In part one of this series we discovered how to monitor if your lifestyle is putting you at risk of chronic disease. In this segment, we’ve put together 10 handy tips, regarding various factors like your nutrition and fitness, that can reduce your risk.
If your lifestyle was getting out of hand, don’t worry, the moment you decide to make a change is the one that counts. Remember small changes that build up over the days ahead become habits, and creating better habits is the key to reducing your chronic disease. 🗝
A warning: Don’t try and change too hard and too fast. Make the change gradual and consistent and that will likely last longer. You have one life, as they say: YOLO! (You only live once) Taking care of the one and only body you have matters. So effect changes in a way that will impact and last into your seasoned years ahead.
Here are 10 healthy tips you can start incorporating into your days...
- Watch your weight
- Embrace exercise!
- Reduce your salt
- Eat more fibre
- Include antioxidants and phytochemicals
- Consider how you cook?
- Limit your Sugar
- Factor in your Fats–the good the bad and the ugly
- Organize your Omegas
- Vitamin D - The Sunshine vitamin
1. Watch your weight
Watching your weight not only refers to overweight but underweight as well. The goal here is to maintain a healthy weight for your height, as well as a healthy body fat percentage for your age.
Being overweight or obese increases your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer–to name a few.
Being underweight, on the other hand, can lead to osteoporosis. A healthy weight is maintainable through balanced eating habits and regular exercise.
KNOW your weight, acknowledge when you’ve put on weight either slowly or quickly. Look at your eating habits, have they changed? Have you skipped gym often? Have you been losing sleep? 💤 Is this loss of sleep affecting your energy levels and food choices the next day? All these little questions you ask yourself count.
To start off, replace binging on poor quality food choices like crisps, chocolate and cakes with fruit! In all instances of chronic diseases increasing fruit and vegetable intake is recommended. Yes, even in diabetes prevention fruit is essential. Fruit and veg will provide you with fibre, antioxidants, and phytochemicals–to name a few. Aiming for five or more servings of vegetables per day and two or more servings of fruit would easily help you meet your much needed fibre and antioxidants for the day. This way you’re watching your weight AND getting the added benefits of eating the right kind of food. You’re on your way! 👏
2. Embrace exercise!
Exercise is the first thing to get binned when we get too busy. For many of us, the majority of our days are spent sitting in front of computer screens. This can quickly become the epitome of inactivity.
Finding time to go to the gym is not always possible, but exercise doesn't always mean running a treadmill marathon.
Try to add activity breaks throughout the day, such as walking around the office, and using the stairs where possible – it all adds up. If you want to train but are too busy, find moments in your day to keep active eg. do some squats or pushups while waiting for the bath to fill up.
Once you’re moving around, try aiming for a minimum of three 30 minute work-out sessions per week is all you need to remain physically active. 💃🕺Dance, aerobics, hand weights, play a sport, a run around your block, or laps in the pool - do something (... anything!) to move your body! And this in itself will bring you one step closer to preventing lifestyle-related diseases. Remember lifestyle-related disease can lead to chronic disease if unmonitored, so get up and move your lifestyle to new habits! 🏄
3. Reduce your salt
Regular and excessive salt intake has been identified as a cause for high blood pressure– and depending on your genetic predisposition you might need to reduce your salt intake more than others.
Salt is 90% sodium chloride. When you eat too much salt the amount of sodium increases in our blood, making it difficult for your kidneys to remove water from the blood. When too much water is stored in your body it results in an increase in blood pressure. Because of this, it’s important that you decrease your salt intake. 🧂
Since the nutritional content of the different salts are very similar consider alternative flavourings. Alternatives to using salt would mean flavouring your food with:• Fresh or dried herbs
• Dried spices
Sodium also occurs naturally in most foods–including fruits and vegetables. Adding salt to your food is the easiest way to increase your sodium intake to unhealthy levels.
Keep an eye out for salty snacks, such as salted nuts, as well as typically salty foods, like processed foods. Foods that require a longer shelf life (tins, jars and packets) also have higher than normal sodium levels–this means choosing fresh options is best or you can give the food labels a read.
Did you know you can find out your genetic predisposition to salt? At DNAfit we test your genes for insights like your salt sensitivity, carb sensitivity, caffeine sensitivity as well as coeliac predisposition and other important diet insights.
4. Eat more fibre
Fibre not only encourages regular bowel movements –reducing your colorectal cancer risk, but it also helps with improving your bodies insulin response, helping reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
On average you should aim for around 30 grams of fibre per day. This can be achieved not only from your fruit and veg, but whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds as well. 🥜
Eating 30 grams of fibre from fruit and vegetables alone would look something like–two guavas, one cup of raspberries, a three quarter cup of cooked butternut squash, a three quarter cup boiled kale, and half a cup of cooked peas.
5. Include antioxidants and phytochemicals
Antioxidants and phytochemicals, found in fruits and vegetables, have cancer protective properties, and have also been found to protect against type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 💔
Antioxidants are a group of micronutrients namely, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium.
Phytochemicals are the biologically active components of plants–like glucosinolates from green leafy vegetables.
These substances perform complementary mechanisms in your body, like inducing detoxification genes, preventing oxidative damage and reducing inflammation.
Antioxidants are the Avengers of your body fighting the free radicals and preventing them from taking over! Activate the Avengers of your body by consuming foods rich in antioxidants–like olives, nuts, seeds and fish. They’re good for heart health and help to lower our risk of infections.
When you’re deciding which fruits and vegetables to eat, try for an array of colours. The more colours you see on your plate the better your chances are of including all your antioxidants and phytonutrients.
