Here are 100 simple ways to be healthy. Over time, you’ll find that these habits start to accumulate. Before you know it, you’ll wake up and discover that you’re leading the healthy, happy life you’ve been aiming for.
1 SIP GREEN TEA BEFORE YOU WALK.
This habit will help you to shed those unwanted kilos. Research shows that the caffeine in green tea frees fatty acids so that you burn fat more easily. The antioxidant content in green tea has also been shown to increase calorie burn.
2 SWITCH OUT YOUR AFTER-WORK SWEATPANTS FOR WORKOUT GEAR.
This will have two results. The first is that it will be easier for you to move, so you’re likely to put more energy into your chores and work up more of a sweat. The second is that it increases the chances that you’ll go out for a jog or engage in a little indoor strength training.
3 OXYGENATE WITH FRESH MORNING AIR.
We all know how important oxygen is for our health. Neuroscientist Dr Tara Swart says it is crucial to proper brain function. But when is the best time for us to breathe deeply? Early-morning air is optimal for a deep-breathing session, as there has been little to no traffic throughout the night and the air is at its cleanest.
4 DISINFECT YOUR OFFICE DOORKNOB.
Research from the University of Arizona has shown that using disinfectant wipes on commonly touched objects, such as doorknobs, can reduce the spread of cold-and-flu-causing viruses by up to 90%.
5 MAKE YOUR OWN SALAD DRESSING.
While we all love to add a little flavour to our salads, most store-bought salad dressings are full of unhealthy ingredients. Don’t miss out; make your own version of your favourite salad dressing at home. There are hundreds of quick and easy, healthy salad dressing recipes online. Some of them are more cost-effective, too.
6 READ LABELS.
To stay healthy, you must know what is going into your body. Dietician and former president of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, Claire Julsing-Strydom, says there are no hidden salts and sugars. The amounts are right there on the label; you just have to look for them. It is also important to look up ingredient names that you don’t recognise, and decide which ingredients you are – and aren’t – happy to eat. Knowledge is power.
7 KNOW YOUR NUMBERS.
For better health and vitality, Dr Vash Mungal-Singh, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, advises: “High blood pressure and high cholesterol are known as ‘silent killers’, as they usually don’t present with any symptoms. It’s important to know your numbers by having your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels checked regularly, to know if you are at risk.”
8 EAT SARDINES TWICE A WEEK.
Sardines are packed with lean protein and omega-3. Omega-3 is crucial for brain functionality, gut health and reducing levels of chronic, low-grade inflammation. This form of inflammation has been found to be the root cause of all disease, and our modern lifestyle choices make it worse. Sardines are an affordable way to get good quality nutrition and fortify yourself against illness.
9 KICK THAT ADDICTION.
Addiction affects our physiology, making us more susceptible to premature aging, according to clinical psychologist Dr Sandrina Haeck. Substance addiction can lead to long-term cognitive impairment, damage to neurotransmitters, increased stress levels, sleep disorders, weakened heart muscles, increased risk of stroke, cancer, liver disease, lung disease, sexual dysfunction, infertility and a damaged immune system.
10 MEDITATE IN THE MORNING.
Tiffany Cruikshank, an internationally renowned yoga instructor and the founder of Yoga Medicine, says: “I start my day with a simple meditation practice; it sets the tone for my day and clears my head to prepare for what is to come.”
11 LOWER YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE WITH HERBS AND SPICES.
Add ground cloves, ground Jamaican allspice, sage, marjoram, ground cinnamon, ground oregano, thyme, turmeric and cayenne pepper to your dishes.
12 BEWARE OF HIGHLY ACIDIC FOODS.
If you want to protect your bones, you should cut down on the following foods:
• Cured meats: These are often preserved or colour-/flavour-enhanced with sodium nitrite.
• Processed sugars: The most common forms of both brown and white sugar are bleached with sulphur dioxide and phosphoric acid. This can result in tissue acidification, poor vitamin C distribution, copper deficiency, and poor calcium and magnesium absorption.
• Bleached flour: The bleaching process introduces troublesome chemicals such as chlorine dioxide, benzoyl peroxide and alloxan.
