Most of us are already aware that the human body needs good nutrition, sufficient hydration and enough sleep for it to recover and heal itself.
Here are 10 simple and easy tips to improve health, that work.
Don’t drink your calories.
The amount of fluid you need depends on many things; how physically active you are and your age are a few. (1) Recommendations for Europe suggest about 8 200ml glasses (1.6L) for women and 2l for men, plus what is found in your food. (2)
Many beverages are high in sugars, and artificial flavourings your body doesn’t need. So it’s easy to gain unwanted weight by wasting your daily amount of calories on sugary drinks.
1. Choose water first for hydration.
Swap sugary drinks and make water your preferred drink and see the difference. And don’t be fooled by ‘zero calorie’ options containing aspartame. These types of beverage are increasingly linked to weight gain. (3)
Take sleep more seriously.
While many scientists link poor sleep habits to depression, obesity, heart disease and many other health problems (4), most of us don’t associate poor health with sleep deprivation. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults (young to older) need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep, and they suggest that ‘habitually sleeping outside the normal range may be compromise their health and well-being.’ (4)
2. Stick to a sleep routine.
If you can, start a sleep schedule of going to bed and waking up at the same time, even on weekends. This helps with regulating your body clock to help you fall asleep and stay asleep all night.
3. Exercise for better sleep.
Try adding walking for twenty minutes to your bedtime regime. Studies into insomnia have shown that moderate exercise, like walking, reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and increases the length of sleep when compared to not exercising. (5).
4. Make your bedroom a sleep zone.
You’re fighting a losing battle if your bedroom prevents you from sleeping well. Make sure the temperature is around 60-67F, noise-free and dark. If not, consider simple solutions like using earplugs and blackout curtains/eye shades.
(Visit the ‘Great British Sleep Survey‘ to discover your sleep score.)
What’s on the menu today?
Nutrition is another important key to good health, and there’s a lot of debate about salt, sugar and fat consumption these days. It’s worth knowing and sticking to the basic guidelines for just how much of these we should consume each day:
Salt – Whether you have high blood pressure or not, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your sodium intake. The dietary guidelines for the UK recommend consuming no more than 6g salt daily (6), which is equivalent to 2.4g of sodium. (7)
Sugar – Too much sugar is believed to promote weight gain and therefore increase heart disease. According to the NHS Those aged 11 and over should consume no more than 30g of sugar a day. (8) If you missed our previous blog about sugar reduction you can read it here,
Fats – A diet high in fat, especially saturated fats, can raise cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease. Current UK guidelines advise that the average man have no more than 30g of saturated fat, and women no more than 20g per day. (9)
5. Swap salt for fresh or dried herbs and spices
Replacing salt with chopped fresh or dried herbs and spices can be a good distraction for your palate. It works by waking up your senses to other flavours while you lower your salt intake. Just make sure they have no added salt by checking the ingredients for ‘salt’ and ‘sodium’.
6. Add salt after cooking, not before.
A little salt goes a lot further if you add it after cooking. Or better still try to eat some of your meal without salt first, you’ll find you appreciate the taste of the salt more and use less.
7. Don’t add salt if you can’t taste it.
Have you ever added salt out of habit but realise you can’t really taste it in there? If you can’t taste it it makes sense to leave it out. Save it for something else that needs it more!
8. Gradually cut the sugar.
If you add sugar in hot drinks or breakfast cereal, just gradually reduce the amount until you’ve cut it out completely. And bear in mind, it’s harder to reduce sugar from foods with sugar already added. So if your guilty pleasure is a bowl of sugary cereal in the morning, choose porridge or other sugarless alternatives instead. Then begin to reduce the amount of sugar you add. For more tips on reducing sugar you can read a previous post here.
9. Accentuate the positives, eliminate the negative.
Increase your dietary intake of essential (good) fats by including a greater variety of nuts and seeds and eating oily fish 2-3 times a week, and decrease your saturated (bad) fats. For example, by simply choosing a stronger cheese you can use less and still have a great tasting sauce or sandwich – but with less saturated fat.
For more information on healthy fats you can read more from a previous post here.
10. Make smart takeaway choices
If you’re ordering in or eating out and curry is your favourite choice, try a tomato-based curry like madras or tandoori instead of creamy kormas or masalas,. This will lower the fat content, as will choosing plain and chapattis instead of pilau rice and naan bread.
As you gradually make simple changes to hydration, sleep and nutrition, you’ll find your health will improve and you’ll be healthier, fitter and happier!
Do you have some health tips of your own? Let us know which ones work for you, we’d love to hear from you.
- The full British Nutrition Foundation report on hydration and health.
- A guide to healthy hydration for children aged 4-13 years.
- Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings – Neuroscience 2010