TRENDS FOR A HEALTHIER TOMORROW
Tired of trying to keeping up with the latest health hype? You’ve come to the right place. Forget every buzzy thing you’ve read over the last year; these 10 are the only ones that matter.
“HEALTH TREND” IS PRACTICALLY AN OXYMORON, SAY THE EXPERTS. Fads that go viral are typically based on lots of hype and little evidence. Remember the Blood Type Diet? ThighMaster? Eating your placenta? ’Nuff said. But every now and then, the masses get it right. Here are 10 trends that can improve your health – truth.
We all know the saying “If it’s too good to be true…” But every once in a while, an idea comes along that blows it out of the water. Such is the case with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). With HIIT, just a few minutes of exercise can produce the benefits of a long bout at the gym. Experts say that when you give cardio or strength training your all for a short period (say, one minute), then rest a few minutes and repeat, your heart and metabolism get the same boost they would if you were running, cycling or doing burpees for much longer. “There is real clinical research to suggest that this is a very efficient way to work out,” says Timothy Caulfield, a Canada Research Chair in health law and policy and author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?
It’s true, coffee has been around for ages. But in recent years, buzzworthy variations like bulletproof coffee and cold brew have prompted people to line up at coffee shops, hoping for some health benefits in their java. The good news? Even if those trendy menu offerings haven’t been studied, plain old coffee has proven health benefits, like fighting colon cancer. Plus, Jennifer Gardy, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health and a guest host on The Nature of Things, confirms that a cup of joe is good for your brain. “A little caffeine during or shortly after a learning event, like a class, can help cement memories,” she says.
THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET
It’s rare for doctors and dietitians to endorse diets, but it’s hard to find a healthcare provider who isn’t on board with this plan, which focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, extra-virgin olive oil and fish to reflect the traditional eating habits of people living in the Mediterranean region. In the 1990s, scientists began to discover the benefits of this diet when they realized that countries where people consumed high amounts of unsaturated fat had fewer health problems. Celebrities like Rachael Ray and Penélope Cruz have since adopted the eating style. It’s been associated with reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke, boosting good cholesterol, maintaining brain health and increasing longevity. Toronto-based dietitian Rosie Schwartz is a proponent of the diet and says it offers the most benefits when you follow it completely rather than picking and choosing foods within it. “Extra-virgin olive oil can have hundreds of different microbe components that can protect against cancers, inflammation and oxidation,” she says. “But the traditional dishes are what’s really interesting about the Mediterranean diet. If you look at the antioxidant power in extra-virgin olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and basil, like in a tomato sauce, it’s much more potent together than each ingredient on its own. The effect is synergistic.”
Meditation may have been around for centuries, but it has been #trending over the past decade. Sitting with a clear mind and listening to your breathing can help with everything from reducing stress and depression to improving chronic pain and addiction. Though Caulfield says some of the benefits have been overhyped, it’s still good for your well-being. “I think the real benefit is from having quiet time during the day,” he says.
Whether you’ve seen people announce their decision on your Facebook feed or heard celebrities talk about it on TV, giving up alcohol has become increasingly popular. While a glass of wine might be good for your heart, even moderate drinking has been linked to breast cancer and heavy drinking can do a number on the liver. Caulfield notes that the extra calories, plus social and safety issues like driving under the influence, add another layer to this issue. The bottom line? Cutting back is becoming cool – and it’s better for you, too.
In case you haven’t noticed, the plight for a good night’s sleep has become a cultural phenomenon. Your smartphone has hundreds of apps for it. Arianna Huffington wrote a book about it. Fitbit created a wearable device to analyze its stages. It’s unclear how well each of these products benefits sleep, but the fact that we’ve finally quit taking slumber for granted is important, says Caulfield. “There’s lots of evidence to show that sleep is good for you, that it makes you more alert and that it has all kinds of health benefits,” he says. “But more than that, studies have shown that a lack of sleep is harmful.” According to research, adequate sleep protects the brain, fights heart disease and promotes healthier eating habits. Meanwhile, irregular sleep can disrupt the metabolism and impair memory.
Lost count of how many new selfhelp books are focused on finding joy and developing a positive attitude? Us, too. But there’s good reason for the craze: Research tells us that being happy extends a person’s life. Cynicism, on the other hand, has been linked to dementia and heart disease.
PLANT BASED EATING
Vegan, flexitarian, plant-forward: A whole new vocabulary has been developed to describe a movement toward eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. “Research shows that all these foods have a multitude of phytonutrients that may protect against a variety of chronic diseases, like heart disease, stroke and certain cancers,” says Schwartz. Gardy agrees: “We’ve explored a number of extreme diets on The Nature of Things, but time and time again, we see that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods results in better health.”
Yoga has surpassed the level of trend and is here to stay – and for good reason: In addition to improving balance and flexibility, yoga has been proven to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. What do avocado toast, almond butter bars and smoothies packed with flax and hemp seed have in common? They’re all full of unsaturated fat, and they’re all foods we wouldn’t have dreamed of eating 20 years ago. Thankfully, we’ve given up our misguided fat-averse ways and embraced omegas and other fatty acids that lower cholesterol and protect our heart health.