Posted on January 02, 2017
There’s Hope for a Better 2017 To ensure a better 2017, learn what healthy habits you should start…and which to drop altogether.
One thing many people can agree on is that 2016 was a year that most would like to forget. The year brought us one of the most divisive Presidential elections in recent memory—dividing friends and family alike. We lost many notable celebrities—David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Prince, Mohammed Ali, John Glenn, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, and so many more. Britain voted to leave the European Union. Hurricane Matthew devastated parts of the Southeast. The Zika virus made its way to the U.S. Terrorists carried out attacks in Orlando, Syria, Nice, and Brussels. Unfortunately, the list goes on and on.
But, 2016 did bring plenty of good news. The Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. Scientists discovered an Ebola vaccine that protects 100% of recipients. The International Union for Conservation of Nature announced the giant panda is no longer endangered. World hunger reached its lowest point in 25 years. In July, more than 800,000 volunteers in India planted 50 million trees in one day. See? The news from last year wasn’t all bad.
Now that we’ve flipped the calendar page to 2017 we can work on finding ways to put all the “bad” of 2016 behind us. The New Year can be an especially great one, particularly if we focus on small, healthy changes we can incorporate into our daily lives.
Definite “Do’s” for the New Year
Healthy changes don’t have to throw your daily routine out of whack. Business Insider recently put together a list of some relatively small changes you can make to your life right now to start living healthier:
Eat fruit instead of candy. Candy is sweet because it contains processed sugar, usually high-fructose corn syrup. Fruit is sweet because it contains natural sugar, but it’s still good for you because it’s also rich in fiber, which helps you digest the sugar more slowly.
Shop on a full stomach. Studies show that people who snack before a grocery trip buy fewer unhealthy foods, possibly because they aren’t driven to make impulse buys out of hunger.
Learn how to cook. Studies have shown that dieting doesn’t work, because cutting out entire foods only makes you want to eat more of them. But cooking at home is linked to eating healthier, saving money on dining out, and boosting self-esteem.
Drink coffee black. Studies suggest that coffee is good for you and eliminating milk, cream, sugar, or flavorings will cut calories and maximize coffee’s health benefits.
Substitute white bread with whole wheat. Whole-wheat bread is higher in fiber than regular white bread, and fiber fills you up and helps with digestion by slowing down the absorption of sugars.
Drink plenty of water. You’ve heard this before, but the benefits of staying hydrated are numerous, from keeping your body fluids balanced to having more energy.
Pick up the pace. Power walking won’t just get you to your destination sooner. One study of nearly 40,000 regular walkers found that slower walkers had a higher risk of dying than their more briskly paced peers.
Park farther away from your destination. This is an easy way to squeeze more physical activity into your daily routine. Walking burns calories, may help reduce anxiety, and even strengthens bones.
Take the stairs. This is an easy way to burn calories and tone leg muscles when you can’t find time to squeeze in a traditional workout.
Wash and dry your hands regularly. Washing your hands with soap and water gets rids of germs and drying off prevents the spread of bacteria, and is one of the most effective ways to prevent infection.
Wear sunscreen. It may smell funny, but it’s one of the best ways to prevent skin cancer.
Wear sunglasses, too. Sunglasses aren’t just a fashion accessory. Protecting your eyes from the sun’s UV radiation is just as important as protecting your skin, whether you’re mowing the lawn, going for a bike ride, or playing a sport outside.
Buy a plant. Is your office kind of drab? Bringing plants into the office can make you feel happier at work, according to study that monitored the effects of plants on two large commercial offices in the UK and The Netherlands.
Meditate for 30 minutes a day. At least a dozen executives swear by the relaxing technique. Research suggests that meditation can help you handle stress, improve memory and awareness, and lower blood pressure.
Read a book. Expand your knowledge, reduce stress, and briefly cut ties with the internet. A small 2012 study found that reading about someone else’s awe-inspiring experience made people more satisfied, less stressed, and more willing to volunteer than other people.
Turn off your phone from time to time. Occasionally unplugging may help stressed individuals achieve a state of complete relaxation. It’s especially a good idea to avoid phones in the hour or so before bed, since the light from phones can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
Go to bed at the same time every day—even on weekends. When you go to bed and wake up at a different time during the week and on weekends, it can lead to a phenomenon called social jet lag, which can throw off your body’s natural sleep schedule.
Move your work desk near a window. A very small 2014 study found that people who worked in offices with windows did more physical activity and slept longer during the night than people in windowless offices.
