What does a healthy life mean to you? For most people, “healthy” means not having nagging symptoms and having energy for life’s activities. There is a lot going on in our bodies that is not on our radar, yet we can influence its function positively with our choices. Yes, your choices make a huge difference!
Did you know that the average American spends the last decade or more of their lives in what I call the 4 D’s: diseased, depressed, disabled, or demented? Americans rank 83rd globally for living a healthy life. Yikes! That’s not the “norm” that I want to live, and I’m sure you would agree. Here are 10 areas to optimize your healthy life.
Eat More Plants!
Plants provide valuable nutrients and fiber for our bodies. I encourage my clients to eat the colors of the rainbow. The colors we find in fruits and vegetables represent different nutrients that are needed for good function. The fiber feeds the microbiome in our gut and supports regularity.
Increasing your plant consumption could include:
- 2 cups of leafy greens
- 1 cup of colorful vegetables
- 1 cup of cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)
- 2 fruits (whole, not juiced)
Do you choose organic vegetables and fruits? If your wallet objects, I would recommend that you prioritize organic for the “dirty dozen.” These are fruits and vegetables that retain the most pesticide residue. Choosing organic for these will greatly reduce your toxic load.
Fermented Is Fabulous
Long before we had probiotic supplements, people were eating their probiotics in fermented foods. You are likely familiar sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir and yogurt. The key for their effect is having live cultures – anything in a can or jar on the shelf is less likely to still be live.
Look for products in the refrigerated section, and if you are choosing kefir or yogurt check the label for added sugar below 10g. For yogurt or kefir, consume up to 1 cup a day, and 2-4 tablespoons of fermented veggies.
Consume 3 Superfoods a Day
These foods and beverages provide nutrients that improve your methylation. Relax – I won’t delve into that process here! Just know that it means detoxification, slower aging, and cancer prevention.
If you want an interesting and understandable read, check out Dr. Kara Fitzgerald’s book, Younger You. Meanwhile, eat some of these each day:
- Green tea
- Turmeric/Curcumin (ask for my supplement recommendation)
- Blueberries or any berry
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Organic eggs
- Organic grass-fed liver
- Seeds – sunflower, pumpkin, flax, chia, hemp
- Wild-caught salmon (NOT Atlantic salmon)
- Shiitake mushrooms (or Reishi, Chaga, Lion’s Mane)
- Dark leafy greens
Your Body Needs Good Fats
The low-fat and fat-free craze has damaged our health. Many parts of our body need fat, including cell membranes and our brain cells. Without fat, our bodies aren’t able to absorb Vitamins A, D, E, and K. Healthy fats are found in extra virgin olive oil (in dark glass bottles), avocado, olives, and organic butter.
A small handful of nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut or seed butter can do the job as well. I like Sunbutter as an alternative to peanut butter.
Go With Whole Grains
Unless you have an autoimmune diagnosis or an inflammatory condition, 2-3 half-cup servings of whole grains can provide fiber and energy for your day. Avoid the flour-based foods and eat bulgar wheat (unless you are gluten-free), buckwheat, quinoa, or rolled oats.
Chug Your Water
Do I sound like a broken record? That’s because water is so very important! Dehydration has now been shown to be as dangerous as driving under the influence.
It’s best to start your day by drinking 16 ounces of water when you wake up, and before you have your first cup of coffee. Aim for at least 80 ounces of water or herbal tea before dinner, and add 24 ounces of water with activities that cause you to sweat.
I use the term movement rather than exercise because exercise can raise a negative connotation for some. Our bodies are designed to move and I recommend 20-45 minutes of focused movement daily. You may enjoy walking outside alone or with friends.
Or you may have fun gathering with friends for yoga or a class at the gym. Perhaps you would enjoy a dance class (I take ballet) or riding your bike. The important thing is to find something you enjoy because then you won’t avoid it. Get up out of your chair hourly, too.
Prioritize Your ZZZZZs
Many of us have a long to-do list and choose to sacrifice sleep in order to accomplish tasks. That choice works against you! Sleep is vital to health. We think of it as “lost time” but sleep actually supports our effectiveness in waking hours.
Though you are not aware, your body is quite busy while you are sleeping. If you wake up tired, find yourself dozing during the day, or are told that you snore, it would be good to get some support.
You’ve Got to Have Friends
The Blue Zones are four regions around the world where people live to older ages than normal. One of the noted aspects of their lifestyle is social connection, and it isn’t online. Research consistently shows that people with strong personal connections tend to live longer than those who are socially isolated.
Let’s face it, you can have lots of friends and followers on social media and still be socially isolated. It became our normal with the pandemic, but I encourage you to break out of that norm and get together with friends.
Fuel Your Learning
Challenge your brain by continuing to learn or using what you have learned in new ways. You may enjoy reading and talking about the content of the book with your friends.
You may choose to work on jigsaw puzzles, or crossword puzzles, or Sudoku – activities that promote mental gymnastics. These challenge your brain and keep developing new neurons for improved processing and memory.
Don’t Worry About It
If you find yourself feeling revved up or ruminating on negative thoughts, incorporate a pattern break. You can stop and take slow, deep breaths several times during your day. I also recommend journaling to “dump” the thoughts on paper.
Another way to pattern break is to ask yourself, “Is this something I can control?” If it isn’t, then let it go. Worrying about it when you can’t control it won’t make a difference. Meditate, breathe, take a walk … and let it go.
Take a minute to review what I have shared and assess which of these areas you may need to give some added attention to. Don’t jump in to try to do it all.
Choose one area and begin to focus there. When that is comfortably adjusted, select another area to focus on. Step by step you can improve the way you support your wellness and extend your longevity.
If you feel that you could use support, especially if you already have a chronic disease diagnosis and are on several medications, reach out to me. I can help!