If you add one new healthy habit each day for seven days, you will be on the road to better health than you’ve ever experienced. Some of the simplest things in life work the best and this is certainly true of the health tips in this article. A healthy diet is not about restriction, it’s more about ‘crowding out’ bad foods and replacing them with good ones. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just read on and see for yourself!
Day 1: Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. Your body is estimated to be about 70 percent water. Blood is mostly water, and your muscles, lungs, and brain all contain a lot of water. Your body needs water to regulate body temperature and to provide the means for nutrients to travel to all your organs. Water also transports oxygen to your cells, removes waste, and protects your joints and organs. Without enough water, the liver can’t do its job well. And its job, as you know, is to detox the whole body—a pretty important task in these modern times. Also, did you know that about 80% of the population is chronically dehydrated? Do you feel tired a lot and have headaches? Is your skin dry and do your moods shift frequently? These can all be signs of dehydration. The cure? Drink more water every day!
Ever feel puffy and bloated? Drink more water! It can help to ease the fluid retention and bloating associated with premenstrual syndrome. Trying to lose weight? Drink water. It naturally suppresses the appetite and helps the body metabolize fat.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that it is possible to drink too much water. A good rule of thumb is to drink between six to eight glasses per day. Try filling a large water bottle (32 oz.) and keep it with you throughout the day to start, and then try to drink two of them a day once you’ve gotten used to drinking more water.
Day 2: Walk 20 minutes a day. Exercise is just as important to good health as drinking water and eating nutritious foods. Some of the reasons why are: exercise improves your mood. Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A brisk 20-minute walk can help you calm down. Worried about heart disease? Hoping to prevent osteoporosis? Regular exercise can help you prevent, or manage, these conditions along with high blood pressure as well. And there’s more. Regular exercise can help you prevent type 2 diabetes. If you need more convincing, you’ll have more energy and burn calories making it easier to control your weight. If you’re new to exercise, try taking two 10 minute walks a day, and if you can take your walk outside, you’ll get the added benefits of fresh air and vitamin D from the sun!
Day 3: Eat more greens. Green vegetables are the foods most missing in modern diets. Learning to cook and eat greens is essential to building good health. When you nourish yourself with greens, you will naturally crowd out the foods that make you sick. Greens strengthen the blood and respiratory systems. In Asian medicine, green is related to the liver, emotional stability and creativity. Nutritionally, greens are very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and vitamins A, C, E and K. They are loaded with fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll and many other micro-nutrients and phyto-chemicals.
Some of the benefits from eating dark leafy greens are:
- Blood purification
- Cancer prevention
- Improved circulation
- Strengthened immune system
- Promotion of healthy intestinal flora
- Promotion of subtle, light and flexible energy
- Lifted spirit and elimination of depression
- Improved liver, gall bladder and kidney function
- Cleared congestion, especially in the lungs, by reducing mucus
There are so many greens to choose from. Find greens that you love and eat them often. When you get bored with your favorites, be adventurous and try greens that you’ve never heard of before. Broccoli is a favorite and gives you strong, grounded energy. Rotate between bok choy, Napa cabbage, kale, collards, watercress, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, dandelion and other leafy greens. Green cabbage is great in the form of sauerkraut or raw. Arugula, endive, chicory, lettuce, mesclun and wild greens are generally eaten raw, but can be consumed in any creative way you enjoy. Spinach, Swiss chard and beet greens are best eaten in moderation because they are high in oxalic acid, which depletes calcium from bones and teeth, and may lead to osteoporosis. Cook these vegetables with something rich like tofu, seeds, nuts, beans, butter, animal products or oil. This will balance the effect of the oxalic acid.
Try a variety of methods like steaming, boiling, sautéing in oil, water sautéing, waterless cooking or lightly pickling, as in a pressed salad. Boiling makes greens plump and relaxed. Boil for under a minute so that the nutrients in the greens do not get lost in the water. You can also drink the cooking water as a healthy broth or tea if you’re using organic greens. Steaming helps vegetables to retain their fiber, causing them to move more easily through the digestive tract. Raw salad is also a wonderful preparation for greens. It’s refreshing, cooling and soft, and supplies live enzymes.
When some people hear “leafy green vegetables,” they often think of iceberg lettuce, but the ordinary, pale lettuce in restaurant salads doesn’t have the power-packed goodness of other greens. Get into the habit of adding these dark, leafy green vegetables to your daily diet.
Day 4: Eat more fruit. Fiber, which is naturally present in high amounts in fruit, is responsible for many of its benefits. Fruit is also high in antioxidants as well as rich in vitamins. Fruit tends to have lower glycemic index values than processed foods, meaning they have a smaller impact on blood sugar levels and helps curb sweet cravings. Besides these benefits, eating fruit helps to cleanse the body, especially the colon. Try eating 2 to 3 pieces of fruit a day and eat a variety of fruits. (Note: eating whole fruits is much better for you than fruit juice, which does not contain the fiber, and is most times loaded with sugar.)