Nourish close relationships. A 75-year study by Harvard psychologists found that close relationships were the key to living happier, healthier lives. What’s more, a lack of social connections could be as big a risk to your health as smoking, scientists say.
Health Myths You Can Drop in 2017
We all have them—habits we think are healthy because we heard so via a story on the news or from a health-conscious friend. But are these habits really all that good for us? Experts now say we can drop the following:
Avoiding gluten. Unless you’re one of the 1% of Americans who suffer from celiac disease, gluten probably won’t have a negative effect on you. In fact, studies show that most people suffer from slight bloating and gas when they eat, whether they consume wheat or not. So go ahead and eat that bagel.
Swapping dairy for almond milk. Alternatives to dairy milk have been surging in popularity in the last few years, chief among them almond milk. Yet almond milk is practically devoid of nutrients. By themselves, almonds are protein powerhouses, but a typical glass of almond milk, by volume, is only 2% almonds and contains practically no protein. If you’re looking for a truly healthy alternative, opt for soy, skim, or low-fat milk.
Juicing everything. When you juice fresh fruits and veggies, you remove all their fiber, the key ingredient that keeps you feeling full and satisfied until your next meal. What you keep is the sugar. In the short term, a high-sugar, low-protein diet means constant hunger pangs, mood swings, and low energy. In the long term, you can lose muscle mass since muscles rely on protein.
Taking tons of Vitamin C to ward off a cold. While a little extra vitamin C can boost an underperforming immune system, taking too much will make you sick. The upper limit for an adult is 2,000 milligrams a day—any more than that will likely cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, headaches, and other side effects.
Slathering on hand sanitizer. If you wash your hands regularly throughout the day, hand sanitizer is almost entirely unnecessary. Plus, it can’t kill all the germs that plain old soap and water can. Norovirus and C. difficile, for example, are immune to sanitizing gels.
Taking multivitamins. Close to half of American adults take vitamins every day. Yet decades’ worth of research hasn’t found any justification for our pill-popping habit. That isn’t to say we don’t need small amounts of vitamins to survive—without vitamins like A, C, and E, for example, we have a hard time turning food into energy and can develop conditions like rickets or scurvy. Here’s the thing: Research shows we get more than enough of these substances from what we eat, so no need for a pill.
Avoiding MSG. Monosodium glutamate is an ingredient added to many foods to enhance their flavor. It’s completely safe to ingest. MSG is often associated with a series of symptoms, from numbness at the base of the neck to a general sense of fatigue, symptoms that are commonly lumped together and called “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” Eating too much is the more likely culprit here, not eating MSG.
Going on a “detox” diet. No one needs to detox. Unless you’ve been poisoned, you already have a super-efficient system for filtering out most of the harmful substances you eat. It’s made up of two toxin-bashing organs: The liver and the kidneys. While our kidneys filter our blood and remove any waste from our diet, our livers process medications and detoxify any chemicals we ingest. Paired together, these organs make our bodies natural cleansing powerhouses.
Eating only low-fat foods. According to recommendations from the USDA in the ‘90s, millions of Americans seeking to lose weight opted for a low-fat, high-starch diet. They chose margarine over butter, “fat-free” instead of “regular,” and curbed their indulgence on rich, creamy foods. But it didn’t work.
An eight-year trial involving almost 50,000 women, roughly half of whom went on a low-fat diet, found that those on the low-fat plan didn’t lower their risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or heart disease. Plus, they didn’t lose much weight, if any. New recommendations show that healthy fats, like those from nuts, fish, and avocados, are actually good for you in moderation. So add them back into your diet if you haven’t already.
Avoiding the microwave. We’ve all heard the rumors about how “nuking” foods robs them of their nutrients. Fortunately for most of us, this is entirely false. Microwave ovens cook food using energy waves. The waves cause the molecules in food to vibrate quickly, building up their energy as heat.
Of course, some nutrients begin to disintegrate when heated, whether it’s from a microwave, a stove, or something else. But since microwave-cooking times are typically much shorter than oven-cooking times, microwaving something often does a better job of keeping its vitamins intact than other cooking methods. Here’s to a happier, healthier you in 2017!
If you have questions about changes you’d like to make for 2017 or any healthcare issue, contact the primary care providers at Coastal Carolina Health Care by calling (252) 633-4111 or visiting www.cchchealthcare.com.
(Sources: The New York Times; National Geographic; Harvard University; United States Department of Agriculture; The Mayo Clinic; and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)