It is that time of year again when we make wishful promises to ourselves that we seldom keep for more than a month or two. When people are asked about the most important elements of their lives, health and happiness (as well as family) are usually at the top of the list. Typically, the healthier we are, the happier we are. The pursuit of health should not be relegated to an annual list of hopeful changes that we think we can tolerate and integrate into our busy lives. It should be part of the essence of who we are and come to us as second nature in our life-long journey on this planet earth. Here are a few suggestions for taking those first steps down the path to a healthier future.
Make Time There is no way we can eat properly, exercise properly or do just about anything properly if we don't make the time for it. Yes, most of us live busy, hectic lives, but if our health is so important to us, why don't we make it more of a priority? We all waste time on useless, mindless activities that rob us of this precious gift. Trade it in for some quality time preparing and eating the tastiest, most nutritious foods available to us, preferably with family of friends. Get out into the fresh air and go for a walk, a run, a hike or a bike ride. Curl up with Michael Pollan's books on food and get inspired.
Shun the Sugar Sugar, in its many forms and guises, is quite possibly the single worst ingredient in our modern diet. It has been implicated in a myriad of health problems, especially over the last several decades. Aside from obesity and tooth decay, excess sugar intake can lead to liver disease, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, a suppressed immune system and an increased risk for a number of cancers.
Supplement the Sunshine On January 1, 2016 the length of daylight was only 9 hours and 9 minutes. From that day it will be another 79 days before we reach the vernal equinox on March 20th when the sun will shine for 12 hours. This is the time of the year when supplementing with vitamin D is especially important. Not only are the days short but our skin is covered with winter clothing, further reducing our exposure to healthy benefits of the the sun. Vitamin D is best known for bone health but it also plays an important role in maintaining an optimal immune system. Sufficient blood levels of vitamin D are also associated with lower incidences of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Herbal Immune Defense Winter is a time when our immune system may be compromised and our exposure to viruses and other pathogens is higher from being indoors more often and coming in closer contact with other people. There are a variety of herbal immune enhancers that can help us get through the cold and flu season, either from prevention or by mitigating the symptoms or duration of the illness. Some of the more notable ones are: Astragalus, Elderberry, Ginger, Turmeric, Oregano Oil, Olive Leaf and Echinacea.
Fermentation Invitation Fermented foods including yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and kombucha contain probiotics (beneficial bacteria and other micro-organisms) that are not only important to our digestive tract but to our immune system as well. Make sure that the fermented products you use contain living, active cultures that are sold from the refrigerated section.
Michael's Mantra "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." The food Michael Pollan refers to is real food, not some processed item that he regards as an "edible, food-like substance". Eat more organic fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains complemented with lesser amounts of natural meats,wild fish and organic dairy products (unless you're a vegan). You knew it, now just do it.