Every day we seem to be bombarded with new healthy lifestyle tips. All of a sudden, we’re told that something we’ve been eating for years is bad for us. Then we may be informed, something we were told was bad for us, is now thought to be good for us. Then there are “fads” such as drinking pineapple water or carrot juice, it can get very confusing!
Of course, we all want to be healthy, but some of us are better at it than others. There’s no doubt that attempting to live a healthy lifestyle is what will really count. There shouldn’t be any need to go to extremes, because that can sometimes go against us.
What we’re primarily talking about is diet and exercise. These are the two most important factors which determine how healthy we are. There are others, but these are the main ones. We all have a differing make up, with some people being naturally healthier than others or some weaker than others. Whatever shape we’re in, mostly we can make a difference by making a few tweaks or changes.
How Healthy is Your Lifestyle?
Be careful of self-denial, it’s so easy to do. Being honest with yourself is important if you want to practice healthy living. Just for fun, take the, is your lifestyle healthy, online quiz to see how you rate. It’s quite an old test, but will give you an idea.
You probably don’t need an expert to assess the health of your lifestyle because it’s mostly about common sense. Are you getting enough exercise? According to the Mayo Clinic we should get about 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week. Anything is better than nothing, there’s even a suggestion exercise may help to improve your memory.
It isn’t difficult to know if your diet is properly balanced or not, but this is where a lot of people struggle. Isn’t it annoying that the tastiest foods tend to be bad for you while the nastier tasting ones are usually good for you? Well, that’s not really the case, although a lot of people think that way.
Healthy Lifestyle Facts
There are plenty healthy lifestyle facts to be found when browsing the internet, but you need to be careful with them. Some of it is either outdated or just not true. Government or official bodies are usually best for checking the latest facts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 37.9% of US adults 20 years and over were obese (2013 – 2014) They also say, 70.7% of US adults over 20 years were overweight, including with obesity (2013 – 2014).
These conditions increase the risk of heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes and cancer. It’s was estimated in 2008 that the annual medical costs of obesity in the USA was $147 billion. Both our diet and how much we exercise can have a major impact on this.
How to Eat Healthy
This is where many people struggle and for a variety of reasons. The way in which we were brought up, our make-up and personality can have a big impact on our healthy eating. If, as a child, we had an unhealthy diet, the foods that go with it are most likely what we enjoy the most. How many kids do you know that would prefer vegetables over a burger?
It isn’t difficult to find out which foods are good for a healthy lifestyle. Healthy eating is one of the most important things we can do to ensure we stay as well as possible. We should aim to eat 3 balanced meals a day with fruit, vegetables and whole grains included if possible.
Fruit and Vegetables
For a very long time, the recommended daily intake of fruit and veg was five portions, but that now seems to have changed. The US government’s 2005 Diet Guidelines for Americans said it should be between five and thirteen portions. This has now been updated with the Dietary Guidelines 2015 – 2020, which states it should be, “A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups – dark green, red and orange, legumes, starchy and other fruits”.
The emphasis is more about the variety, rather than number of the variety. Cutting out some of the bad foods and replacing them with a good mix of fruit and veg, shouldn’t be too hard and it’ll make a big difference.
Good and Bad Fats
The word “fat” sounds negative because it’s associated with being overweight. There are good and bad fats which makes it difficult to know what our intake should be, because our body does need some.
It’s important to include some fat in our diet because it helps to give us energy, aids cell growth, keeps us warm and they help with the production of some hormones. There are three types of fat – saturated, unsaturated and trans, but which do we need?
Saturated: These are generally not good for you and too much can raise cholesterol to a dangerous level in your blood and cause arteries to block. This can lead to many health problems including heart attacks and strokes. This type of fat can be found in fatty meats and other animal products, such as whole milk, cheese, butter, cream and ice cream. It’s recommended saturates shouldn’t be more than 6% of our daily calorie intake. There are some foods which are thought to help unclog arteries.
Unsaturated: There are two types – polyunsaturated and monounsaturated and it’s thought they may help to reduce cholesterol if used instead of saturated or trans fats. Unsaturated fat can be found in fish, including trout, salmon and herring. It’s also present in olives, walnuts, avocados and vegetable oils. Although not as bad as saturated fat, you should still limit daily intake of unsaturated fat to around 7% of total calories.
Trans Fats: These are the worst of the bunch and are known as trans fatty acids. It’s made from hydrogenated vegetable oil where the process hardens the oil. Fried food, pizza, pies, cookies and other such “naughty” food contains trans fats. You’ll also find it in some processed food and some restaurants (particularly fast food) use it too. It’s not good because it not only raises your bad cholesterol, but it also lowers your good cholesterol. Avoid it if you can, but it shouldn’t make up any more that 1% of your daily calorie intake.