13 PRACTISE HYGGE.
The Danish have been crowned the happiest nation in the world. They suggest that we all add a little hygge (pronounced hue-guh) to our lives if we want greater life satisfaction. Hygge is a feeling of “cosy, charming or special”. You can create this feeling by lighting candles during the day, having tea and cake (or something healthier) with a friend or curling up in a patch of sun with a good book. It can be described as “the art of creating intimacy”, whether with yourself, your friends or your home.
14 DRINK APPLE CIDER VINEGAR.
Drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in water once a day can boost your health. It can improve insulin sensitivity, help you to lose weight, lower your risk of heart disease, improve your ability to absorb nutrients, alkalise your body, improve your digestion and give you more energy-efficient muscles.
15 TAKE COLD SHOWERS.
Research has shown that cold water can boost your longevity. Taking a cold shower daily can improve your immunity and circulation and help you to burn fat. Believe it or not, this was one of Katherine Hepburn’s anti-aging secrets.
16 PRACTISE INTERMITTENT FASTING.
Neuroscientist Dr Tara Swart shares that it can be useful to practise intermittent fasting, as it teaches your brain that you can manage small amounts of physical stress. This makes you more mentally resilient.
17 TRY HIIT WORKOUTS.
High-intensity interval training is the best form of exercise for longevity. A study published in the journal Cell Metabolism revealed that it improved age-related decline in muscle mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell). It also increased protein production in cells, important for normal body function – a process that normally declines with age.
18 DON’T CHECK YOUR EMAIL WHEN YOU WAKE UP.
Don’t check your WhatsApps, either. Rather allow yourself 10 minutes of quiet and calm while you drink a cup of tea or coffee. This is a great way to centre yourself and practise mindfulness at the start of your day.
19 GET CREATIVE WITH YOGHURT.
No one can deny that yoghurt is a quick and easy, healthy breakfast option. It is also great for your gut health – just make sure that it contains live bacterium. Pair it with fruit salad and seeds for your classic breakfast, or use it to marinate meat; as a base for dips, soups and sauces; or as a replacement for butter in mashed potato.
20 USE A NETI POT.
Valerie Orsini, health and wellness expert and founder of LeBootCamp, swears by it. “Every morning, wherever I am in the world, I do a neti pot session to rinse my sinuses and stave off nasty bacteria and germs. Since I started this regimen, I have not caught a cold during winter or after travelling by plane.”
21 HAVE EGGS FOR DINNER.
Eggs are a great source of protein and, according to neuroscientist Dr Tara Swart, the perfect brain food. Plus, they turn into a meal quicker than any other form of protein, saving you about 20 minutes. They’re perfect to add to dinner on those days when you’re exhausted and not in the mood for cooking.
22 DRINK COFFEE.
Studies show that women who drink four cups of coffee a day have a 20% lower risk for depression and a 65% lower risk of late-in-life dementia. Be sure to skip the sugar, skimp on the milk and choose mould-free coffee. Bullet-proof coffee – coffee combined with butter or coconut oil – might be your best choice, as it’s believed to give you clean energy and a complete lack of cravings for six hours.
23 SHIVER YOUR WAY TO A SLIMMER BODY.
Exercising in temperatures between 16°C and 18°C activates brown fat. According to George King, chief scientific officer at Joslin Diabetes Centre in Boston, this is a metabolically active type of fat that cranks up calorie burn and helps your body to regulate insulin.
24 TAKE A PROBIOTIC DAILY.
Nutrition expert Melissa Kelly suggests that you take a probiotic every day. This will help to protect your gut health and boost your immunity. Try a supplement with at least 1 billion colony-forming units of either Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG or Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. Lactis BB-12.
25 SATISFY YOUR THIRST.
Be sure to stay hydrated. According to nutrition expert Linda Drummond, the amount of fluid in our bodies impacts on the way our cells function. Over time, dehydration can negatively impact on healthy aging. Drummond says you need 30-35ml fluid per kilogram of body weight on a fairly sedentary day.