Day 5: Eat whole grains. Whole grains have been a central element of the human diet since early civilization. Humans ceased being hunter-gatherers and settled down into farming communities when they were able to cultivate grain crops. People living in these communities—on all continents—had lean, strong bodies. In the Americas, corn was the staple grain. In India and Asia, it was rice. In Africa, people ate sorghum. In the Middle East, they made pita bread, tabouli and couscous. In Europe, corn, millet, wheat, rice, pasta, dark breads and even beer were considered health-providing foods. In Scotland, oats were a staple food. In Russia, they ate buckwheat or kasha. Very few people were overweight.
Whole grains are an excellent source of nutrition, as they contain essential enzymes, iron, dietary fiber, vitamin E and B-complex vitamins. Because the body absorbs grain slowly, they provide sustained and high-quality energy.
The quickest way to create great grains is to experiment and find what works for you. Here are basic directions:
- Measure the grain, check for bugs or unwanted material, and rinse in cold water, using a fine mesh strainer.
- Optional: soak grains for one to eight hours to soften, increase digestibility and eliminate phytic acid. Drain grains and discard the soaking water.
- Add grains to recommended amount of water and bring to a boil.
- A pinch of sea salt may be added to grains to help the cooking process, with the exception of kamut, amaranth and spelt (salt interferes with their cooking time).
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer for the suggested amount of time.
|1 Cup Grains||Water||Cooking Time|
|Brown rice||2 cups||45-60 minutes|
|Buckwheat (aka kasha)*||2 cups||20-30 minutes|
|Oats (whole groats)||3 cups||75-90 minutes|
|Oatmeal (rolled oats)||2 cups||20-30 minutes|
|Amaranth||3 cups||30 minutes|
|Barley (pearled)||2-3 cups||60 minutes|
|Barley (hulled)||2-3 cups||90 minutes|
|Bulgur (cracked wheat)||2 cups||20 minutes|
|Cornmeal (aka polenta)||3 cups||20 minutes|
|Couscous**||1 cup||5 minutes|
|Kamut||3 cups||90 minutes|
|Millet||2 cups||30 minutes|
|Quinoa||2 cups||15-20 minutes|
|Rye berries||3 cups||2 hours|
|Spelt||3 cups||2 hours|
|Wheat berries||3 cups||60 minutes|
|Wild rice||4 cups||60 minutes|
All liquid measures and times are approximate. Cooking length depends on how strong the heat is. It’s a good idea, especially for beginners, to lift the lid and check the water level halfway through cooking and toward the end, making sure there is still enough water to not scorch the grains. Be sure to taste the grains to see if they are fully cooked or starting to burn.
Cooking larger grains like brown rice, barley and berries in a pressure cooker speeds up cooking time and creates softer grains.
Cooked grains keep very well. Busy people can prepare larger quantities of grains and simply reheat with a little oil or water later in the week. Also, to keep in mind, roasting grains makes them more alkaline.
*The texture of grains can be changed by boiling the water before adding the grains. This will keep the grains separated and prevent a mushy consistency. This is the only way to cook kasha. Do not add kasha to cold water, as it will not cook properly. For a softer, more porridge-like consistency, boil the grain and liquid together.
**Technically not a grain, but a small pasta product.
Day 6: Eat more nuts and seeds. These little gems contain healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Most nuts contain healthy protein as well.
Classified as a nut, almonds are actually the seed of the fruit of an almond tree. Eating twelve almonds per day can provide you with the recommended daily allowance of essential fatty acids, which are vital to good health. Almonds are rich in potassium and are considered a “good” fat. However, these fruit seeds are high in calories, so limit your intake to no more than twelve per day. Unblanched almonds are considered to be the healthiest choice. Avoid dry roasted almonds or almonds covered in sugar, honey or salt.
Pumpkin seeds: Research shows pumpkin seeds to be effective in lowering cholesterol levels, promoting prostate health, and supporting the function of the immune system. Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of potassium, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc. One and one-half ounces of pumpkin seeds can provide over one-third of an adult’s daily zinc requirements. However, pumpkin seeds are high in calories and should be eaten in moderation. Limit consumption to no more than three times weekly.
Sunflower seeds: One of the most popular seeds consumed, sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E and are known to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Studies have also shown them effective in guarding against cataracts. Experts recommend eating two tablespoons of sunflower seeds each day. Doing so will double your intake of vitamin E. However, they are high in calories and should be eaten in limited quantities.
To get more of these healthy foods in your diet, try these tips:
- Sprinkle nuts and seeds on a healthy salad.
- Sliced almonds taste great on fish or vegetable dishes.
- Roast your own pumpkin seeds in the oven.
- Coarsely grind some nuts or seeds and add one-fourth to one-half cup to your favorite whole grain bread recipe or bread machine mix.
Other good choices are walnuts, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, peanuts and cashews.
Day 7: Celebrate your new and improved health and do it all again next week!