New Year’s resolutions can be tricky.
They’re easy to make, but can be difficult to maintain. Intentions are good, but if the goal feels too hard we’ll give up before we’ve succeeded. When it comes to health, it can seem daunting. So, what are your intentions for the New Year? Do you want to improve your health & well-being? Do you want to lose a few pounds? Would you like to have more stamina and focus throughout your day? AND, is it possible that all of these can be so easy that you won’t fail? The answer is YES! Health doesn’t have to be intimidating. It can be fun, rewarding and easy!
Invite yourself to have fun with a couple of these easy health tips. As you incorporate them into your routine, you may find that you’ll start feeling so well in your body that you’ll want to incorporate all of them!
1. Eat Clean.
When it comes to eating “clean,” you might be wondering: What foods ARE clean? What does it mean to eat clean? Eating clean simply means eating more of the best and healthiest options in each of the food groups– and eating less of the not-so-healthy ones. This translates to eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy proteins, and fats. Unlike other dietary regimens, eating clean is easy – as you don’t have to count calories or give up whole food groups!
Where to start? Some simple rules about eating clean include:
- Limit Processed Foods– This includes pre-packaged foods with long ingredient lists with words that you can’t pronounce. Find foods that have simple, understandable ingredient lists.
- Choose Bright & Deep– These are foods that have bright and deep colors such as leafy greens and bright colored fruits. A good rule of thumb is that the brighter and more radiant the food, the better it is for you. For example, choose the dark red apples rather than the lighter yellow ones. Fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of healthy fiber that is good for digestion, essential vitamins & minerals, and low calories - so you can eat a lot of them!
- Healthy Fats – Foods like avocados, fish, coconut oil, nuts & seeds, and olive oil are all good sources of omega 3, 6, 9. These fats also reduce inflammation in the body, thus reducing the risk for heart disease and other cardiovascular disorders.
- Reduce Sweets – If you start looking at ingredient lists you’ll notice how many foods contain added sugar. Find foods that have natural sugars or sugar at the bottom of the ingredient list. Foods to limit are baked goods, cereals, energy bars, alcohol, and sugary drinks.
- Increase Fiber– Recent studies have shown that Americans are not getting enough fiber. Fiber is pivotal in aiding proper digestion which is being linked to decreased risk for cancer, inflammation, and obesity. Foods that contain fiber are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Go Organic – As much as possible, find foods that are organically grown or have the USDA organic seal. These foods are fruits, vegetables, and grains that are grown without pesticides and harmful synthetic fertilizers. When it comes to animal products, find ones that are organic or ethically raised without growth hormones and antibiotics. Most organic foods are also higher in essential vitamins and minerals. Buying organic also decreases your exposure to harmful pesticides, chemicals, and GMOs.
2. Acid/Alkaline Balance.
All food, whether it be fruit, vegetable, animal product or grain has a reaction in the body’s digestive system that is either considered “acid forming” or “alkaline forming.” You may have heard of some of the benefits of eating a high alkaline diet. Alkaline-rich diets have been linked to a healthier immune response, more energy, good digestion, and longevity. Eating a balanced diet is paramount to maintaining and promoting good health. The chart below highlights some of the dietary recommendations when it comes to a healthy acid/alkaline balance.
3. Daily Detox.
What does it mean to have a daily detox diet? There are many foods that are considered detoxing or cleansing for the body. In our modern world, we are being bombarded by toxins– pollution, food, unclean water, and harmful chemicals on a daily basis. While it can be beneficial to do a deep, detox cleanse it is definitely not necessary for good health. A high amount of toxins in the body can result in low energy, weak complexion, poor digestion, and slower immune response against disease. Foods that are high in antioxidants or fiber are great for detoxing the body as they cleanse the colon and enhance digestion. When we incorporate some of these foods into our diet we can provide our bodies the fortification and defense against harmful toxins. Some of the best foods for detoxing include those that are high in chlorophyll, fiber, and antioxidants:
- Leafy Greens: Spinach, Kale, Collards, Microgreens (sprouts), Chard, Parsley Leaf, Rosemary, Basil.
- Sea Vegetables & Algae: Kelp, Dulse, Red Fucus, Nori, Wakame, Blue-green Algae, Spirulina, Chlorella.
- Water: At least 8 glasses a day of pure, clean water! Try it with lemon!
- Warming Spices: Turmeric, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cumin, Cayenne. These spices cleanse the liver, stimulate the digestion, and reduce inflammation.
- Antioxidant-Rich Fruits & Vegetables: Goji Berries, Acerola Cherry, Blueberries, Pomegranate, Currants, Cranberries, Artichokes, Lemons, Fennel, Artichokes, Avocado.
- High Fiber Foods: Whole grains, raw vegetables & fruits, flax seeds, legumes.
4. “Happy” Exercise.
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring, hard, or intense. You don’t have to run on a treadmill everyday to stay in shape. If you live in an urban area you probably have access to a variety of exercises. Haitian dance class anyone? The point is, if you’re enjoying doing it and look forward to practicing, it doesn’t matter how absurd the exercise is. Find an activity that brings you happiness and that you look forward to. Some popular activities include: yoga, pilates, walking, hiking, commuting to work on your bike, rock climbing, dancing, skiing, or martial arts. The results of being active are undeniable. As we get our heart pumping, our bodies release oxytocin– hormones in our body that are responsible for that “feel good” feeling. Some athletes might even refer to this feeling as a type of high. As more oxytocin gets released, we become happier, more playful, less stressed, and more energetic!
