Contrary to popular belief, improving your health is possible with just a few basic habits that take only minutes a day. Follow my advice and try these simple, fast and effective tips below -- and I promise you will boost your total wellness and see a new healthy glow as soon as tomorrow's sunrise.
Dose up on vitamin D3: If you had to pick just one nutrient to dose daily vitamin D3 would definitely be your best bet as a supplement superpower. This one little tablet can reduce your risk of the flu (especially H1N1), weight gain, bone disease (osteoporosis), diabetes, cancer, heart disease, pain and inflammation, depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder and autoimmune disease. All these findings, and more, have led me to recommend a daily dose of 4,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 to all my patients.
Cut your sugar intake: Obvious sources of sugar are cookies, candies, pop, cakes, pies, muffins, baked goods, brown sugar and molasses. But my guess is that you will be surprised to realize all of the places that sugar seeps into your diet. Do you think of granola bars, energy drinks, juice, jam, most cereals, flavoured yogurt, ketchup and many other prepared condiments, white pasta, white rice or certain fruit as sources of sugar? You should.
All of these foods trigger the release of high amounts of insulin, the only hormone that always instructs the body to store energy as fat. Over time, high insulin also perpetuates your risk of increased belly fat, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, certain types of cancers and even Alzheimer's disease. Read labels and limit your intake of these sugary foods to only once or twice a week. Your body and brain will thank you for it.
Say goodnight to the Late Show: Yes, this means going to bed before 11 p.m. We have put sleep on the back-burner and as a result we have become a society of sleep-deprived individuals at greater risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer and depression. Starting tonight, make it your intention to achieve the recommended 7.5 - 9 hours of sleep a night (not more and not less), in the pitch dark, and you will not only enjoy greater energy, appetite control and mental focus daily -- you'll protect yourself from just about every disease associated with aging.
Enjoy more protein at breakfast: Skip toast, muffins, bagels, cereals, scones, oatmeal or danishes at your first meal of the day. The old adage to eat your carbs earlier in the day has set us many of us up for failure when it comes to reducing our overall sugar or carbohydrate intake. Studies show eating these foods not only increases our desire for them later in the day, they also increase appetite overall. Enjoy eggs or a whey protein isolate smoothie for breakfast and you will increase your metabolism and energy and free yourself from your chronic 3 p.m. cookie or muffin habit.
Add exercise to your omega-3s for fat loss: When Professor Peter Howe and his colleagues at the University of South Australia studied the effects of diet and exercise on the body, they found that fish oil supplements and exercise made a powerful fat-loss combination. During the study, overweight to obese adults with metabolic syndrome and a greater risk of heart disease took omega-3 fish oil daily in combination with moderate exercise three times a week for 12 weeks. Body fat stores, particularly ab fat, were significantly reduced in the fish-oil-plus-exercise group, but not in those who used fish oil or exercise alone. Fish oils make great sense for fat loss, especially when you are exercising.
Have you had your hug today?: Or taken time for a deep breath? If not, better act now. It may sound cliché, but these simple habits reduce the most harmful and destructive force on your health -- stress. Keeping stress in check is truly the most important factor influencing your wellness. If you need more inspiration to reduce your worry, a study at Purdue University proved that worrying takes up to 16 years off your life due to the destructive effects of cortisol.
Smear vitamin C serum on your skin: No matter how old you are or if you are a male or female, apply vitamin C serum to your skin after washing and before applying your moisturizer. Topical use of a product containing stabilized vitamin C can increase the production of collagen in the skin. It can also promote skin-cell growth and aid in cell regeneration, which translates to younger-looking skin and improved firmness.
<strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Edamame is full of <a href="http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=56288">protein and fibre.</a> <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> Buy frozen edamame beans and keep them in your office freezer, says registered dietician <a href="http://www.eatingforenergy.com/">Diana Steele of Eating For Energy in Vancouver, B.C.</a> Pop them in the microwave and add cherry tomatoes for a quick and wholesome snack.
<strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Cucumber is packed with vitamin K (needed for strong bones) and low-fat cheese is full of calcium. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> Steele recommends making mini cucumber sandwiches by taking low-fat cheese and turkey and wedging them in between two slices of cucumbers — the kids will also love this one.
<strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Low calories and tons of fresh fruit. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> Start a smoothie club at work. Steele recommends having one person make smoothies at the office for everyone in the club once a week. Keep this role rotating and try flavours like mixed berries and tropical fruit.
<strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Apples can <a href="http://www.besthealthmag.ca/eat-well/nutrition/15-health-benefits-of-eating-apples">boost your immune system</a> and natural peanut butter is full of protein. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> Dip sliced apple pieces in plain Cheerios for a crunchy snack.
<strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Eaten in portions, homemade trail mix can be <a href="http://www.myfitnesstrainer.com/free_fitness_library/p112/trail_mix_healthy.php">packed with fibre,</a> according to MyFitnessTrainer.com. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> For kids, Steele recommends making a homemade trail mix with seeds and dried fruits (avoid nuts because of allergies) and for yourself, add in popcorn or even whole wheat pretzels.
<strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> When made at home, muffins are low in fat and packed with healthy oats and dried fruits or vegetables. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> No, we're not talking about the store-bought kind or the sugary ones you pick up from a bakery. If you still want to snack on muffins, Steele suggests making a batch of zucchini pumpkin muffins. <a href="http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=1324023">Check out a recipe here</a>.
<strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> If you are buying tortillas from the store, avoid ones with excessive salt, sugar and corn, according LiveStrong.com. For the most part, homemade tortillas are not as bad as the store-bought kind. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> Take a whole wheat tortilla and spread almond butter on top. For an extra nutritional boost, wrap it around an banana. This is the perfect afternoon snack, Steele says.
<strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Greek yogurt is a great source of <a href="http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/961123/health-benefits-of-greek-yogurt"> calcium, protein and probiotics</a> (which is good for your digestive system), according to SheKnows.com. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> Mix berries or granola with a cup of sugar-free Greek yogurt, Steele says.
<strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Apples in general have been known to <a href="http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/is-applesauce-healthy.html#b">prevent types of cancer and sugar-free apple sauce is a great fibre booster</a> in the morning, according to FitDay.com. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> Sprinkle crushed graham crackers over sugar-free apple sauce.
<strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Forget butter and salt, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/01/30/healthy-popcorn-recipes_n_1242564.html">making popcorn in an old-fashioned pot over the stove with seasoning and a touch of oil can actually be a healthy snack</a>. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> For a good evening snack, mix over-the-stove popcorn with flax seed oil and a bit of your favourite seasoning.
Follow Natasha Turner, ND on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drnatasha