26 JUMP IN PLACE 10 TIMES.
Research out of Brigham Young University in the USA shows that women aged 25-50 who jumped 10 times twice a day improved their hip-bone density after 16 weeks.
27 DON’T STIFLE THAT YAWN.
Research from the University of Vienna, Austria, has revealed that yawning helps to cool your brain, which improves alertness and performance.
28 HAVE SEX FOR BETTER SLEEP.
According to Dr Careen Rascher, a sexual medicine expert, having sex can improve your sleep. The hormone prolactin is released at orgasm, creating those feelings of relaxation and sleepiness after sex.
29 CHECK YOUR HORMONE LEVELS.
Hormone health is a crucial and often-ignored aspect of one’s wellbeing. Dr Sly Nedic, a GP with a special interest in hormones, explains that your hormones form part of a process known as methylation. When your hormone levels go out of balance, the process is disrupted, resulting in a number of unpleasant symptoms. If you are experiencing health challenges, be sure to check your hormones.
30 TURN DOWN THE HEAT IN THE BEDROOM.
Keep your bedroom temperature between 18°C and 21°C. A cool bedroom allows for the drop in core body temperature necessary to induce restful, uninterrupted sleep.
31 SLEEP NAKED.
Following on from keeping it cool in the bedroom, sleeping naked helps to reduce your skin temperature. It also keeps your cortisol levels in check (reducing your stress) and stimulates your metabolism. That’s right! Sleeping naked stimulates the creation of more brown fat cells – which, as we know, help you to burn more calories.
32 BOOST IMMUNITY WITH SALINE NASAL SPRAY.
US physician and TV personality Dr Travis Stork suggests using one or two squirts every morning and night. It immediately moisturises the nasal passages and washes away congestion, allergens and other irritants.
33 TRY YOUR GENES ON FOR SIZE.
In the last few years, genetic testing has become far more accessible and affordable. Testing for hereditary diseases, understanding which medication will give you side-effects, discovering the correct eating plan for your genes and learning to exercise like your ancestors are all important tools to add to your health box. The future of health is personalised information that will allow you to prevent or treat illness far more successfully.
34 GO BAREFOOT.
According to a review published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health in 2012, when you walk barefoot on the ground, the Earth’s surface electrons are transferred into your body, promoting physiological changes. These electrons have antioxidant effects that help to fight oxidative stress, which is associated with inflammation and disease.
35 DRINK WATER AND LEMON EVERY MORNING.
Starting off your day with a glass of warm water and a slice of lemon has been shown to aid digestion, support immune function, alkalise the body, promote natural detox and keep your skin looking healthy and vibrant.
36 SOAK IN EPSOM SALTS.
Registered dietician Deborah Levy, MS states that soaking in Epsom salts can help to replenish your magnesium levels. This is great news, as magnesium protects against stress.
37 BUY ‘AIRCLEANING’ PLANTS FOR YOUR OFFICE.
Plants have been proven to reduce absenteeism by up to 50% and minor illness by up to 30%. This is due to improved air quality. By introducing a ratio of three people to every one plant, air quality is significantly improved and dust is reduced by up to 50%. This dust includes the bacteria and mould particles that, when inhaled, cause employees to fall ill. There are also many man-made toxins within an office created by plastics, paint, furniture, carpets and certain cleaning products that are reduced significantly by plants.
38 COLOUR YOUR LIFE.
“Colour is a powerful communication tool. It can be used to signal action, influence mood and even influence physiological reactions,” clinical psychologist Dr Sandrina Haeck explains. In a new study examining the influence of colour on performance, the colour red was shown to make people’s work more accurate, while blue made them more creative. Investigate how colour affects your mood and apply this to your life.
39 EAT LIKE A MEDITERRANEAN.
Following a Mediterranean diet forces artificial sugars and packaged foods out of your life and replaces them with lean protein, omega-3 and high-fibre fruits and vegetables. The health benefits are numerous.
40 WEAR SUNSCREEN EVERY DAY.
We all know that the sun can be damaging, regardless of whether it is hot and sunny or overcast. We suggest a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection. This is a great way to protect against skin cancer and one of the oldest anti-aging tricks in the book.
