12 Keys to a Healthier Diet, Heart and Life
Developing healthy eating habits doesn’t have to be a complicated, restrictive process. In fact, if done correctly, you can enjoy a lot more than you think.
It is important to eat organic food, choose to be gluten-free, and avoid soy at all costs. You want to add color and variety to all of your meals. This ensures you are getting all of your essential nutrients from a variety of sources.
Avoiding empty-calorie foods is also important. Empty-calorie foods are exactly what their name implies: they are foods that provide only calories and no nutrients. You want to instead focus on nutrient-dense foods. These foods will give you key vitamins, minerals, and fiber along with healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates.
Foods in their natural state (meaning they haven’t been processed) have a “synergy” that ensures your body can effectively absorb and use the nutrients found within them. Think of your food as your fuel.
There are several ways to make healthier, habitual food choices that promote wellness. Read on below for our top twelve keys to a healthier diet, heart and life.
- Get adequate sleep. Sleep helps you to make good nutritional choices. In fact, a new study published in 2018 reported that getting extra sleep was associated with a lower intake of sugary foods and an improvement in diet quality1. Sleep also helps your body perform all of its essential tasks such as digestion and absorption of key nutrients.
- Don’t get too thirsty. Staying hydrated every day helps your organs function. It is also important for transporting nutrients to your cells and detoxing waste out of the body. Don’t get dehydrated…drink up!
- Stock up on smart snacks. Smart snacks are snacks that are good for the body. They can help you feel full in times of hunger and prevent you from binge-eating unhealthy foods. Seek out snacks like walnuts, pistachios and almonds that are heart-healthy and packed with protein to keep you feeling fuller longer.
- Eat more heart-healthy fish. Fish like salmon and sardines have healthy, essential fats. These fats are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower inflammation, increase blood flow and protect your heart and brain. Try to eat organic, wild-caught fish at least a couple times per week. For more information on healthy fish options read here.
- Swap pasta for vegetables. Eating more vegetables is key to good health. These foods are full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, vitamins and minerals that protect your heart. Try using spaghetti squash, spiralized sweet potato noodles or zucchini ribbons in place of typical pastas. While you’re at it, you can even sneak vegetables into dessert. Try out this recipe for Paleo Beetroot Chocolate Cake.
- Don’t worry about cholesterol. A lot of people have been told that cholesterol is bad for them. This is a myth. Cholesterol is actually good for you. Your body makes it and you can get some from your diet. Dietary cholesterol actually has little effect on blood cholesterol. Choosing heart-healthy fats like avocados, olives, coconut oil and nuts can actually be good for you as these fats help to balance your blood cholesterol levels.
- Monitor your minerals. Your mineral levels are important to your health. They are needed for cellular communication and processes that occur within the body at every second. A beneficial rule of thumb for most people is to decrease sodium and increase potassium. These minerals have opposite effects. Processed foods tend to be high in sodium while fresh foods are naturally high in potassium. Sodium increases blood pressure and can contribute to hypertension and heart disease. Potassium lowers blood pressure and is heart-healthy.
- Spice up your life. Spices are a great addition to any meal. They can turn even the simplest meals into disease-fighting dishes. These plant superstars are usually highly anti-inflammatory and can fight off harmful molecules in the body, which is why they are great for protecting against chronic disease. Adding spices to foods also increases flavor in foods while decreasing sugar.
- Battle the booze. Rather than engaging in cocktail hour, opt for an evening herbal tea or mid-day matcha break. Alcohol is an empty-calorie food, meaning it provides a lot of calories and no nutrients. Due to the fact that our bodies don’t require empty calories, the body will directly store the calories as fat during excess consumption.
- Get active! Regular exercise every day helps to control weight, helps keep you from overeating and contributes to good food choices. It also prevents against inflammation and chronic metabolic disease2. Lifestyle changes including diet and exercise have been found to have the greatest effect on weight loss when they are done together3. An inactive lifestyle can lead to a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer4.
- Cook at home. Preparing your meals at home is a great act of self-care that allows you to have nutritious meals every day of the week. Prepping and eating your meals at home saves money and time while providing nutrients and balancing weight. It also helps to prevent the stress of finding healthy, nutritious, organic foods.
- Take your supplements. If your diet is lacking in certain nutrients, you have a deficiency issue or if you are seeking optimal health, you should think about adding supplements to your routine. Along with this, you should get tested for both intracellular and extracellular nutrients. If you are low in one or some, you may need extra nutritional therapy in the form of supplements.
- Khatib et al., 2018: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/107/1/43/4794751
- Peeri et al., 2015: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26527493
- Foster-Schubert et al., 2012: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3406229/
- Booth et al., 2014: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241367/