How healthy are you? Do you have a healthy diet? Do you exercise regularly? Do you drink at least 8 glasses of water a day? Do you get enough sleep every day? Do you live a healthy lifestyle?
Our body is our temple, and we need to take care of it. Do you know that over 70% of Americans are either obese or overweight? That’s insane! Think of your body as your physical shell to take you through life. If you repeatedly abuse it with unhealthy habits, your shell will wear out quickly.
Life is beautiful and you don’t want to bog yourself down with unnecessary health problems. Today, your vital organs (kidney, heart, lungs, gall bladder, liver, stomach, intestines, etc.) may be working well, but they may not be tomorrow. Don’t take your good health for granted. Take proper care of your body.
Good health isn’t just about healthy eating and exercise — it’s also about having a positive mental health, a positive self-image, and a healthy lifestyle. In this article, I share 45 tips to live a healthier life. Bookmark this post and save the tips, because they are going to be vital in living a healthier life. 🙂
- Drink more water. Most of us don’t drink enough water every day. Water is essential for our bodies to function — do you know over 60% of our body is made up of water? Water is needed to carry out body functions, remove waste, and carry nutrients and oxygen around our body. Since we lose water every day through urine, bowel movements, perspiration and breathing, we need to replenish our water intake.Furthermore, drinking more water aids in losing weight. A Health study carried out among overweight or obese people showed that water drinkers lose 4.5 more pounds than a control group. The researchers believe that it’s because drinking more water helps fill your stomach, making you less hungry and less likely to overeat.
The amount of water you need depends on your age, weight, humidity level, and your physical activity. There used to be a recommendation to drink 8 glasses of water, but in 2004 this recommendation was removed and healthy adults are recommended to use thirst to determine their fluid needs. Bear in mind that food intake contributes to our fluid intake too — fruits, soups, juices have high water content. How to tell if you need water: if you have dry lips, dry mouth, or little urination, you’re probably not hydrated enough. Go get some water first before you continue this article!
- Get enough sleep. When you don’t rest well, you compensate by eating more. Usually, it’s junk food. Get enough rest and you don’t need to snack to stay awake. Also, lack of sleep causes premature aging, and you don’t want that.
- Meditate. Meditation quietens your mind and calms your soul. If you don’t know how to meditate, don’t worry.
- Exercise. Movement is life. Research has shown that exercising daily brings tremendous benefits to our health, including an increase in life span, lowering of risk of diseases, higher bone density, and weight loss. Increase activity in your life. Choose walking over transport for close distances. Climb the stairs instead of taking the lift. Join an aerobics class. Take up a sport of your liking (see tip #5).
- Pick exercises you enjoy. When you enjoy a sport, you naturally want to do it. Exercise isn’t about suffering and pushing yourself; it’s about being healthy and having fun at the same time. Adding variation in your exercises will keep them interesting.
- Work out different parts of your body. Don’t just do cardio (like jogging). Give your body a proper workout. The easiest way is to engage in sports since they work out different muscle groups. Popular sports include basketball, football, swimming, tennis, squash, badminton, Frisbee, and more.
- Eat fruits. Fruits have a plethora of vitamins and minerals. Do you know that oranges offer more health benefits than Vitamin C pills? Satisfy your palate with these nutritious fruits: Watermelon, Apricots, Avocado (yes, avocado is a fruit!), Apple, Cantaloupe, Grapefruit, Kiwi, Guava, Papaya, Strawberries. If you intent to consume a large quantity of fruits at one go, consume fruit with some fats — such as a dressing, almond butter, olive oil, avocado — to reduce the glycemic load.
- Eat vegetables. Like fruits, vegetables are important for good health, with many important vitamins and minerals. Onion, leek, and garlic are prebiotics — essential food for good gut bacteria. Spinach, kale, swiss chard, and turnip greens are dark leafy greens with high mineral content. Beyond just eating vegetables, be sure to consume a variety of different vegetables for diversity in good gut bacteria. What are your favorite vegetables and how can you include more of them in your diet today?
- Avoid excess fiber intake. Contrary to what the food and medical industry promotes, excess fiber intake is detrimental for constipation and smooth digestion. The more fiber you take, the bulkier your stools, the slower your colonic transit time, and the more difficult it is to pass motion (which leads to constipation, piles, anal fissure). Too much fiber also contributes to excess gas and abdominal bloating.Why do so many doctors, cereal boxes, supermarket aisles, studies, etc. recommend a high fiber intake then? According to the Harvard School of Public Health, this recommendation originated from a large macro-study that suggested that high fiber intake may lower risk of colon cancer. This study did not account for factors like lifestyle and diet, and it led to an industry-wide recommendation to eat more and fiber, without consideration of their current diet and gut status. Many high-fiber foods also contain vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, that are helpful for the body. People who consume a high-fiber diet are likely to eat less red meat, drink less alcohol, smoke less, and get regular exercise – all healthy behaviors that can reduce cancer risk.
Should we cut out fruits/vegetables then? No. Firstly, fruits and vegetables contain fermentable fiber, which is essential for the good gut bacteria. Secondly, much of fruit/vegetable content is water. For example, watermelon contains only 0.4% fiber, while lettuce contains 1.3% fiber. Unless you consume big bowls of salads every day for every meal, it’s difficult to over-consume fiber from fruits/vegetables alone. Moderate intake of fiber from whole plant foods is beneficial for good gut bacteria.
The fiber sources to watch out are cereal grains. Multi-grain bread has 12% fiber and multi-grain cereals can have 22% or more fiber. High-fiber, whole wheat, and whole grains are the “in” thing today; some cereals have over 30% fiber!