Too much of any fat in your diet isn’t good for you on the inside or the outside. If you easily put on weight, you’ll want to be extra careful. Exercise will obviously help to combat weight increases, but also do some things to burn fat without exercise.
Much has been written about dairy products and how they might affect living a healthy lifestyle. Some experts believe they are an essential part of our diet, while others think they should be avoided all together. So, what’s the reality?
It has been argued that dairy products are unnatural for humans to consume. We are the only species that drinks the milk from another animal and does so into adulthood. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (pcrm.org) has published concerns about dairy products.
The concern is not only regarding intake, but also how much we intake. For example, dairy products give us calcium, but we can also get it from other foods such as leafy greens, seafood legumes and fruit. We only need around 600 milligrams a day and any more than that doesn’t have any beneficial effect.
Is Dairy Harmful?
A report published in 2016 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information looked at scepticism from the public around the benefits of dairy products and a shift towards plant-based drinks. The conclusion was that dairy products don’t have many adverse effects, but do help to meet nutrient recommendations.
It does seem there is some conflict as to whether dairy products are harmful or not, but that’s not really the case. Research seems to suggest that these products can help with a healthy lifestyle because they provide our body with some of its essential nutrients. The problem is, we’re all different and may not have the same tolerances.
It’s thought that around 75% of us are lactose intolerant – it’s the main carbohydrate in dairy. This problem is mainly with adults, because infants produce lactase which breaks down the lactose in mother’s milk. Some of us lose the ability to do this as we get older.
Some people, mainly children, can be allergic to some of the proteins in milk, but there’s no doubt that it contains nutrients that are beneficial to us for healthy living. Milk can be bought with varying amounts of fat, but most of the fat in dairy products is saturated, so too much could lead to high cholesterol or weight gain.
Our body naturally has different kinds of salts in it, but the main one is sodium chloride, which is the same as table salt. It’s the sodium that can cause problems, too much of it can contribute to high blood pressure. Different health organisations vary in how much they recommend we intake.
It’s recommended less than somewhere between 1500 and 2300 milligrams a day is what we should aim for. The sodium content in sodium chloride is about 40% of it, so bear in mind, the recommended intake is just for the sodium and not for sodium and chloride combined.
The average intake by Americans each day is 3400 milligrams per adult, which is thought to be too high. This is mainly the result of processed food. However, our body cannot function without sodium, but many foods naturally contain it. The reason too much of it can raise blood pressure is because sodium makes your body retain water and too much water retention is one of the causes of making blood pressure rise. It wouldn’t be correct to say salt is bad for you, but cutting down on it can contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
In the same way that salt occurs naturally in our body, so do sugars. Naturally occurring sugar found in fruit and veg is good for us, but it’s added sugar that’s a problem. A study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2014 which looked at links between added sugar intake and cardiovascular disease. It concluded, most US adults have too much added sugar and there’s a “significant relationship between added sugar consumption and increased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.”
Cutting down on added sugar is one of the best tips for good health because your body is better off without it. Heart disease isn’t the only problem, added sugar can cause an increase in weight because you’re getting “empty calories”. These are calories without vitamins, mineral and other nutrients or fiber.
Having some added sugar in your in your diet shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s the amount that can be. It’s estimated that the average American consumes around 66 pounds of added sugar every year, which is about 19½ teaspoons a day. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 for women and 9 for men a day. No wonder there’s such a problem with obesity, diabetes and other related health problems.
This is also evidence that excessive sugar consumption can cause a change in the brain similar to those who are addicted to drugs. It’s thought these changes may lead to a craving for more sugar. So, not only will too much sugar not help a healthy living lifestyle, but it may also be addictive for some people too. You can read more about the negative effects of sugar at healthambition.com.
Much has been written about how good or bad meat is for us, but getting to a definitive answer is difficult. It does provide us with protein, vitamins and minerals, so surely it can’t be that bad? Well, too much red or processed meat isn’t good. Some red meats are high in saturates which can raise blood cholesterol. This may cause an increase in the risk of heart disease. It’s also been linked to other diseases such as colon cancer, but the facts are a little sketchy.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, many studies show a small rise in the risk of disease at 50 – 100 grams of red meat a day. The UK NHS advises daily intake of red or processed meat shouldn’t exceed 70 grams a day. It also makes a difference if you choose leaner cuts with less fat and how you cook it.