Chlorophyll is one of the nutrients that most people are deficient in. This vital nutrient is a green pigment that is present in all green plants that is responsible for the absorption of light to provide the plant with energy for photosynthesis. What does that have to do with human health? Chlorophyll-rich foods contain essential vitamins and minerals needed for cardiovascular, muscular, and neural health. Chlorophyll is good for everything from controlling body odor, proper digestion and cleansing, detoxing, protection from cancer causing toxins, healthy iron levels, and reducing inflammation. The best foods for obtaining high amounts of chlorophyll include blue-green algae, spirulina, chlorella, sea vegetables, kale, parsley, and spinach. If you don’t like eating these things on their own, there are plenty of supplement and meal replacement powders that provide ample amounts of nutrient-dense, chlorophyll-rich superfoods.
6. Macro & Micronutrients.
You may not realize it, but you probably get plenty of macro-nutrients. These nutrients are those that provide calories for energy. They are needed for growth, metabolism, and other bodily functions and usually needed in large amounts. The three macronutrients are: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. These nutrients are critical for bodily fuel & energy, growth, tissue repair, immune function, and absorption of nutrients. However, it is also important to recognize the many benefits of micronutrients. These nutrients are needed in smaller amounts, but are equally as important in that they contain vital minerals and vitamins that are necessary for development, disease prevention, and wellbeing. Unlike macronutrients, they cannot be produced by the body but need to obtained from your diet. They include trace minerals and vitamins such as zinc, manganese, copper, selenium, phytochemicals (gives blueberries the deep blue color) and all of the Vitamins C, B, A, & K. Interestingly, many causes of disease can be traced back to deficiencies in micronutrients.
Adaptogens are a unique set of superfoods that have the innate ability to adapt to the body's needs whether it is stress, immunity, or energy. These special botanicals have been used for millennia by traditional healing practices throughout the world to treat physical, spiritual, and neurological dysfunctions. Adaptogens work in much the same way as a thermostat. Depending on what the body needs, they can decrease your body's cellular sensitivity to the stress in question. As a result, a state of homeostasis or equilibrium is achieved whereby the body can then stabilize and manage stress on both a physical and emotional level. Over time, these botanicals help strengthen the adrenal system helping the body to fight fatigue, cope with anxiety, and manage stress. To qualify as an adaptogen, an herb must be both safe and non-toxic, have a broad range of uses, and specifically reduce both mental and physical stress. Some well known adaptogens include:
- Turmeric: Somewhat of a miracle food, turmeric is adept at reducing inflammation in the body caused by stress, disease, or injury. Most of turmeric’s health benefits are derived from chemical components called curcuminoids, which are especially known for their ability to decrease inflammation and high levels of antioxidants that have the ability to combat toxins.
- Ginger: Ginger has been renowned for millennia for its culinary, medicinal, and aromatic properties. Its adaptogenic health properties are vast in that it can build the immune system, aid in digestion, relieve nausea, calm the nerves, and act as an anti-inflammatory.
- Ashwagandha Root: One of the most beneficial adaptogens, Ashwagandha has the ability to decrease blood sugar levels, sustain energy levels, combat stress, foster healthy sleep patterns, stabilize blood sugar, and reduce anxiety and depression!
- Reishi Mushroom: In Chinese medicine it is known as the "king of herbs" as it is believed to encourage vigor and long life. It has strong anti-oxidant value and is believed to suppress tumor growth in those with cancer.
- Maca Root: Medicinally, Maca Root has been used to balance hormones, increase libido in both men and women, promote vitality, improve blood flow, and support the endocrine system.
- Holy Basil (Tulsi): One of the most sacred plants in India, Tulsi Leaf, is known as the "queen of herbs" or the "elixir of life" due to its potent healing qualities. This adaptogen contains a unique chemistry of compounds known as "phyto-chemicals." These phytochemicals possess anti-oxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, adaptogenic, and immune enhancing properties that help the body's ability to handle stress and disease.
- Amla Berry (gooseberry): These special berries are considered to be one of the most important foods in Ayurvedic medicine and has been used for thousands of years in natural healing practices.Its high level of antioxidants slows down the aging process, improving skin tone as well as promoting longevity and offering protection from cancer causing free radicals.
8. You Deserve it.
It’s worth examining what is behind our resistance towards health. Often times, it’s easy to find reasons why we shouldn’t do something that we perceive as hard or unattainable. We all have our various ways to limit ourselves through our own belief systems and self-destructive thoughts. But what if we told ourselves that we DESERVE to feel good and be happy? Optimal health starts with a certain willingness to change our habits and mostly our thoughts. With good health comes a boost in self-confidence, more energy, less stress, radiant beauty, positive thought patterns towards ourselves and others, and happiness!
“If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask oneself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness. Only then is it possible to help him.” Hippocrates