By Ania Dunlop, a BYNYC Healthy Living Series writer from Food for Zen
With spring just around the corner, most people let their New Year’s resolutions slide as life gets in the way. But don’t wait until 2018 to get motivated again. Start with small, sustainable habits and think of wellness as a journey. Forget overly ambitious detoxes or training regimens. Adopt one healthy habit and, when it becomes a part of your daily routine, graduate to the next one. Your health journey will become a smooth ride without the usual overwhelm.
Here are my top 3 tips to clean up your diet for good.
1. Start your day with warm lemon water
After an overnight fast, your body is dehydrated so this will ensure you are hydrating properly for the day. Adding lemon juice will help detoxify and stimulate your digestion (and elimination, which is super important for a health body). To make your morning lemon drink, warm a cup of water, squeeze juice from half a lemon and sip slowly. For bonus points, add a teaspoon of raw apple cider and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
2. Build a rock solid immune system with these two supplements
Probiotics The human body houses more than a trillion of bacteria, an ecosystem called a microbiome. You might say we are more bacteria than human! These good bacteria, called probiotics, live in symbiosis with us, helping us digest food, keep our immune system strong and regulate our moods. However, our modern lifestyle, full of stress, poor diet, medications and environmental toxins, can throw off this delicate balance and turn these friendly inhabitants into pathogens. People with disregulated microbiomes often feel tired and toxic, suffer from food sensitivities, acne, and have weak immune systems. So if you are prone to colds or digestive issues you might want to build up your little bacteria friends.
Adding fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchee, miso and tempeh to your diet is a great way to “supplement” naturally. But if you are not a fermented food lover, I recommend a good probiotic with multiple strains, 25-50 billion units daily.
Vitamin D While actually a hormone, Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin affecting thousands of genes. Originally linked to strong bones, it’s essential to keeping your entire body healthy, from fighting off infections, reducing inflammation to protecting us from a long list of scary diseases like cancers, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s and Crohn’s. Vitamin D is the superhero you need to pay attention to.
To get Vitamin D, you either need sunlight exposure or supplements because it’s difficult to get it from food alone. In my hemisphere, it’s almost impossible to get enough Vitamin D from the sun between the months of October and April, so supplementation makes sense. I recommend Vitamin D3, which is the active form. While not a standard test, ask your doctor to test your Vitamin D levels. The general consensus is that the optimal level is at 50-70 ng/ml (or higher for cancer treatment).
3. Eat one pound of vegetables a day, every day
It does seem daunting, doesn’t it? How do you fit eating the rainbow into just one day? Let’s break this down and start with why. Study after study shows that eating 7 or more servings of vegetables a day reduces your risk of dying by more than 40% (cancer 24% and heart disease 31%). If it came in a pill form we would all be popping it!
Vitamins and minerals in plants keep us healthy, but it’s also the phytonutrients that work synergistically with our bodies that provide us with a secondary function of fighting off diseases and increasing our longevity. Merely taking a multi is not going to cut it, you need the real stuff!
One pound of vegetables is between 5-10 cups (depending on the type) and I recommend eating 50% raw and 50% cooked. You don’t have to go full vegan to get the benefit, just build your meals around veggies and get them into every nook and cranny of your diet.
I used to dismiss vegetables because I didn’t know how to make them taste good and didn’t link them to health. Now that I’m motivated by living a long healthy life I blend greens for breakfast, cook up a vegetable soup or salad with protein for lunch and make a big pot of vegetable curry for dinner.
Find your motivation! Whether it’s a healthy glow or a slim waist, adopting a whole food (mostly) plant based diet is the single most important health-building habit.