There are many benefits to following a healthy lifestyle, or making a lifestyle change. According to the WHO, a healthy lifestyle will lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, two of the biggest killers in modern society. It isn’t just lowering the risk of disease, though. A healthy lifestyle will also reduce your stress levels, make you happier and help you be at a healthy weight as a bonus.
Here are some very simple but effective tips that anyone can follow for a healthy, happy life.
How to Live a Healthy Lifestyle?
- Eat nutrient-dense whole foods. Whole foods are foods closest to their natural form, that is minimally processed foods. Examples are vegetables, fruits and whole grains such as brown rice (instead of white rice), Steel-cut oats (rather than instant oats), whole grain bread (instead of white bread) as well as raw and unsalted nuts and seeds. When you eat these real, wholesome foods, portion control happens naturally because all the fibre adds bulk and fills you up quickly, making it difficult to overeat. Their nutrient density prevents cravings.
2. Avoid refined carbohydrates, sugar and trans fats. These ingredients lead to obesity, insulin insensitivity, heart disease and many forms of cancer.
3. Drink lots of pure (not tap) water to hydrate yourself. Tap water contains many heavy metals and toxins which add to your toxic load.
4. As far as possible, cook your meals from scratch so that you avoid unnecessary ingredients and additives such as sugar, preservatives, flavour enhancers, rancid fats and food colours. If you must eat processed foods, try to choose only the ones with no added sugar and limited ingredients. Read ingredient labels carefully.
5. You can still enjoy an occasional sweet treat. As long as you know it is a ‘treat’, meant to be enjoyed in moderation. If you are addicted to sugar, cut off refined added sugar completely and have frozen or fresh fruit (but not fruit juice) whenever you feel like having something sweet.
6. This point is far more important than most people realize. Minimize exposure to chemicals. While it is virtually impossible to eliminate all chemicals from our lives, we can certainly minimize the chemicals we are exposed to, especially those in household products. Choose biodegradable and non-toxic options for cleaners, detergents, and personal care products. We absorb all these chemicals through the skin and inhale them, adding to our toxic load. The liver then has to detoxify these chemicals, adding to its burden.
7. Exercise at least 3–4 times a week (ideally every day). Exercise helps improve blood circulation, metabolism, brain function and all other body systems in general.
8. Practice stress management. Stress is a major contributor to unhealthy weight gain and disease. Stress releases cortisol, which converts stored fuel sources into glucose because the body needs energy for the fight-or-flight response. This used to be particularly useful for our ancestors when a predator was approaching, or other dangers. But why is this a problem now? Cortisol converts stored fuel from various parts of the body such as muscles, leading to a decrease in lean body mass which in turn causes the metabolic rate to fall. Since our current stress is usually non-life-threatening and a completely different, chronic kind of stress (such as work or finance), we do not need the available glucose especially when taken from our muscle mass. Add to this our sedentary lifestyle, and the glucose does not get used up and instead is deposited as truncal adiposity (belly fat). This also causes blood cholesterol levels to rise. Studies have found that over time, chronic stress can take a major toll on the body, contributing to reduced immunity, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, and depression.
9. Minimize caffeine. Replace coffee and tea with herbal teas, because caffeine also triggers the release of stress hormones. This is why you feel alert after a strong cup of tea or coffee – the stress hormones suppress sleep (from an evolutionary perspective – you can’t be dozing off if there’s imminent danger from a predator). While we are so used to getting a daily fix of caffeine in order to get things done, we need to understand that we are tired and sleepy because our body needs rest to repair and rejuvenate our tissues. Rested bodies perform better. The amazing human body would not need a rush of adrenaline or cortisol for energy to get through the day if we could only give it what it truly craves – good nutrition and rest. We would then be able to get through the day without any ‘help’ from caffeine – which is actually no help at all, when you really think about it.
10. Sleep at least 8 hours a day. Lack of sleep also causes stress hormones to rise, leading to the same effects as above.
11. Maintain good relationships with family and friends. Many studies report that those who have good relationships with their spouse and parents or have strong social networks are healthier than those who do not. Spend less time on social media and more on face to face interactions with people.
12. Laugh a lot. Laughter reduces stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine and increases the levels of feel-good hormones such as endorphins.