Leah studied every poster on the walls, for the third time. Maybe the fourth. She’d lost track. She was certain she couldn’t remember a thing from any of the posters with the exception of one. It hit close to home since she was sitting in the exam room waiting for the doctor to talk to her about test results. High cholesterol and high blood pressure was a family trait that had contributed to the death of two of her grandparents. With all the stress she’d been under with work and her personal life over the past year, she’d let her health become less of a priority.
When her doctor gave her the results, he confirmed her suspicions. Her HDL cholesterol was at 38 (High risk. Optimal levels are 60 or more) and her LDL cholesterol was at 164 (optimal levels are 100 or less). She was braced and fully expecting her doctor to recommend drastic measures to correct the problem – ridiculous diet changes and medication. Leah was surprised when he recommended trying a natural approach before medication instead. He also suggested some changes to her eating habits that didn’t seem like a major overhaul.
You don’t need to revamp your entire diet completely to boost your health significantly. Here are five easy changes you can put into action for substantial results.
1. Fruits and Veggies – We all know fruits and veggies are good for us, but did you know according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics they should fill half your plate at every meal? Yeah, you’re going to have to make room by skipping on some of that pasta you’d really rather have, and for good reason. Packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, fruits and vegetables make you less likely to get heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers. Ideally you should be getting 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of veggies daily.
2. The Fats War – Saturated and Trans fats (bad fats) can raise your bad cholesterol level and your risk of heart disease. So, there are definitely on the “minimal consumption” list. If you cut back on animal-based foods like butter, bacon, and untrimmed meats, as well as snacks like cookies and crackers, you can keep the bad fats to a minimum.
I know, it’s hard to give up the things we love, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Eating less of the bad fats can be as easy as switching from whole milk to fat-free milk and eating a turkey burger instead of a quarter pounder with cheese. You do need some fat, though. So go with plant-based foods like olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados. There’s also fish (such as salmon) that’s high in good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids.
Research consistently shows that Americans do not get the necessary amount of Omega-3s in their diet, as little as one-fifth recommended daily amount (250 mg per day). This makes krill oil supplements that much more important, especially with these new potential benefits for people with high fat diets.
3. Water, Not Cappuccino – If you’re bypassing water for soda, coffee, sports drinks, and juices you’re very likely overdoing it with added calories and sugar. Water, however, goes a long way in boosting your health. Every cell in your body needs it to work properly. So, trade that Yoohoo for water. Iknow you’ve heard this before: shoot for 6 to 8 glasses a day. Starting and ending your day with a tall glass of water will help and keep a water bottle with you during the day.
4. Eat More Fiber – Fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans can also lower your cholesterol and boost digestion. Not to mention, fiber makes you feel fuller longer, which is great for keeping off extra pounds. Getting more fiber is as easy as replacing refined breads (white breads typically) with whole-grain breads, choose brown rice instead of white, and switch to whole-wheat pasta (I did and my kids never noticed). You can also add fiber to your usual food by sprinkling high-fiber cereal in your yogurt or adding flaxseeds to your salad.
5. Portions Distorion – Most of us don’t have a clue about portion sizes. So, reaching for a smaller plate may be the easiest thing you can do to help control your portion intake. A study by Cornell University found that people eat less that way. Why? It’s an optical illusion of sorts. Your mind is tricked into eating less because you think you’ve eaten more.
A few strategies for keeping your portions in check:
- Eat from a plate, not from a bag. That means your Doritos will last longer than one episode of Big Bang Theory.
- Buy single-serve portions, or, divide them up when you get home to make it easier to grab a ziploc bag instead of a family sized one.
- Eat slowly. You love food. Admit it. So savor the flavors and aromas of every bite instead of inhaling them.
Being healthy doesn’t always have to be inconvenient or difficult. Sometimes it’s just about a few changes at a time. Don’t wait until you’re studying posters on the wall at your local doctor’s office to realize you can make a difference in your health.
Rag-Tag Research Geek Recommendation
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