Please note: 52 ways to Improve Your Health is part of a health series created to help you create healthy habits. Every week of the year, we will provide simple actionable tips that if implemented can significantly improve your health. Why 52? There are 52 weeks in the year. So by the end of the year you’ll have 52 health saving tips for better health. Unless you are visiting this page at the end of the year, you will not find all 52 tips listed year as we will build it throughout the year. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a tip.
Not only are beans, nuts and seeds fairly affordable throughout the world, they are also an affordable source of plant protein. Loaded with vital nutrients including B-vitamins and fiber, diets high in beans, peas, nuts and seeds have been shown to significantly improve health while reducing overall disease risk.
Include legumes at least twice in your weekly meal plan.
We get it! Salt just makes food taste yummy but did you know that people who are genetically predisposed to high blood pressure, such as those of African descent should reduce the amount of sodium that they eat? Salt a major contributor of sodium in the diet and for this reason should be limited. Major health organizations recommend that you eat less than 1500mg of sodium a day. That is a little less than a single teaspoon. Most of us eat almost triple that amount.
4 Ways To reduce your sodium intakes:
- Avoid adding salt when at the table
- Enhance the flavors of food with herbs and spices
- Limit use of high sodium seasonings such as the cube, seasoning powders, salted stockfish etc.
- Reduce intakes of canned and processed foods
It’s not just the sugar that you add to your tea (or cereal) that counts. Sugar in all its forms matters. Think of the obvious sugar sources like soft drinks, chin chin, mandazi, biscuits, cakes and sweets but don’t forget about the hidden sugars in many of the foods in your pantry like yogurt, ketchup, granola and fruit juice. It all adds up.
So many times people brag about being able to function on very little sleep but this is harmful to overall health. Studies suggest that people who sleep less than 7 hours tend to be overweight, more stressed out and suffer poorer health than their counterparts who get enough zzz’s.
Ensure enough sleep by going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time too….even on weekends.
“I can eat a rainbow/Eat a rainbow/Eat a rainbow too!“
It’s the song from your childhood that can actually help you create plates that radiate with wholesome yumminess. Just like the song is fairly simple to remember, healthy eating can be a breeze if you make sure your plate is filled with color as each color provides nutrients that nourish. The more colorful your plate, the healthier. In addition to a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, here’s just a peak of the colorful nutrients on a rainbow eating meal plan:
Red foods such as tomatoes, strawberries and red guavas are loaded with lycopene, an antioxidant that fights heart disease and cancer, especially that of the prostrate.
Orange foods like (well) oranges, carrots and pumpkins are rich in carotenoids which the body uses to make vitamin A, a nutrient that is important for your vision, immune system and that healthy glow in your skin.
Green foods such as leafy green vegetables and cabbage boast cancer fighting enzymes known as isothiocyanates.
Purple foods like mulberries and eggplant have anthocyanins which prevent heart disease and keep blood pressure in check.
White foods (yes, white foods can fit in a healthy meal plan) such as onions and mushrooms also contain disease busting antioxidants.
When it comes to knowing which foods to pick think of the legendary superstar, Tupac Shakur who once sang (or should I say rapped)” The darker the berry the sweeter the juice….” When it comes to healthy eating, the richer the color, the better the diet.
Challenge: Aim to have at least 3 colors on your plate each meal.
SITTING IS THE NEW SMOKING! It’s a saying that has such profound significance in todays world. You don’t have to join a gym, hire a trainer or buy any special equipment but you MUST exercise. Sure we know exercise helps us lose weight, but did you know that it can also help you sleep better, think better and yup, you guessed it, feel better.
The general recommendation is that we get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. That’s roughly 25 minutes each day, but most of us fall far from this recommendation.
Improve your health by including regular exercise on most days of the week. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be complicated, a simple dance-a-thin with the kids can certainly improve health.
Did you know that although white women suffer higher rates of breast cancer, black women are more likely to die from the disease? Why? Because of the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed. Many Africans do not seek the help of a trained healthcare provider until the are extremely ill and by then it is too late for the doctors to make an impactful course of treatment. Improve your health this year by scheduling a visit with a health care provider so you can find out if you have any medical conditions that need immediate attention.
The sooner you find out the better. Many of todays diseases can be attributed to diet and lifestyles and with some simple changes and effort on your part, you can prevent or delay the onset of disease or even manage the symptoms that make you ill.
Don’t stop at just your medical doctor. Schedule a visit with an eye doctor and dentist also because early detection is also important in these fields.
REMINDER: Take your Family Health Tree (see week 1) with you when you visit your doctor. The information you provide could save your life.
Fact: Your risk of developing various disease increases if a close relative family member suffers/suffered from it.
When it comes to diagnosis and great outcomes, early detection is key. Many health care providers rely on medical tests and your personal family medical history to determine if you are at risk for disease. However, with the expanding African diaspora and consequent separation of families you may not know which diseases run in your family. This is further complicated by a culture in which ill-health and disease are not openly discussed.
Improve your health this year by starting a family health tree.
- Ask your close family members (parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews) what disease they have or had including how old they were when they were diagnosed. Also include the health history of close family members that have died.
- Keep track of individul names and health conditions, storing this information in a safe place (or search for family health apps on your smart device).
- If your relatives approve, share your health tree with the rest of the family.
Take your documented family history with you the next time you see your medical provider. The more family history you provide, the better able they will be to assess your symptoms and develop a quick and accurate diagnosis.
Remember, the life you save could be yours. Start your Family Health Tree today.
Do you have a family health tree or will you be starting one this year? Leave a comment in the comment section below.
Here’s to your health!
Sources: Knowing is Not Enough—Act on Your Family Health History://www.cdc.gov/features/familyhealthhistory/