My personal recommendation: (1) Cut down on whole grains/wheat; (2) Eat fruits/veg as per normal; (3) Eat other things in moderation. A typical diet with fish/chicken (zero fiber), dairy (zero fiber), low fiber fruits/vegetables, and some potatoes/rice is already low fiber. On the other hand, when you stuff yourself with fiber, you may notice bloating, bulkier stools, and even piles / anal fissures. (real people who ate a high fiber diet based on doctor recommendations and suffered from constipation, bleeding, etc.)
- Pick different-colored fruits/vegs. Fruits/Vegetables with bright colors are usually high in anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants are good for health because they remove free radicals that damage our cells. Eat fruits/vegetables of different colors: White (Bananas), Yellow (Pineapples, Mango), Orange (Orange, Papaya), Red (Apple, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Watermelon), Green (Avocado, Lettuce, Cucumber), Purple/Blue (Blackberries, Prunes).
- Get your macro-nutrients. Macro-nutrients are nutrients needed in bulk amounts to ensure normal growth, metabolism, and well-being of our bodies. The 3 macro-nutrients needed by humans are carbohydrates (sugar), proteins (amino acids), and fats (lipids). There are many funky diets today from high/low carb to high/low protein to high/low fat. While you are free to eat whatever you want, we need carbohydrates, proteins, and fats (known as macro-nutrients) for a healthy body. Carbs give us immediate energy. Proteins help repair tissues, heal wounds, and create enzymes and hormones. Fat is needed to build cell membranes; for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation; and to absorb certain vitamins and minerals.Be careful of fad diets. Eat a diet with a well-rounded distribution of macro-nutrients (40% carbs, 30% proteins, 30% fats, vs. being skewed to one particular group). In a study of pre-diabetics, those on a “high protein” diet (defined as 40% carb, 30% protein, 30% fat) resulted in 100% remission of pre-diabetes to normal glucose tolerance, while those on a high carb diet (defined as 55% carb, 15% protein, 30% fat) resulted in only 33% remission.
- Get your micro-nutrients. While macro-nutrients provide our bodies with the bulk energy to function, we need micro-nutrients, i.e., vitamins and minerals, to orchestrate a range of physiological functions. Deficiency in any vitamin or mineral will cause dire effects on our body. Make sure to eat a range of different food to meet your micro-nutrient needs. Eating different food also ensures you have a diverse set of gut flora, which is important for optimal health. Here is a list of micro-nutrients needed by our body.
- Cut down on processed food. Processed food is not good because (a) most nutritional value is lost in the creation of these foods and (b) the added preservatives are bad for our health. Many processed foods contain a high amount of salt, which leads to higher blood pressure and heart disease. In general, the more ingredients a food has on the label (ending with ‘ite’ or ‘ate’), the more processed it is. Eating 50 grams of processed meat a day has also been found to increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Go for less processed food, such as a baked potato over chips, a fresh fruit over canned fruit, steamed fish over canned fish, or organic produce over food with high preservatives.
- Choose white meat. Cut out red meat. Red meat has been repeatedly established to increase colon cancer risk. Cut out red meat (or at the very least, limit your consumption). Substitute red meat with white meat such as chicken and fish. Increase your fish intake which seems protective against cancer. Fish also has healthy fats, a large source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamin D.
- Go for healthy fats. As mentioned in #11, fat is a macro-nutrient and is essential to a healthy body. Fat is not the enemy — trans and saturated fats are. And trans/saturated fats are in many products today. We need healthy fats which are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat.
- Avoid trans fat (Bad fats): Increases harmful LDL cholesterol and reduces beneficial HDL cholesterol. Common sources: Solid margarines, commercial cookies and pastries, fast-food French fries, “partially hydrogenated oil” in food ingredients.
- Limit/Avoid saturated fat (Bad fats): A diet rich in saturated fats can drive up total cholesterol, and tip the balance toward more harmful LDL cholesterol, blocking arteries. Common sources: Red meat, whole milk and other whole-milk dairy foods, cheese, coconut oil, many commercially prepared baked goods and other foods.
- Take monounsaturated fats (Good fats): Common sources: Olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, most nuts, high-oleic safflower and sunflower oils.
- Take polyunsaturated fats (Good fats): Polyunsaturated fats are essential fats. They are required for normal body functions but your body can’t make them, so you must get them from food. These fats lower LDL and triglycerides and boost cholesterol profile. Common sources: Salmon, mackerel, and sardines, flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil, unhydrogenated soybean oil.
- Love yourself. How much do you love yourself on a scale of 1-10? Why? How can you love yourself more starting today?
- Go barefoot walking/running. There are many benefits of barefoot walking/running, from better posture, less stress for your feet, less stress for your joints, etc. If the terrain in your neighborhood is too sharp, wear barefoot shoes. I’ve been running barefoot since May 2010 and loving it.
- Purge negativity from your life.
- Purge negative people. Positive mental health is part of a healthy life. You don’t need toxic people in your life. If you feel that a friend is overly critical or negative, let him/her go. If you’re dealing with backstabbers, let them go too.
- Avoid trigger foods. Trigger foods make you go berserk and binge after you eat them. Everyone’s trigger foods are different (mine used to be doughnuts, pastries, and chips), but generally trigger foods are candy bars, chocolate, confectionery, chips, cookies, or anything with a high level of refined sugar, salt, or flour. These foods cause a blood sugar imbalance, hence triggering one to eat more. What are your trigger foods? Identify them and remove them from your diet.
- Breathe. Deeply. Oxygen is vital for life. You may know how to breathe, but are you breathing properly? Most of us don’t breathe properly — we take shallow breaths and breathe to 1/3 of our lung capacity. Athletes are coached proper breathing techniques to get their best performance. A full breath is one where your lungs are completely filled, your abdomen expands, and there’s minimum movement in your shoulders.