It seems at the beginning of the year after a holiday season filled with sweets, adult beverages, fatty foods and lots of couch potato-ing watching parades, games and movies, we want a radical change in our health regime. Gym memberships rise by 50% in January and then they drop back down to normal in February. Sometimes we try to do too much too quick and the sustainability of our actions fall short. Which is why if you really want to make changes to your health try switching to small actions you can do everyday rather than grand dreams you can hardly sustain for a week. Here are 5 easy ways to improve your health that can easily become permanent members of your lifestyle.
Dress up your water
Every morning the first action I take after kissing my hubby and petting my dogs is to drink a large glass or two of pure room temperature water with fresh lemon. Why? Well for starters it alkalizes your system. The PH of the body is very important, it is optimal for the PH to stay right around 7 which is slightly alkaline. And lemons even though a citrus are an alkaline fruit. So jump starting your day with an alkaline PH will help balance out that morning coffee or tea you enjoy so much.
One of the other best reasons it is helps flush the liver of toxins. The liver is the powerhouse organ of the body lending its proverbial hand to over 500 functions. Lemon water liquefies the bile and helps control excess bile flow. And especially after a holiday season of drinking and eating sugary foods your liver needs all the support it can get.
There are two sources for fresh lemon; either whole lemon you juice yourself or now in most health food stores they sell fresh squeezed lemon juice. Just stay away from that plastic lemon shaped bottle. I remember that from my childhood. Hopefully they don't even make that anymore. As far as how much to drink, I drink about 24 ounces of lemon water before anything else goes into my system. But if you can get 12 ounces in before your morning tea or coffee, job well done.
A pinch will do you good
You know the above miracle water you are drinking first thing in the am? Add a pinch of sea salt in it to hydrate your system. Nutrient deficient diets, stress and even working out too much will deplete your mineral levels. It is not enough, especially in dry Colorado, to hydrate with water alone. You have to put the minerals back in. And adding just a pinch of sea salt to your water several times a day will do just that. Like most things, all salt is not created equal. Iodized salt or “table salt” has been processed to remove trace elements and includes additives while sea salts retain the trace elements from the ocean. I prefer pink Himalayan sea salt but any fine ground sea salt like Celtic or grey sea salt works perfectly well.
The darker the better
Greens greens and more greens. Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, my personal favorite dandelion greens, swiss chard and collard greens are a source of superfood nutrition. They are low in calories, high in fibre which helps control LDL cholesterol levels. They are also high in vitamins C, A, K and are a valuable source of calcium; much more than homogenized milk and dairy products.
Shoot for 2-3 servings per day. And make the servings liberal taking up a third of your intake. Now if you eat no greens whatsoever right now except the occasional spinach salad this may seem shocking and not possible. But if you put on your creativity hat or if you cannot find it, visit www.epicurious.com and search for whatever green you have on hand, you will find a way. A couple of my favorite easy ways to get 3 servings? Add it to scrambled eggs in the morning, make a soup with kale and white beans, stuff a sweet potato with dandelion greens sauteed in garlic, shallots and olive oil. Yum.
Choose the right fats
This is a huge debate among the health community, “are fats good for you?” I am hear to tell you yes they are. But of course all fats are not created the same. The previous statement should be your mantra. You have to be discerning when it comes to your choices. So no, eating a fast food burger with fries is not a good source of fat. But avocados, olive oil, and wild caught salmon are great sources of fat. And the main difference between the former and latter fats are the source and quality of each and which “Omega” fat they contain.
What is an omega fat? The omega numbers are a Scientific term referencing where the hydrogen atom joins the fat molecule. Most people are familiar with Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. Now there are many more fats than just the 3's and 6's but our body makes these so the only fats we need to supplement are the 3's and 6's. But what you really need to know is most of us need more Omega 3 fats and way less Omega 6 fats.
Poor quality cheaply made are oils like cotton, corn, safflower and canola contain Omega 6 fats. They are cheap to manufacture which is why you will find these oils in processed foods and used in abundance at fast food and low quality, high volume restaurants. Cheap fats make the cell wall rigid and when cells are rigid they become inflamed. Too many Omega 6 fats lead to heart disease, obesity, depression, diabetes and memory problems.
High quality Omega 3 containing fats like organic flax and hemp seed oils, walnuts, Brazil nuts, sea vegetables, wild caught salmon and olive oil are so important to overall health and proper function of the body and brain. They support the reduction of inflammation by churning out the hormone prostaglandin which makes the cell walls flexible and easily cool the body to quickly decrease inflammation. And since the brain is over 60 percent fat, specifically DHA fat found in Omega 3's, we need to support this function by proper amounts of Omega 3's. These fats support communication between the cells that are the building blocks of our communication, cognition, memory and emotional state.
Break a sweat
You could have the most optimal diet including clean water, lots of greens and wild caught salmon and still not feel your best after the holidays without this crucial last step. Move. Your. Body. And. Break. A. Sweat.
Not only does sweating raise your body temperature which enhances and strengthens your immune system, it makes you happy. Regular sweating releases toxins and increases feel good hormones like endorphins. Now if you haven’t been in a gym or on a run since last new year, during your first week or so back at it you will beg to differ with me. But after 3 weeks, (it takes 17 days to create a new habit FYI), you will be feeling better than ever! When you sweat, you breathe faster, your heart works more, your circulation improves and your metabolism accelerates, all in an effort to resume your normal body temperature. Also when your body sweats you release stress tension from your muscles becoming warm and relaxed. Sounds good, right?
My guarantee to you is if you take the 5 actions above after a month you will be feeling better than you did before. And if you choose to keep these actions in your life til next new year well, you will be amazed at how many health offspring come out of it.