The road to wellness can be a long, arduous one. But who doesn’t love a good shortcut? We discovered some of the easiest health hacks. And they just might change your life forever, and sustain you while you self quarantine.
–NINA HEMPHILL REEDER
1. THINK PLANT FORWARD
“Plant based” is the new buzzword for 2020. But as vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets have garnered immense newfound interest. A few folks in this new wave of diet adopters are skimping on one major thing—the plants, duh.
While yes, meat substitutes may be leaner, don’t solely lean on these alternatives and other processed meat-free proteins. The real health benefit of cutting out or down on meat intake is adding more nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet. During meals, aim to put a focus on (or, even better, get full on) whole foods, which are typically lower in calories, fats and sodium.
2. DRINK MORE TEA
A new study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that regular tea drinkers were more likely to have better cardiovascular health and longer lifespans. Polyphenols, chemicals derived from the plant and floral tea leaves, are believed to be the source of health benefits such as improved blood flow and reduced inflammation. So aim to drink the beverage three or more times a week, the key number cited by the study.
Oh, and while we’re spilling tea: Know that green tea was shown to be more effective than black. And, you probably want to skip the sugar.
3. DON’T BE SO TOXIC
Hate is actually quite poisonous—literally. Anger, hatred and negative emotions can release dangerous chemicals that can wreck your immune system, blood pressure, metabolism and mental health. Which alone can put you in a never-ending cycle of anxiety, stress and depression.
But we get it. It’s inevitable that your temper will flare (they gonna try you, sis). In these situations, there are a number of different strategies to release your rage—one as simple as just taking a deep breath. Others, for example, could be to focus on solutions, not the problems, or challenge your bad thoughts to change your perspective. Don’t be that toxic person in your circle for 2020. Make more efforts to shift your focus toward the positive, and see a positive swing in your health.
4. BE MORE CALORIE MINDFUL
Being mindful is not quite calorie counting—a practice that doesn’t get much love from wellness advocates. But when it comes to the simplest weight-loss advice (telling people to eat healthfully or avoid several foods takes more mental gymnastics), there’s no clearer equation than: calories out > calories in = weight loss.
Sometimes a single salad entrée will come in at 1,500 calories, while a modest dessert will cost you less than 150 calories. Being more mindful with regard to calories can help you make better, more fulfilling food choices, which can help you stick to your goals in the long run.
5. ADDRESS YOUR DEFICIENCIES
Nearly 10 percent of Americans have a nutrient deficiency, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other studies suggest that number could be as high as 50 percent. A lack of adequate vitamins and minerals can lead to a host of issues, from poor concentration to constant colds. Symptoms such as fatigue, brittle nails and hair loss can also be good indicators of a nutrient shortage. If you’re curious, ask your healthcare provider to order a blood panel (there are also a few at-home testing kits).
But for the simplest solution, just opt to add more nutrients and vitamins to your diet anyway. You can do so through multivitamins or through foods rich in iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, C, D and E. Or try products like Huel, a meal-replacement shake that contains all 27 essential nutrients (huel.com).
6. MAKE SELF-CARE A PRIORITY
We’re at the top of 2020, and there’s already a new study that has us questioning our work–life choices. The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology’s latest findings suggest that burnout can critically affect your heart health by causing a potentially fatal heart rhythm disorder known as atrial fibrillation.
Defined as mental, physical and emotional exhaustion, burnout can occur from recurring and prolonged periods of stress. Of course, your job-related stress is a key contributor. But your home life can be just as worrisome. Particularly if you seem to be always balancing personal responsibilities with commitments to friends and family.
But resolving that stress shouldn’t be stressful. So what’s an easy fix? Take a break in the name of self-care. Exercise your power to decline invites, commitments and unnecessary work. Enforce hard stops on certain tasks. Book spa treatments. Take more walks. Actually utilize those personal and sick days you’ve been hoarding.
More Americans, from the corporate world to your social circle, are beginning to acknowledge the value of mental health breaks, so don’t think you’ll be punished for stepping away when needed.