10 Easy Ways To Improve Your Health Today

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Published: April 2, 2014


It seems everyone is on a health craze. Your neighbour is watching her carbs. Your boss is juicing and your sister is going to the gym for 3 hours a day. You have been watching from the side lines and are now ready to start getting healthy but the idea of not eating Jollof Rice or spending hours at the gym literally has your stomach churning.

Lucky for you, dieticians advise that great health is not achieved by following restrictive diet plans and excessive exercise regimen. Rather, it is the result of small, simple changes that yield great results to last a lifetime. If you are ready to improve your health, here are 10 simple things you can start doing today.

1. Eat in colour

salad

Different foods provide different nutrients. Red watermelons and tomatoes are rich in lycopene.  Orange and yellow pawpaw and pumpkin contain healthy beta-carotene while purple grapes and eggplant give generous doses of anthocyanin.

These chemicals, known as phytonutrients, all work together to protect the body and fight disease. In order reap their benefits, you must make sure your diet is varied and colourful. The more colour present in your diet, the more nutrients you will get.

Aim for at least three colours on your plate at each meal with most of your colour coming from healthy vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, leafy greens and eggplant as opposed to fruits which although healthy are higher in calories and sugar.

2. Eat breakfast

breakfast

It is called breakfast because it literally “breaks” the “fast” we engage in overnight. People who eat breakfast have better concentration levels and weigh less than those that skip it. It does not have to be elaborate and complicated. Simple favourites such as porridge, oatmeal, bread with peanut butter and eggs with bread are effective solutions for a morning start.

3. Go Meatless one day a week

Vegetarians suffer less disease than their meat eating counterparts. For most Nigerians, giving up meat can be an extremely difficult task. Fortunately, skipping meat even on one day of the week can provide valuable health benefits. Pick a single day of the week to avoid all meat and get your protein from sources such as beans, lentils, nuts, soya, eggs and dairy.

4. Grow a small vegetable and/or fruit garden

One way to ensure a colourful, nourishing plate is to grow your own fruit and/or vegetable garden. Not only does this give you delicious, fresh produce right in your backyard, the digging and weeding process also burns calories while building muscular endurance and power. So get shoveling and soon you will literally enjoy the fruits of your labour.

5. Take a walk

walking

When most people hear the word exercise, they envision a gym filled with sophisticated machines and gadgets. However, you do not need an establishment to get fit and healthy. Walking is the oldest and most effective forms of exercise. Best of all, it comes free. Aim to walk for 30-60 minutes at least five days a week.  Even if your job is highly physical, you still need to provide your body with a different challenge.

6. Get enough sleep

Not getting enough sleep increases hormones that stimulate your appetite and change the way that your brain responds to high-calorie junk food. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Have a hard time falling asleep? Turn off all electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime and engage in a relaxing activity. Reading a book, doing light stretches or simply chatting with someone who makes you smile are easy relaxation strategies proven to work.

7. Drink water

Water is the basis of life but we do not get enough of it. Trade in sweetened beverages and alcohol for a glass of refreshing water. If you do not like unflavoured water, create your own signature concoction by adding various sliced fruits and vegetables to a pitcher of water. Allow it to infuse for a few hours and before long you will be sipping on an extremely refreshing glass of flavoured water.

8. Pound your own yams

pounded_yam_2

Long before there was the convenience of fufu powder, our grandparents grew and pounded their own yams. With the exception of the skin which they peeled off, they ate the yam in its entirety getting all the nutrients in the tuber. Today, we rely less on whole yams and use more fufu powder. Unfortunately, the manufacturing process of modern day fufu removes valuable nutrients making it not as nutritious as the traditional, fresh pounded varieties.

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9. Go easy on the sugar

less-sugar

With the exception of calories, most foods with added sugars provide very little to no nutritional value.  Rather, they cause weight gain, are associated with dental problems and increase obesity related diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Tame your sweet tooth by eating fruits, walking away from tempting foods and keeping sugary items out of reach.

10. Watch the salt

Salt is the number one source of sodium in the diet. Excessive intakes of sodium have been linked with high blood pressure (hypertension), stroke, kidney failure and stomach cancer. Reduce your intakes by limiting the amount of salt that you use in cooking and eating.

Cubes popular in Nigerian cooking are often high in sodium. If you use them, do not use salt or seasonings that contain salt. Rather, flavour your food with salt-free seasonings, herbs and spices. In addition, avoid salting your food at meal times. Learn to enjoy the true taste of food.

As these changes stick, look for other areas in your lifestyle that may need to be adjusting. Before long your neighbour, boss and sister will be coming to you for health advice.

Here’s to your health.

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About Cordialis Msora-Kasago

Cordialis Msora-Kasago is a Registered Dietitian (R.D) and a pioneer in the discussion of modern day healthy lifestyles in Africa. She is the founder of The African Pot Nutrition - an organization that improves the health of African people through sustainable diet and lifestyle programs. Follow her on twitter @africadietitian.

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