Friday, 1 May 2015

Acquiring better habits pays off handsomely over time

Overcomplicated prescriptions discourage individuals from taking action to improve their lives. Through the years, I have read a large number of health books that offered unworkable advice. The theories that they espoused were confusing and often contradictory. Their recommendations proved, on many occasions, too impractical or expensive to implement.

From each of those books, all that I retained were a couple of conclusions. The effort of reading hundreds of pages was not wasted, since I have implemented many of those ideas with good success. The following twelve habits have served me particularly well. I like to think that I owe them, at least in part, the good health that I enjoy.

1. Wholeness

Choose whole-grain products: The reason for this is that whole grains contain beneficial minerals, vitamins, and fibre that are not present in white flour. Indisputably, white-flour products, such as pastries, look more inviting to the eye than those made of whole-grains, but the latter are much better for your digestive health because they contain more natural fibre. Explore the shelves of your local supermarket and, in the next weeks, try different whole-grain products to see which ones you like best.

2. Immunity

Drink green tea: From all herbal infusions, green tea contains one of the highest percentages of polyphenol, a natural substance that helps strengthen your immunity, and combat bacteria and viruses. Apparently, green tea also has a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system because it helps decrease low-density cholesterol.

3. The right level

Minimize your sugar consumption: eating sugar, which is highly pleasurable, increases glucose levels in your blood. That phenomenon leads your pancreas to produce additional insulin and your liver to produce triglycerides, which cause your cells to age prematurely. Obesity, which has taken epidemic proportions in some countries, is often linked to excessive sugar consumption.

4. Balance

Consume salt sparingly: Too much sodium in your diet has an adverse effect on your body because it tends to raise blood pressure. In addition, excessive salt consumption disrupts the sodium-potassium balance in your cells, leads them to multifunction, and accelerates ageing.

5. High quality

Choose high-quality proteins and fat: fish, in particular oily fish such as salmon, contains first-class protein and fat for the human body. The benefits of abandoning red meat and, instead, consuming fish regularly can result, within weeks, in a better complexion.

6. Strength

Eat some nuts every day: they contain poly-unsaturated fats and selenium, which are both excellent for human health. Selenium, in combination with vitamin E, has been proven to strengthen our immune system. It helps combat viral infections and keeps our heart, liver, and pancreas healthy.

7. Stability

Maintain a stable weight: this is extremely easy if you are a disciplined person and almost impossible otherwise. The best way to attain this goal is to have a scale at home and check your weight regularly. As soon as you see it deviate from your target, simply adapt your diet during the following week until your weight returns to the desired level.

8. Serenity

Set limits to stress: define in advance how much you are able to do. When your hours are full, you know that you cannot take any additional burden without first removing some item from your previous to-do list. Write things down and do not let problems linger in your head. As soon as you decide to drop an activity, cross it out from your list.

9. Reduced risk

Consume tomatoes regularly: they are available at affordable prices in most areas and they are excellent for human health. Tomatoes, which are an essential component of the Mediterranean diet, contain a natural substance called lycopene that helps protect our cells. Studies have shown tomatoes to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

10. Prevention

Eat fibre every day: vegetables and legumes contain fibre, an element that cleans our digestive system and helps stabilize glucose levels in our blood. Fibre also plays a role in preventing diabetes, appendicitis, and colon cancer. Whole grains are an excellent source of fibre.

11. Simplicity

Walk at least half an hour a day: you don't need to kill yourself with exercise in order to enjoy its benefits. If you are too busy during the day, try to find time in the evening to take a brisk walk. This simple exercise does not require sophisticated equipment and can be practised in most places, even if your work requires you to travel frequently.

12. System 

Eat garlic: amongst its many benefits, garlic enhances our immune system and helps lower blood pressure. The effects of garlic to combat sickness were already known in antiquity. Modern studies have confirmed its powers to fight viruses and bacteria, as well as its ability to lower blood sugar levels.

13. Transformation

Discard the idea that you are going to change your lifestyle overnight. Despite extraordinary success stories shown on television, almost nobody is able to do that. The key to improving your health is to acquire better habits. Fundamental transformation takes substantial effort.

From time to time, your progress will relapse and you will fall back on previous patterns. View those as opportunities to renew your commitment to change. Acquiring better habits is a strenuous undertaking that pays off handsomely over time.

One day, after you have rebuilt your life around a wholesome diet and regular exercise, your new routines will have become so ingrained that you won't consider living otherwise. Your increased vitality will be there for all to see and for you to enjoy, hopefully for many decades to come.  

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Image by Olof S under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under