There is no better time to rejuvenate your health than the start of a new year. So don't let your resolution to eat more nutritiously fall by the wayside. Just a few simple changes in your diet and lifestyle can have a positive impact on your health— and can also prevent you from experiencing a variety of health problems in the future— according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).
"In my own practice, I urge my patients to stop smoking, eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly and augment their balanced diet with appropriate nutritional supplements," explains Dr. Juanee Surprise.
Dr. Surprise and the ACA offer the following advice to help put your New Year's resolution into practice:
- Get active! Try to exercise for 20-30 minutes at least 3-4 days a week.
- Eat out more sparingly. Since food preparation methods in restaurants often involve high amounts— and the wrong types— of fat and sugar, give preference to home-cooked food.
- Brown-bagging your lunch is also a good idea because you can control your fat and sugar content while adding nutritious fruits, vegetables and grains.
- Limit your intake of alcohol, and quit smoking. Drinking alcohol excessively and/or smoking can hinder your body's ability to absorb nutrients from your food.
According to Dr. Surprise, "Younger people are starting to suffer from heart disease, not only because of our national diet of hamburgers and fries, but because of an epidemic of inactivity."
"We need to eliminate the traditional diet of coffee and doughnuts for breakfast; a hamburger for lunch—or no lunch; candy, cookies and soft drink for a snack; followed by a huge dinner with more protein than a person needs, few or no vegetables, and no water or fruit in the course of the day," explains Dr. Surprise. Keep the following dietary recommendations in mind as well:
- Eat more raw foods. Cooking and canning destroys much of the nutrition in foods that can be eaten raw. With the exception of canned tomatoes— which can help prevent prostate cancer— fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables always have more natural vitamins and minerals than canned vegetables do.
- Select organically grown foods when possible. They have lower amounts of toxic elements than foods that are not grown organically.
- Eat whole foods. Much of the nutrition available to us in fruits and vegetables can be found in its skin, so don't peel it off and throw it away, unless it has been waxed or dyed.
- Stay hydrated! Drink eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water a day. (Coffee, tea, soft drinks and alcohol are diuretics/dehydrators. Don't substitute them for water.)
- Consume 25-30 grams of fiber per day. Whole-grain breads and cereals, beans, nuts and some fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber. High-fiber diets can help prevent digestive disorders, heart disease and colon cancer.
For those who are planning on going veggie in the New Year, research shows that a good vegetarian diet as part of a comprehensive health program can help prevent heart disease, cancer and other diseases. However, only consume moderate amounts of fried foods, hydrogenated fats and commercial meat substitutes. It's possible for a vegetarian to eat even more sugar and fat than a meat-eater by overloading on junk food.
If you are considering a vegetarian diet, keep the following tips in mind:
- Don't rely on fruits and vegetables at the expense of grains and legumes. The repetition of fruits and vegetables can narrow your food choices, thus narrowing the variety of nutrients you consume.
- Tiredness, malaise, and anemia can be signs of deficiencies. Those who have been on a vegetarian diet for some time should have their B12 and iron levels checked at least once a year.
- Consume fortified foods or take supplements to obtain the nutrients you no longer get from animal-based products. The biggest problem with vegetarian diets and others is that you no longer consume important nutrients found in animal protein.
Before eliminating animal products from the diet, it is important to get information about how to do it right. Children, pregnant and breast-feeding women, and people recovering from illness should consult their doctor (e.g. DC, MD, DO).
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, dietary supplements are not perfect substitutes for conventional or even fortified foods. Nor can a person sustain good health by just taking vitamin and mineral supplements. But when taken properly, nutritional supplements can play an important role in achieving maximum health. If you are considering nutritional supplements, keep these important tips in mind:
- Don't overlook nutrition. Since supplements are just that— an added source of nutrients— it is important to consume dark green vegetables, oils, nuts and seeds, which are sources of magnesium, fatty acids, and many other vitamins and minerals. Supplements are not an excuse to forget about eating right.
- Since choosing the right nutritional supplements to suit your individual needs can be a complicated endeavor, consult a nutritional practitioner— such as a doctor of chiropractic— to determine what kinds of supplements are best for you.
- Don't try to "self-prescribe." If you have symptoms such as headaches, chronic fatigue or cardiac problems, you need to seek professional advice— not the advice of a supplement store clerk.