all?) Tackle these first. Get them done. You’ll go into the rest of your day with a feeling of great accomplishment because of all you got done already. This is one of the reasons why I’m a big fan of exercising first thing in the morning—then it’s out of the way, and I don’t have to spend any time worrying about it. Plus, doing it feels great.
And once you finish that important task, what should you do next? That’s right…probably the next-most-important task on your list. Do this and, at the end of the day, even if it turned out to be one of those days when you can’t possibly accomplish everything, at least you will have knocked out the most important things. And you will have given them your best focus and energy, because you did them first.
Multi-tasking Is A Lie
What if I told you multi-tasking wasn’t a virtue, but a practice that could be holding you back from success?
Let’s face it… modern life can be extremely distracting if you let it be—and maybe even if you don’t let it. The constant updates from email, phone calls, social media, and all those interesting videos and articles that friends keep recommending can really put a drain on your focus. Add TV and video or casual games to the picture, and the constant exposure to digital stimuli can be overwhelming.
As a result, we are constantly inundated with distractions. Many of us call this “multi-tasking” but in reality, the research says that there is no multi-tasking. Computers may have multiple processors, but human beings can only concentrate on one thing at a time. What people call multi-tasking is actually switching between tasks quickly without getting as much done in a given time period. This is a terribly inefficient practice. It takes time to regain your focus each time you are interrupted from your task or you switch tasks.
People who try to multi-task have also been found to be distracted more easily than those who work on one thing at a time. A study published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance found that test subjects lost time every time they switched between tasks, and the more complex the tasks, the more time they lost.
Beyond the time lost on any one activity, this constant onslaught of cell phone vibrations, messages, Internet media, web videos, and social media create a constant state of anxiety and distraction. As we acclimate to this level of constant stimulation, we crave it—constantly checking for messages in a vicious circle of distraction. Like the famous frog in the pot who is gradually warmed to a boil, we don’t easily perceive how bad our life has become while we’re in the middle of it.
The Power Of Positive Thinking
Every morning, right when I wake up and before getting out of bed, I practice positive thinking. I keep my eyes closed and spend a few minutes in that space between being asleep and awake thinking about the many things I’m grateful for in life. Call it a meditation, a gratitude exercise, an affirmation, or counting my blessings, this simple habit starts my day off on a very positive note.
It turns out this “positive thinking” habit is also validated by research. Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk (and also a biotechnologist by training), suggests that two opposing thoughts cannot occupy our minds at the same time. As an example, we can’t shake hands and concurrently deliver a blow with those hands. Thus, by replacing anger, jealousy, or spite, we can train our minds to consciously replace those thoughts with acceptance, generosity, or forgiveness. Here again, science from universities in Madison, Wisconsin, and Berkeley, California, has validated this opinion. Monks from Ricard’s order who had done thousands of hours of mind training and meditation tested four standard deviations higher than the average on a brain-scan measure of happiness when they meditated on “compassion.” This measurement is basically off the bell curve.
So, science shows us that engaging in positive thinking from the moment we wake up can have a measurable impact on our brain waves and on the quality of the rest of our day. I encourage you to try this exercise!
Over the years, I’ve had friends share some really helpful ideas about staying positive, like keeping a “gratitude journal” by their bedside, jotting down important thoughts or touch points that help them stay in a state of positive gratitude. What do you do to practice positive thinking? Share your progress with us via the comments section below. I’m always looking for additional ways to appreciate and express gratitude. Aren’t we all?
Why Is The American Diet So SAD?
The Standard American Diet is SAD. It’s characterized by lots of corn-fed meat, simple carbohydrates like white flour and potatoes, fried foods, chemical additives, saturated and hydrogenated fats, and lots of refined sugars and additives. It’s also extremely high in processed and prepackaged foods. For a mental image of the SAD, picture a super-sized, fast-food hamburger with fries and a soda, plus a candy bar for dessert.
These foods are easy to make in centralized factories and ship out to stores, mini-marts, shopping malls, and fast-food restaurants. It’s pre-prepared and packaged for quick and convenient reheating in a microwave or cooking in a deep fryer. This standard food is very convenient to ship, store, and quickly serve to suit the modern American lifestyle very well.
In broad strokes, the Standard American Diet is 50% carbohydrates, 35% fat, and 15% protein. The carbohydrates are mostly simple sugars and refined flours. The fats are primarily saturated fat—much of it from cooking oils retained from deep-frying. The American diet is equally characterized by what it mostly doesn’t include, such as enough fiber and complex carbohydrates, vegetables and other plant-based foods, fish, dietary fiber, fermented foods, and healthy fats. As we look at diet patterns, it’s extremely important to consider not only what they include, but also what they leave out.
Excessive serving sizes that come with the SAD are a big culprit here. As part of my work, I travel to Europe several times a year. One thing you notice right away in Europe is that the people are a lot thinner. In fact, less than 30% of Europeans are overweight or obese, compared to over 68% of Americans. One of the secrets is in portion size. European portions seem to be about half the size of American portions. Try cutting back to “euro-size” meals and watch your health improve!
3 Game-Changing Supplements You Need Now
Having spent my entire professional life at the intersection of nutrition and health while living in the real world, I know that it’s tough to maintain this perfect eating program every single day. There are a few specific supplements that can support your health in ways that even nine servings of fruits and vegetables cannot.
