4 Good-Health Guidelines
We’re bombarded with new information every day-what to eat, how much to exercise… Here are four key guidelines to help you stay on the path towards good health. All you have to do is make sure the numbers add up each day.
1. Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
If you make just one change in your diet, you should add produce to every meal you eat. Fruits and veggies lower heart disease by pumping your body full of soluble and insoluble fibre, flooding your bloodstream and cells with artery-protecting antioxidants, and delivering vitamins and minerals that help control blood pressure and keep arteries flexible.
Ask yourself: Did I have nine produce servings today?
Your goal: Four fruit and five vegetable servings
Tracking trick for women: Wear nine bangle bracelets on the same arm. Each time you have a fruit or veggie, move a bracelet to the other arm.
Tracking trick for men: Keep nine paper clips in your pants pocket. Move one to another pocket for each serving of produce you consume.
Extra credit: Aim to put a riot of colour on your plate every day-green broccoli, purple grapes, yellow squash, red tomatoes and orange peaches, for example.
How to catch up: If you’ve had breakfast and lunch with little or no produce, make up lost ground with a fruit snack in the afternoon, a big salad for dinner, and another fruit snack in the evening.
2. Fibre Consumption
Fibre at every meal keeps blood sugar from spiking. This controls cravings, helps you feel full and stay full longer, and lowers your diabetes and heart-disease risk. But the benefits don’t stop there: Getting soluble fibre (from oatmeal, barley or a supplement) slashes cholesterol levels. High-fibre foods are also less processed, so you get a whole package of naturally balanced, heart-pampering nutrients at the same time. Whole grains also provide vitamin E and other antioxidants. High-fibre nuts give you good fats-monounsaturated fat to preserve “good” HDL cholesterol and, if you choose walnuts, omega-3s to keep your heart beating at a steady rhythm.
Ask yourself: Did I have three whole grains plus some nuts and/or beans today?
Your goal: Two to four servings of whole grains and one or two servings of nuts and/or beans
Tracking trick: Think 3-2-1. That’s three whole grains, two fibre supplements, and one serving of nuts.
Extra credit: Make at least one of your fibre-rich grains a soluble-fibre powerhouse such as oatmeal or barley; take one or two soluble-fibre supplements daily.
How to catch up: Had a low-fibre breakfast and lunch? Snack on nuts this afternoon and have beans in your main dish at dinner-in chili, a burrito, or as a quick salad topper-with a slice of whole wheat bread.
Consciously relaxing doesn’t mean taking an hour out of your busy day to meditate or have a massage (although if you can do either, you’ll feel great!). There are dozens of ways to relax without stopping what you’re doing: You can practise mindfulness-being fully present and aware of what you’re doing-or take a few minutes to focus on your breathing.
You can let go of impatient thoughts before they double your risk of high blood pressure and heart attack. And don’t underestimate the soothing health benefits of sharing a laugh with friends, listening to music, walking and petting your dog, or enjoying nature.
Ask yourself: Did I take at least 15 minutes to de-stress today?
Your goal: Get that relaxed feeling every day.
Tracking trick: Check in with yourself several times a day. You’ll know if you’re stressed.
Extra credit: Once a week, try to spend an hour immersed in something you love-gardening, a sport, reading, or whatever else gives you pleasure.
How to catch up: In the midst of a stressed-out day, remind yourself that you’ll be more productive if you take a few minutes to unwind.
4. Time to Move
Physical activity controls weight, burns off belly fat, lowers high blood pressure, and tames out-of-line cholesterol levels. It even cools inflammation and helps your cells absorb more blood sugar, cutting the risk of Type 2 diabetes. With as little as 30 minutes a day, you can build activity into your daily life-including strength training to build muscle density and walking to boost cardiovascular fitness.
Ask yourself: Did I get on my feet for fun or exercise today?
Your goal: Sit for 1 hour less per day. Fit in a morning toning routine and one or two brisk, short strolls during the day.
Tracking trick: Before lunch and at mid-afternoon, ask yourself how long you’ve been sitting without a break. Chances are it’s time to get up and move.
Extra credit: Build short bursts of intensity into your daily movement routine-pump your arms and stride quickly up a hill or walk in place briskly while you’re chatting on the phone.
How to catch up: At the end of a day that left you no time to leave your chair, be sure to take the stairs, not the elevator. Stroll around outside for a few minutes before getting into your car. Once home, take the dog for a walk or drag the kids out for a game of tag. Watching TV at night? Do some exercises during commercial breaks.