6. Consider how you cook
How you cook your red meat, chicken and fish can also impact your health. If you are cooking
your protein sources to a point of being burnt or charred, usually at temperatures higher than 200°C (400°F), you are causing toxic chemicals to form on the surface. These toxins can cause damage to your body’s tissues and cells. This also applies to smoked and preserved foods–like deli meats and sausages.
Avoiding smoked, grilled and preserved meats can aid in cancer prevention, and in turn heart disease –by encouraging you to eat less sodium from preserved and smoked meats, and less saturated fat from red meat. 🥩
Bake, boil and steam
Cooking your meats at temperatures less than 200°C (400°F) does not produce the same
amount of toxins as cooking a higher temperature, or over an open flame. This means that roasting and baking are good alternatives to chargrilling.
You can also choose indirect cooking methods like boiling, steaming or poaching - this will act as a buffer preventing burning and charring. Another reason to go for indirect cooking is that these methods require little to no added fat, making them heart healthy.
7. Limit your Sugar
Sugar is a major culprit when it comes to type 2 diabetes development, as well as heart disease. While it has been argued whether or not sugar is a direct cause, one thing for certain is sugar leads to obesity, and obesity is very closely associated with type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Reducing your sugar consumption can lead to a moderate weight loss, by indirectly reducing your total caloric consumption–this has been found to reduce the risk of chronic diseases in general.
The term sugar refers to the sugar that you add to your cup of tea or coffee, as well as the sugar found in soft drinks, fruit drinks, and energy drinks, baked products, sauces, sweets, chocolates and ready made meals–like sucrose, high fructose corn syrup and/or fruit juice concentrates. It is far too easy to drink sugary beverages than it is to eat the equivalent. So watch your sugary drink intake and reduce it, and aim to, in the long run, cut all sugary drinks from your diet. Replace it with water, you will feel the difference in a positive way.🚰
Refined starches are carbohydrates that have had their natural fibres removed–like white bread, white rice, potato chips and french fries.
Not so sweet
This does not mean that you can’t include sugar and refined starches, what it does mean is that you need to be conscious of the amount you include on a day-to-day basis. For instance when you’re thirsty choose water or an unsweetened alternative. If you’re a fan of hot beverages, try not to add more than one level teaspoon of sugar per cup–keeping in mind the more cups you have the more sugar you’ll be drinking. Allow yourself to have that chocolate you’ve been craving, just not every day and not in excess.
Snack on a handful of unsalted nuts instead of potato chips. There is always a tasty healthy alternative, and now you know what it is! 🎉
8. Factor in your Fats–the good the bad and the ugly
Let’s take a look at fats, and what you should do with them.
When it comes to fats, it’s good to understand the rules of the good, the bad and the ugly. Not all fats are equal–understanding the rules will ensure you’re on the winning side in the battle against bad fats.
Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats improve good (HDL) cholesterol, and can improve risks of heart disease and stroke. Roll the dice on good sources like olives, peanuts, avocados; sunflower and pumpkin seeds; walnuts, fatty fish and fish oil.
Saturated fat isn’t the worst of the fats–but it’s not considered a healthy fat either. Its true status depends on your consumption. If not moderated, saturated fat can raise bad LDL cholesterol, negatively impacting heart health. Limiting your intake of foods like red meat, chicken skin, whole-fat dairy products, butter and coconut oil, will go a long way towards improving your well-being.
The ugly Trans fat is the worst type of fat, raising bad (LDL) cholesterol and lowering good (HDL) cholesterol levels. This creates inflammation in your body and is linked to chronic conditions like heart disease and strokes. Trans fat also contributes to insulin resistance, increasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. To eliminate trans fat, avoid commercially-baked pastries, cookies, cakes, pizza dough, packaged snack foods and fried foods.
The game is on! Remember the rules to play and win! As long as you face the fat facts, you’ll be a champion of good cholesterol.🏆
9. Organize your Omegas
Omega-3’s are the trickiest unsaturated fat to get through your diet since the best sources are limited to pink oily fish (salmon, mackerel and herring), walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds. Eating 90 grams of pink oily fish at least three times per week is recommended. You can still include some walnuts and chia seeds, it’s just not advisable to use them as your main omega-3 source. If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, supplementation with algae oil is an option.
Omega-6’s are essential, and they’re easy to get through your diet. Most nuts and seeds are good sources, and that would include all oils derived from those nuts and seeds.
10. Vitamin D - The Sunshine vitamin
We have the incredible ability to make vitamin D from spending some time in the sun, 🌞 and this is useful considering the dietary sources of vitamin D is limited to pink oily fish and some mushrooms.🍄
However we no longer spend enough time outdoors to get that essential vitamin D, and we often don’t eat enough fish to compensate for it.
If this wasn’t enough of an obstacle; there are many factors that influence whether or not you make enough vitamin D to conserve your bone health, namely:
- cloud cover
- time spent in the sun
- the amount of skin you have exposed
- your skin tone
- the use of sunscreen
- time of day
To help you meet your vitamin D requirements countries like the UK and USA fortify milk with
vitamin D, which is ideal, considering milk is a major source of calcium.
If you are lactose intolerant, all is not lost, including 90 grams of salmon three times per week will meet your requirements, otherwise one teaspoon of cod liver oil is also an option.
Monitoring your vitamin D levels is always advised, even if you live in a sun filled country.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead not only to reduced bone mineral density in the long run, but heart disease as well.
You can discover your vitamin D-need with a simple and easy at home DNA test. You can uncover not only nutrition insights, but fitness, stress and sleep insights as well. And once you know what you need, you will be better equipped to fulfil those needs!
Free yourself from chronic disease by consciously taking steps to better lifestyle choices. 🙌