Purified Fish Oil
I take 1,000 mg of a highly purified omega-3 fish oil supplement, because I can’t always get enough seafood. I would rather get a little too much omega-3 than risk not getting enough. Unfortunately, enough mercury is in the ocean food chain now that it can concentrate in fish oils, so only take fish oil supplements that have been purified using the “supercritical CO2” method. This process uses very cold carbon dioxide gas and no chemical solvents to extract the omega-3s from the fish oil. It leaves behind all mercury and other impurities.
You have probably heard about the benefits of red wine. These benefits are thought to come from resveratrol, a powerful polyphenol and anti-fungal chemical found in the skin of grapes and also found in red wine, in small amounts. Resveratrol is one of the most exciting supplements around because of its power as an antioxidant and its role in slowing the rate of cellular aging. Harvard-educated researchers Dr. Christoph Westphal and Dr. David Sinclair conducted genetic research on resveratrol and call it the fountain of youth. But not all resveratrol is created equally.
Resveratrol in the “trans” form – the form the body can use – can be harvested in very high concentrations from other natural plant sources. This provides the resveratrol content equivalent of over 100 glasses of red wine in a concentrated supplement.
We know that Mediterranean people feast on the freshest fruits and vegetables, such as locally grown, ripe tomatoes. Unlike the store-bought variety we find here, the traditional Mediterranean diet calls for vibrant red, vine-ripened tomatoes. The carotenoid that gives tomatoes their distinctive color when ripe is called lycopene, and it is another powerful antioxidant. In the body, lycopene is known to support cardiovascular health, to protect skin from sun-induced aging, and to limit LDL cholesterol oxidation.
The Top 3 Diet Tips For A Longer Life
1. Cut the White Stuff, Especially Sugary Drinks
Looking for some simple diet tips that will change the way you feel and look almost immediately? Start with this one. Nature doesn’t provide many white foods like sugar and flour, and cutting simple sugars and carbohydrates is the best place to start Eating Well. Numerous studies have shown that when we eat a 100-calorie slice of bread, our bodies reduce our hunger response and caloric intake for the rest of the day (especially if it’s whole wheat bread with fiber, vitamins, and healthy fats). However, that same 100-calories from a soda or glass of apple juice does not reduce our hunger response. So it’s an extra 100 calories over what you would normally eat as opposed to the bread, which will count against your body’s daily set point of calories it seeks.
2. Eat Protein and Fiber at Every Meal
Most healthy diets include some protein at every meal, and it’s not always as obvious as a meat dish. Many cuisines have paired staple grains and legumes. Typically, neither one contains all the essential amino acids, or protein building blocks, on their own, but in conjunction they do. This is why you constantly see beans and grains combined in traditional cuisines around the world: red beans and rice, corn and pinto beans, rice and soy, wheat and lentils. These grain and legume combinations create complete proteins without any meat. Eating protein slows the absorption of sugars and starches, which reduces blood sugar spikes and crashes that encourage binge eating.
3. Maximize Variety, Especially with Veggies
For the very best diet tips, you don’t have to look much further than The Mediterranean Diet is high in vegetables and other plant-based foods, and these occur in a wide variety. People end up getting a lot of different phytonutrients from the plants. In addition to the well-known nutrients like Vitamins C and D, our bodies can benefit from hundreds, maybe thousands, of plant nutrients. Science is still discovering these and learning what roles they play in our health. Many don’t even have names yet. But by eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and grains, the people of the Mediterranean countries are able to benefit from having these in their diet, even without knowing what they are. Variety staves off nutritional deficiencies and promotes good health.
Do you consider yourself to be a healthy eater? What diet tips can you share?
Want A Healthy Heart? Walk, Don’t Run
The science is clear: if you want a healthy heart, start walking. For years, walking has been seen as running’s poor cousin, in terms of exercise value. While running can get you in fantastic shape and is a great exercise for many, walking is a superior exercise for many people for several reasons. First, you are more likely to suffer from a variety of injuries from running, including bad knees, twisted ankles, shin splints, and even foot problems. But because of it’s much lower impact there are far fewer walking injuries. A lot of data available shows that for many people, habitual running can be very hard on the joints. This is especially true for people who are over their ideal weight, since the impact from running is magnified with weight.
The research seems to support this view. There’s mounting evidence that very high levels of endurance exercise, such as repeatedly training for and running marathons, can cause small but very real coronary damage that builds up over time. A study in 2011 found that lifelong marathoners had a significant level of myocardial fibrosis, the very serious and irreversible scarring of the heart valves.
Additionally, a variety of studies show that running more than 20 miles per week may undo some of the benefits of regular exercise. A very interesting 15-year study looked at the overall mortality rates of 52,000 participants, who started out with a healthy heart, meaning no coronary heart disease, based on their running habits. While runners did have a 19% lower risk of all-cause mortality compared to non-runners, the details were surprising. The researchers expected to find that the benefits of running would rise to a certain point and then level out, with more running not necessarily giving more benefits. However, what they actually found was the surprise. After a certain point, the mortality benefits not only leveled out, they reversed, meaning that more running was actually undoing many of the health benefits of the exercise.