41 SPIKE YOUR BREAKFAST WITH CINNAMON.
Cinnamon has been shown to reduce insulin resistance, and it could assist in lowering cholesterol and triglycerides. This, in turn, can reduce your risk of Type-2 diabetes.
42 LAUGH OUT LOUD.
A good laugh may give you a mental boost similar to meditation, according to research presented at the Experimental Biology conference in San Diego in 2014.
43 CUT THE MIDNIGHT SNACK.
Neuroscientist Dr Tara Swart says eating too close to bedtime affects your quality of sleep. Research has also shown that eating after nine o’clock can place strain on your liver.
44 DON’T SKIMP ON THE B12.
Research has found that low levels of B12 can result in depression. Experts recommend supplementing your antidepressant with B12 for optimal effects.
45 GO FOR A WALK IN NATURE.
Despite the fact that going for a 30-minute walk is just good exercise, research from the University of Essex has uncovered an added benefit. It found that taking a walk in a very green, natural environment reduced depression in 71% of participants.
46 TURN OFF YOUR PC SCREEN.
Switch off your cell phone and TV screen while you’re at it. Neuroscientist Dr Tara Swart explains that screen light disrupts your hormone levels, making it harder for you to fall asleep. Bright light spikes your cortisol and prevents you from releasing melatonin, the sleep hormone. Ensure quality sleep by turning off all screens an hour before bed.
47 EAT YOUR POTATOES COLD.
Nutrition expert Melissa Kelly notes that when potatoes cool, they become low-GI and take on the form of a resistant starch. This means they act like fibre, improving the quality of your digestion and encouraging slow energy release. They also promote gut health and boost your immunity.
48 BUY AN AIR FRYER.
Air fryers allow you to cook with 80% less fat, while still making food that’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Little to no oil is needed to ensure the perfect texture and delicious results. This will also save you on preparation time. Pop in some chicken bits, set the timer and you’re ready to go.
49 GET YOUR PROTEIN FROM PLANTS.
Studies show that lessening meat and egg intake and increasing beans, nuts and grains will improve your cardiovascular mortality and overall vitality.
50 AVOID ENERGY DRINKS.
The effect energy drinks have in the long run is not beneficial to your health. They work only for a short period of time, leaving you with low energy levels and caffeine withdrawal. They are also often high in sugar and put you at risk of developing lifestyle diseases.
51 DRINK YOUR GREENS.
Starting your day with a green smoothie is a great way to get lots of vitamins into your system and give you the health boost you need.
52 USE YOUR INTERNET TIME WISELY.
We all check our phone first thing in the morning to catch up on WhatsApp, emails and social media. Instead of staying in bed for those 10 minutes, check your phone while you walk on the spot. You can easily get in an extra 2 000 steps before you leave the house.
53 BUY SOME FUNKY WORKOUT GEAR.
If you feel great in your workout clothes, you are more likely to want to wear them and work out in them. Many people avoid exercise because of how they think they might look while doing it.
54 MAKE SURE YOU GET DOWNTIME.
It is important to ensure that you schedule “me time” into your week. This allows you to destress, which is crucial to your productivity and health.
55 DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES.
Beware of fruit juice, soda, iced tea, store-bought smoothies or any beverage with added sugars. These drinks will quickly take you over the threshold of your recommended daily added-sugar intake.
56 DON’T BUY UNHEALTHY FOOD.
When we asked Paul Atkinson, chef at the Buddhist retreat in Ixopo, for his tips on how to buy healthy food, he said: “The grocery store is split up into sections – just don’t go to the processed food section.” If you don’t have it in the house, you are far less likely to eat it.
57 GET INTO THE GREAT OUTDOORS.
As easy as it can be to spend weekend after weekend indoors, getting outside for a few hours a week is great for your health. It’s important to soak up some vitamin D (safely, of course). Try going for a hike, or just sitting in the garden for an hour with a cup of tea. It’s good for your soul too.
58 PUT DOWN YOUR SMARTPHONE.
Studies show that we look at our phones an average of 85 times a day. When you feel the impulse to check your phone – and it’s not urgent – try to resist. You might feel anxious initially, but once this passes, you will experience silence and freedom.
