5 simple habits for a healthier new year | SteamboatToday.com

5 simple habits for a healthier new year

Lauren Blair

Get your new year off to a great start by incorporating a few simple, healthy habits, such as eating 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

— Every new year presents an opportunity for a fresh start, and this one is no different. There are a million newfangled ways to make your life better, but sometimes, it’s the simplest ones that offer the biggest returns.

Here are suggestions for five simple, healthy habits to support you in becoming a healthier version of yourself in the new year:

1) Buy a water bottle (and use it to drink more water)

"Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight," according to the Mayo Clinic's healthy living guidelines online. "Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells, and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues."

The Institute of Medicine determined that men should drink about 13 cups (3 liters) per day, and women should drink about 9 cups (or 2.2 liters).

One way to boost your water consumption and stay friendly to the environment is to invest in a stainless-steel water bottle. Keeping it with you throughout the day will help you remember to stay hydrated without adding a bunch of plastic to the landfill.

Try a drop of lemon or lime essential oil; a slice of lemon, lime or orange; or sliced cucumbers or mint to give your water a fresh appeal.

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2) Swap out sweet drinks for sugarless alternatives

"Sugary drinks are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic," according to the Harvard School of Public Health's Nutrition Source online. "Drinks that are loaded with sugar are the worst choice; they contain a lot of calories and virtually no other nutrients. Consuming high-sugar drinks can lead to weight gain and increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and gout."

Drinks that are considered sugary include soft drinks, fruit juice, sports beverages and energy drinks.

Try sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice or a few drops of liquid stevia — an herbal, non-caloric sweetener that some brands offer in flavors such as orange, lime and even root beer.

3) Eat 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day

Fruits and vegetables are one of the few uncontroversial pillars of good health. Amid all the diet fads and trends, the healthful benefits of fresh produce have withstood the test of time.

"Eating plenty of vegetables and fruits can help you ward off heart disease and stroke, control blood pressure, prevent some types of cancer, avoid a painful intestinal ailment called diverticulitis, and guard against cataract and macular degeneration, two common causes of vision loss," according to Harvard's Nutrition Source.

One serving is about 1/2 cup of most fruits and vegetables or 1 cup of leafy greens.

Try "filling half your plate with vegetables or fruit at each meal," the Nutrition Source suggested. Also try incorporating dark, leafy greens into everything from soups and stir-fries to tacos or enchiladas.

4) Take a walk

Like fruits and vegetables, exercise is one simple habit (albeit forever challenging for some of us) that vastly can improve not just your physical health but also your mental health.

"Adults need two types of physical activity each week — muscle strengthening and aerobic. Aerobic activities make you breathe harder and make your heart and blood vessels healthier," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

The CDC recommends 2 1/2 hours of brisk walking per week and muscle-strengthening activities such as sit-ups, push-ups or weight-lifting two days per week.

And as a bonus, "increased walking has the potential to enliven communities by getting more people out on the streets. It allows you to meet and interact with people, making communities stronger," according to the CDC website.

Try counting your daily steps with the help of a pedometer. Ten thousand steps equates to about 5 miles, and some days, you may find you'll reach that mark without even trying.

5) Give more

Helping others can help your own health. Various research suggests that it can decrease stress, improve social connections and help release feel-good hormones in the brain.

"A 1999 study led by Doug Oman of the University of California, Berkeley, found that elderly people who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44 percent less likely to die over a five-year period than were non-volunteers, even after controlling for their age, exercise habits, general health, and negative health habits like smoking," according to the Greater Good Science Center at UC, Berkeley.

Try buying coffee (or anything) for the person in line behind you. It's a simple and inexpensive way to make another person's day and will leave you feeling great for the rest of yours.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.