White meats (which includes fish) are generally better for you than read meats. They contain less cholesterol and saturated fat, but are high in protein. The way in which you cook any meat will make a difference as to how healthy it is. Grilling and allowing the fats to drain away is obviously better than cooking or frying with lots of oil.
It’s accepted that processed meats are not so good for you and should be kept to low levels. As for red and white meats, white is better, but red in moderation should be ok. In October 2015 the World Health Organisation produced a Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat, which lays out the facts.
The document stated that there is evidence that processed meats can contribute to developing cancer. As for red meat, it’s less certain. There is inconclusive evidence that red meat might contribute to developing cancer. Limiting the amount consumed, may help to keep the risks lower.
Exercise for Healthy Living
Another of the most important health tips is that it’s essential to do regular exercise. So many people fail to do so and it causes problems. With obesity being so prevalent today, taking some moderate exercise can go a long way towards combatting it. Of course, eating the wrong foods and too much of it is the main cause, but regular exercise can make a big difference.
The CDC recommends around 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of intense aerobic exercise, or a mix of the two each week. This should be enough for most people to maintain a good weight. In the UK, 1 in 6 deaths is caused by physical inactivity, which prompted Public Health England to launch an app, Active 10. They say that 10 minutes brisk walking every day can make a huge difference to your health. It can boost your energy, lift your mood, help those at risk of high blood pressure and reduce the risk of serious illness such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
If you really want to know how to have a healthy lifestyle, regular exercise is one of the most important factors. It can help to reduce the risk of some cancers, although research on this is still going on, but it does point to physical activity being beneficial. It also keeps you “young” by strengthening your muscles and bones, which naturally weaken as we get older. Exercise can slow down this process.
There’s no doubt that doing at least some regular exercise is a must and can be a life saver. You don’t have to spend a fortune on joining a gym or buy expensive home equipment, you just have to get up off your butt and move! Our body needs activity – use it or lose it.
More Healthy Lifestyle Tips
If we’re honest, we all know how to live a healthy lifestyle. We might not know everything we need to know, but we have a good idea. The problem is often laziness and very soon it’s too late to do anything about it. All we have to do is create healthy lifestyle habits. You don’t have to do it overnight, but small changes can make a big difference.
One of the big killers is cancer – your diet can reduce the risk. Whilst most of us enjoy an occasional alcoholic drink, which is is ok in moderation, consuming too much alcohol has been shown to contribute to different types of cancers.
There are many healthy living facts which get ignored every day. For example, keeping your heart and kidneys healthy, simple ways to heal your body, or even how to stop a headache. They say it’s the staff of life, but did you know if you stop eating bread, you may get some benefits? It can help with weight loss, but so can pasta.
It’s important that we know our body and listen to it. Little things such as bad breath, could point to more of a problem than just dirty teeth. Then there’s diseases like hepatitis C, do you know how to avoid it and how susceptible you are to it? Look out for health hazards around the home, for example, it’s possible your bed might not be healthy.
One of the lifestyle tips that can get overlooked is concerning your relationships – they can affect your health. If, for example, you have a partner who suffers with anxiety, you’d better learn how to deal with it or you’ll probably be badly affected by it too.
10 Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle
The European Food Information Council issued a list of 10 tips for a healthy lifestyle. They provide a quick and easy guide of some of the important things we should do to stay healthy. Most of them have been mentioned earlier, but they’re a handy reference point:
- Eat a variety of foods – it’s all about balance and getting the right amount of nutrients.
- Base your diet on foods rich in carbohydrates – half our calories should be from foods such as rice, pasta, cereals, potatoes and bread.
- Replace saturated with unsaturated fat – limit saturated, avoid trans and stick to unsaturated as much as possible.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables – a mix of at least 5 a day is what you should aim for.
- Reduce your salt and sugar intake – we need some, but often have too much.
- Eat regularly and watch your portion size – this will help to stop your eating get out of control.
- Drink lots of fluid – at least 1½ liters a day, water is best.
- Keep a healthy body weight – know what’s right for your gender, height and age.
- Get on the move, make it a habit – exercise is crucial to health, weight and wellbeing.
- Start now and keep changing gradually – you know the say, don’t put off until tomorrow that which can be done today!
Remember, we’re all different, so there isn’t a “one size fits all” to getting healthy. If you know your body well and you know your weaknesses, that’s a good place to start. It isn’t always easy to change bad habit you’ve fallen into, but it gets easier if you practice using your mind power. Healthy lifestyle tips are useful if you use them properly and continue to do so. If you want to make a change, it’s down to you, you’re the one in control!