59 GET A GOOD SPORTS BRA.
The good quality ones might be a little pricier, but they are worth the investment. Having a good bra will eliminate a barrier to exercise and boost your confidence while training.
60 ADD ROTISSERIE CHICKEN TO YOUR GROCERY LIST.
Buying a rotisserie chicken can be just as healthy as making your own – and it’s a lot quicker. (If it’s organic, even better.)
61 PRACTISE FACIAL ACUPRESSURE.
Did you know that you could relieve tension with DIY acupressure? Find the base of each cheekbone and press lightly for 30 seconds. You’re welcome.
62 DRY-BRUSH YOUR BODY.
This will improve your circulation and promote healthy skin. Before your next bath, start at the tops of your feet and, using your hands, brush your body with long, straight strokes in the direction of your heart. Each stroke should take two seconds.
63 FIGHT THE 3PM SLUMP WITH SQUATS.
Sadie Lincoln, a wellness expert and founder of barre3, says: “I do a quick 10-minute workout at around 3pm every day. This time of day is when I used to grab sweets or reach for a cup of coffee. This way of exercising has changed my life!”
64 TRY A BARRE CLASS.
This class allows you to maximise the conditioning benefits of ballet, yoga, pilates and functional fitness. Barre is fun and challenging, and will have you en route to your dream body in no time.
65 STOMACH IN, CHEST OUT.
When you move from poor posture to good posture, you increase your energy levels, boost serotonin and decrease cortisol. Overall, you will feel calmer, happier and energised.
66 TUNE IN TO FUNNY ANIMAL VIDEOS.
Laughter has been shown to lower stress and blood pressure. It’s also a great mood-booster. Who doesn’t love to laugh?
67 LEAVE YOUR SHOES AT THE DOOR.
Researchers have found that the average shoe carries a disturbing array of pathogens, including E. coli. Leaving your shoes at the door when you get home will help you to create a sanctuary of health.
68 UP YOUR AVOCADO INTAKE.
Eating an avocado a day gives your body the much-needed omega-3s that help to build healthy cell membranes. The part of the avo closest to the peel holds the most vitamins, so be sure to scrape the peel clean.
69 GET CREATIVE TO BOOST PERFORMANCE.
Research has shown that engaging in creative pursuits outside the workplace can significantly increase on-the-job performance. The rush you get from creating something boosts self-esteem and the belief that you can succeed at anything.
70 STEAM YOUR VEGETABLES.
Protect the antioxidants in your vegetables by steaming them, rather than boiling or microwaving.
71 RESIST THE TEMPTATION OF FREE FOOD.
If it’s not healthy and you’re not hungry, don’t eat food just because it is free. When you do partake, it’s important to ensure that you keep portion control in mind.
72 USE LAVENDER FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP.
According to French researchers, the aroma of lavender oil can be as effective as a prescription of tranquillisers.
73 MAKE TIME FOR FAMILY DINNERS.
A 2000 survey found that nine- to 14-year-olds who ate dinner with their families ate more fruit and vegetables, less soda and less fried food. Their diets were also higher in key nutrients such as calcium, iron and fibre.
74 CLEAR THAT CLUTTER.
Researchers from the University of Chicago found that living with clutter can increase the number of calories you eat by 200 to 1 000 a day. This is because it makes you tired, increasing production of the appetite-stimulating hormone cortisol.
75 SEE YOUR FRIENDS.
Research published in PROS Medicine shows that a good social life might be as important for your long-term health as avoiding cigarettes. Individuals with poor social connections were shown to have a 50% higher chance of death than people with robust social ties.
76 HUG A TREE.
A 2008 study published in Lancet found that living near parks, green spaces and woodlands boosted health. Numerous studies now show that nature not only improves your mental health, but also reduces your blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones.
77 SWITCH OFF THE TV.
A University of Queensland study found that every hour of TV watched after the age of 25 reduces your life by 22 minutes. It found that a person who watches six hours of TV a day, on average, will live 4,8 years less than a person who does not watch TV.
