Confusion about nutrition and health is widespread, and even qualified experts hold different opinions about what’s healthy and what’s not.
All the disagreement complicates choosing the best route for achieving your health goals, but these 22 tips are well-supported by research.
- Limit Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates
Eating a little sugar here and there is fine, but excessive intake can destroy metabolic health. (1)
You can wreak the same havoc on your system by eating a lot of refined carbohydrates, which affect the body in much the same way sugar does. (2)
Indulging in sugary drinks is the absolute worst thing you can do, because the brain doesn’t tally those kind of calories in the same way as it does solid food, and people end up eating more food. (3)
Keep in mind fruit juice is also a sweet drink, even though the sugar is natural.
- Drink Plenty of Water
A full list of health benefits goes along with staying hydrated, including support with weight control.
- Eat Whole Foods and Leave Junk Foods Alone
Processed junk foods are devoid of nutritional value, and have been engineered to elicit specific responses from the human body. Tripping the reward center in our brains, these foods can even lead to addiction for some. (6)
Stick with real foods in the whole and natural form.
- Get Good Sleep
Diet and exercise are important for good health, but quality sleep often falls by the wayside in the interest of fitting everything into busy lives.
Frequently shorting yourself on sleep messes with hormonal activity, impacts physical and mental performance, and is the most influential risk factor for developing obesity. (7)
- Use Your Muscles
Lifting weights is the best way to build strength and positively influence body composition, and it has beneficial effects on metabolic health as well. (8)
Brisk walking, aerobic exercise, and any movement that raises your heart rate is another excellent option; this will help reduce dangerous belly fat, which is also a boon to metabolic health. (9)
- Cultivate Satisfying Relationships
People who have close friendships and good family relationships enjoy better mental and physical health, as well as living longer than those who don’t. (10)
- Eat Fruits and Vegetables
Experts agree on this one; fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, as well as prebiotic fiber that can help keep the friendly gut bacteria happy.
People with the highest intake of fruits and vegetables are less likely to develop chronic disorders like heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes; they also live longer. (11)
- Eat Fatty Fish
This is another healthy habit most authorities agree on. People who eat fish such as salmon, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, not only have a lower risk of developing from the same chronic diseases mentioned above, but are also much less likely to suffer from depression or dementia. (12)
- Skip Dieting
Keeping your attention on nourishing the body rather than depriving it is the best way to achieve excellent health.
Dieting doesn’t work well over the long term for most people; it’s actually the strongest predictor for gaining weight in the future. (13)
Normal weight is a natural effect of eating good food and making smart lifestyle choices.
- Get Rid of Excess Belly Fat
Your weight isn’t as important as where your body stores fat. When extra fat builds up in the midsection around organs, your chance of developing metabolic diseases rises dramatically. (14)
Making sure protein intake is adequate, cutting carbs, and eating foods rich in fiber are proven ways to reduce belly fat. (15)
- Track Food Intake
You don’t have to sentence yourself to a lifetime of food journaling to reap the benefits of an increased awareness of what you’re putting into your mouth.
Find a method that works for you, whether it’s using a good tracking app, taking a photo of meals, or writing down what you eat, and use it for a week or two every now and then. Studies show people who do this are more likely to lock in healthy habits and keep weight in normal ranges. (16)
- Include Nuts in Your Diet
Even though they’re high in fat, nuts are incredibly healthy. They’re loaded with fiber, important vitamins and minerals, and can help you cut the risk of chronic diseases as well as drop weight. (17)
One study showed people who ate almonds lost 62% more weight than those who snacked on complex carbohydrates. (18)
- Drink Coffee
Though coffee got the thumbs down in the past, studies show coffee-drinkers live longer and run a lower risk of developing chronic diseases. (19)
The high levels of antioxidants in coffee is one reason it makes the cut as a healthy beverage.
- Supplement Vitamin D3
Most people don’t get enough sun exposure to ensure optimal vitamin D levels; statistics indicate more than 40% of Americans suffered from vitamin D deficiency in 2006. (20)
If you don’t get much sun, taking a vitamin D3 supplement can drop your risk of developing many diseases, including cancer. (21)
- Condition Your Gut
Referred to as gut microbiota, the colonies of bacteria in our digestive systems have a strong impact on physical and mental health. (22)
Keeping these little guys happy is important, and really quite simple. Add some plain yogurt with live cultures to your diet, eat some sauerkraut, or take a probiotic supplement.
- Don’t Burn Your Meat
Meat can be part of a healthy diet, but proper preparation is crucial.
Burned or charred meat contains harmful compounds that can jack up your risk of developing cancer. (23)
- Stay Away From Trans Fats
Research shows artificial trans fats are associated with excessive inflammation, which is a common denominator for many chronic diseases; they are also strongly linked to the development of heart disease. (24)
Shunning junk food and fried foods are excellent ways to cut trans fats in the diet.
- Get Plenty of Protein
Some experts believe the recommended amounts of protein are inadequate.
- Eat Your Eggs
Sometimes called “nature’s multivitamin,” eggs are incredibly healthy, and don’t deserve the bad reputation they’ve had in the past.
A review of studies encompassing more than 200,000 test subjects found there was absolutely no association between a higher risk of heart disease and egg consumption. (27)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the Best
The antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids in extra virgin olive oil can help decrease inflammation and boost heart health. (28)
Using olive oil significantly decreases the risk of death from coronary events like stroke and heart attack. (29)
- Include Beneficial Herbs and Spices in Your Diet
Make a point of using herbs and spices known to impart health benefits, including ginger and turmeric.
- Lose Any Fears About Eating Saturated Fats
The saturated fat scare was based on bad science, and the myth is currently being retired.
Reviews of studies that encompass health statistics for hundreds of thousands of people confirm that there is no link between eating saturated fat and developing heart disease. (32)
Total cholesterol is elevated with the consumption of saturated fat, but HDL cholesterol (the good kind) climbs, and LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) is changed from small and dense to large. This translates to benefits for the heart. (33)
Get Healthy, Stay Healthy
Navigating through all the conflicting information available on which foods and habits will make the most significant contributions to your health can be a daunting task.
Summary: Stick with the guidelines above to establish a solid base to work from; not only can you improve your chances of avoiding chronic diseases, but you’ll have a better shot at starting each day feeling good.