Good health

Don’t stress, eat more fruit and veggies, sleep on it, drink more water and get off the couch, writes

Sunday Tribune - - HEALTH - | The Con­ver­sa­tion So­phie Medlin

IT’S THE start of a new year and there is no doubt that this year will be as sat­u­rated with just as much nutri­tional non­sense as last year.

The start of the year seems like a good time to es­tab­lish what are the best things to do to sup­port your health in 2019:

1. Eat more fruit and veg

Last year saw a sharp rise in the num­ber of peo­ple adopt­ing ve­gan and plant-based di­ets. The sci­en­tific jury is still out on a com­pletely ve­gan life­style but eat­ing more fruit and veg­eta­bles has al­ways been high on the list of pos­i­tive things to do for your body.

A grow­ing area of in­ter­est is the im­pact of diet on brain func­tion. One big re­view of stud­ies pub­lished last year re­li­ably demon­strated that for ev­ery ad­di­tional 100g of fruit or veg­eta­bles eaten, there was a 3% re­duc­tion in the risk of de­pres­sion.

The last cou­ple of years have also seen in­creased in­ter­est in polyphe­nols – par­tic­u­larly flavonoids. These phy­to­chem­i­cals are nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring in fruit and veg­eta­bles and are re­spon­si­ble for help­ing plants to stay healthy. Un­like vi­ta­mins, they are not es­sen­tial but help to pre­vent dis­ease. It is thought that they ben­e­fit the im­mune sys­tem and have an anti-in­flam­ma­tory ef­fect. This means they can play a role in the pre­ven­tion of pro­gres­sion of many dis­eases.

2. Do less sit­ting

Re­search shows that ex­er­cise can not only help re­duce our waist­lines but re­duce the risk of colon, womb and breast can­cer. This is thought to be be­cause of the im­prove­ment in hor­mone pro­files in those who ex­er­cise reg­u­larly. There is also strong ev­i­dence to show it is a great way to im­prove our men­tal health.

3. Get more sleep (but not too much)

There were sev­eral in­ter­est­ing break­throughs in re­search last year in link­ing the “dose” of sleep we get and our health. It turns out that too much as well as too lit­tle in­creases the risk of heart dis­ease, di­a­betes and obe­sity. Healthy adults need be­tween six and nine hours of sleep a night.

New re­search has also re­vealed how life­style in­ter­ven­tions can help to ex­tend peo­ple’s sleep – and how a bet­ter night’s sleep might help to im­prove di­etary in­take dur­ing the day. The same re­search also found that par­tial sleep de­pri­va­tion can lead to peo­ple crav­ing higher en­ergy foods and con­sum­ing more than 400 ad­di­tional calo­ries over the course of a day.

4. Make a stress man­age­ment plan

Mod­ern life can cause huge stress and this has a detri­men­tal ef­fect on our health. Es­tab­lish an ef­fec­tive stress man­age­ment plan for the year ahead. This should in­clude an un­der­stand­ing of the cause of your stress and a plan in place for how to re­duce your hor­monal re­sponse to these stresses.

5. Drink more water

Did you know that be­ing just 1% de­hy­drated can im­pair your abil­ity to con­cen­trate? On a busy work day, for­get­ting to drink enough and then be­com­ing just slightly de­hy­drated can re­ally im­pair our per­for­mance and in­crease stress.

Make sure you keep a re­us­able water bot­tle with you to keep topped up. You’re look­ing for your urine to be the colour of pale straw through­out the day. Don’t fall into the trap of adding lemons to your water ei­ther – lemon juice is more dam­ag­ing for tooth enamel than Coca-cola.

Ul­ti­mately, fo­cus on your over­all well­ness and not just one as­pect of it. This is im­por­tant, be­cause a strict diet that adds to your stress be­cause you can’t find any­thing to eat, or an ex­er­cise regime that has you up at five in the morn­ing ev­ery day is go­ing to have many of its ben­e­fits off­set by detri­men­tal health ef­fects. Rather than adopt­ing a strict new diet or in­tense daily work­out regime, aim for small achiev­able health goals.

So­phie Medlin is a lec­turer in nutri­tion and di­etet­ics, King’s Col­lege Lon­don

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