78 FLOSS FOR A LONGER LIFESPAN.
A study published in the Journal of Ageing Research found that never flossing increased risk of early death by 30% compared with individuals who floss daily.
79 BE A DANCING QUEEN.
Queens University Belfast released research which shows that you can dance your way to improved health and happiness because of the social, mental and physical benefits of dancing.
80 LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE.
Neuroscientist Dr Tara Swart says learning a new language is one of the best things you can do to boost your brain health. It has been shown to build new brain cells and strengthen connections between them.
81 BINGE ON B12.
Research from Oxford University reveals that taking higher doses of vitamin B12 is associated with less brain shrinkage and better cognitive function as you age. It has also been shown to improve memory.
82 DOWNLOAD AAPTIV.
Can’t afford a personal trainer? No problem. Now there’s an app to do it for you. Aaptiv combines the instruction of a personal trainer with perfect playlists, to create workouts you don’t want to miss.
83 BE THE DESIGNATED DRIVER.
Research from the University of London has found that there are “little to no” benefits to drinking alcohol. So, drink moderately and stick to low-sugar options such as red wine, whiskey and gin.
84 KNIT YOUR BRAIN HAPPY.
Sydney University has released research showing that knitting leads to better concentration and helps to clarify thinking. It has also been shown to lower your risk for Alzheimer’s.
85 KNOW YOUR SUGAR SUBSTITUTES.
Not all sugars are created equal. We all know that sucrose and glucose syrup are a no-no, but what about the others? Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin are just as bad for your health as conventional sugar. Sugar alcohols such as xylitol, sorbitol and maltitol are far better for most of us. Novel sweeteners, such as processed stevia, are great. Natural sweeteners such as date and coconut sugar, and honey, come out tops.
86 GO OKINAWAN.
Okinawa, in Japan, is known for having the most centenarians. Their longevity has been attributed to the way they eat: low on calories with three servings of fish a week (including squid and octopus); plenty of whole grains, vegetables and soy products; and tofu and kobu seaweed to top it off.
87 FILL UP ON BLUEBERRIES.
Blueberries are high in micronutrients, fibre and antioxidants. This makes them excellent for lowering inflammation and guarding your cells against the damage from free radicals. They also reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
88 SAY ‘YES’ TO NUTS.
Nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton is a big fan of a daily handful of nuts. “Those who consume nuts each day have a 27% reduced risk of death from any cause, 39% lower risk of heart disease, and 14% lower risk of cancer,” she states.
89 BECOME A YOGI.
Research published in the International Journal of Yoga found yoga enhances muscular strength and body flexibility, promotes and improves respiratory and cardiovascular function, improves sleep and reduces chronic pain and depression.
90 SMILE, SMILE, SMILE.
Especially when you don’t feel like it. Counsellor Luke Sheedy shares that when you smile, “your facial muscles send messages to your brain telling you to experience a positive emotion”.
91 KEEP YOUR STRESS IN CHECK.
Stress Check is an app that allows you to quantify and measure your physical and emotional stress levels.
92 HUG SOMEONE.
Positive touch is beneficial to health. Research from the University of North Carolina has found that hugs can strengthen the immune system and prevent disease.
93 LIVE NEAR YOUR FRIENDS.
A Harvard study found that living near a friend raises your happiness by 25%.
94 GET SWIMMING.
Studies show that swimming helps the brain to replace brain cells that have been lost through stress.
95 TRANSFORM YOUR MEDICAL FINANCES.
Use Simplee, an app that gives you a simple way to track and pay your medical bills.
96 BALANCE YOUR GUT.
A healthy gut will boost your immune system, lift your depression and lower your stress levels. For a balanced gut, eliminate processed foods, stay well hydrated and eat omega-3s, fibre, yoghurt and resistant starch.
97 PUT A SHOE ON YOUR PILLOW.
This is a quick way to test whether your pillow supports your head and neck at a normal angle. Fold your pillow in half and put a shoe on top; if it springs back, it’s OK.
98 RAISE YOUR HDL.
Good cholesterol (HDL) wards off bad cholesterol (LDL). So boost your HDL by running at least 11km a week and dropping 4,5kg if you are overweight.