6 Ways To Improve Your Health That Have NOTHING To Do With Your Weight


Leading a healthy life without worrying about the weight aspect. (Illustrations: Mary Galloway)

With all the information out there about how to live a so-called healthy life, you wouldn’t think it would seem like such a huge undertaking. But, oftentimes, the data and details can be confusing and misleading, not to mention overwhelming. Really though, once you wade through the sometimes-dubious facts, it’s mostly about going back to basics and actually enjoying your life in the process.

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In order for your system to run most efficiently and effectively, nourishing it with food it recognizes, regular movement, and good company are key, says Ashley Koff, RD, founder of the Better Nutrition Simplified Program. Panera Bread agrees, which is why it has recently committed to removing 150 additives from its menu by the end of 2016.

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Ahead, find six ways to treat your body better than ever. The result? More energy, a stronger immune system, and a very real sense of well-being.


Enjoy Your Java
Fellow coffee-lovers, this one’s for you. Numerous studies have shown that the pick-me-up, which can act as an antioxidant, has many perks aside from ensuring you actually make it from your bed to your desk. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute found that both caffeinated- and decaffeinated-coffee drinkers had a lower risk of death from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, and infections. And, in addition to protecting the body from breast cancer recurrence, boosting liver function, and reducing the risk of diabetes, there’s also the positive impact coffee may have on your brain. One study, conducted by the University of South Florida and the University of Miami, discovered a link between coffee/caffeine intake and a reduced risk or delayed onset of dementia.

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Switch To Meat Raised Without Antibiotics
According to Princeton University, about 80 percent of U.S.-produced antibiotics are given to livestock. That’s a big deal, since some research indicates that there are harmful effects associated with consuming meats from farm animals that have been fed growth-promoting antibiotics. In addition to changing the gut flora, it leads to a resistance to antibiotics — meaning seemingly harmless infections like UTIs become more difficult to treat.

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While we don’t know the full impact of preventative antibiotic use in animals on our health, we do know it’s unnecessary for healthy animal meat and product production, says Koff. “We have excellent examples of animals raised without preventative antibiotics, so why consume meat from animals raised on them?”


Get Sweaty
Physically speaking, regular exercise has been shown to keep your brain sharp. And then there’s the emotional aspect: Exercise pumps up your endorphins, quickly putting you in a better mood. Even more powerful, it’s been touted as one of the most natural ways to reduce depression and anxiety. Oh, and if you’re feeling generous, the smell of our sweat when we’re feeling upbeat may help make others happy, according to research published in Psychological Science.

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Eat With Friends
Just in case you needed another reason to sign up for brunch, the simple act of offering and sharing food has been shown to strengthen relationships. “That time with the TV off and your phone tucked in your bag is important for building human connections,” says Koff. “We have decreasing amounts of this in our modern lives, and yet it is associated with healthy longevity, including happiness.” Plus, sitting across the table from a health-conscious person could rub off on you. “Whether you need to avoid certain ingredients or could use some extra motivation to try a new food, a buddy system can work to your advantage,” adds Koff.


Go For More Plant-Based Foods
It’s not about becoming a vegan so much as choosing whole foods derived from nature (i.e. whole grains, fruits, seeds, and beans) as opposed to “foods” that have been chemically processed, such as those made with refined ingredients and artificial substances. This shift can boost heart health, help manage Type 2 diabetes, and lower your risk for chronic illnesses.

Why? Plants lay the foundation for health by helping the body perform all of its basic functions. “They identify and move nutrients around, break them down into usable parts, and help eliminate the unwanted, unusable stuff,” says Koff. “But, highly processed plant foods lose many of these valuable nutrients or render some not useful. Think of plants in their whole-food form as your foundation, and then accessorize with high-quality animal meats and products.”


Swap Out Artificial Sweeteners
The fake stuff you’re sprinkling into your coffee or tea isn’t doing your body any favors. For one thing, its extra-sweet taste — several hundred times sweeter than the real stuff —has been shown to turn on sugar cravings, and artificial sweeteners can confuse the way your system responds to actual sugar, ultimately affecting insulin and blood-sugar levels. “This makes it hard for the body to be satisfied by anything naturally sweet — like an apple or a teaspoon of honey — and to know how to manage the extra sweetness signals it’s getting,” says Koff. “You’re better off enjoying naturally sweet foods in their whole-food form and leaving the chemicals in the chemistry lab.”

By Amy Capetta

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