These 12 steps to better health are a framework for any person who wants to get more fit.
Of course, there are many more strategies for better health and fitness.
But, these simple steps to better health are a great start.
They are based on the 12 steps to better health recommended by the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.
1. Drink More Water
Why is drinking more water good for you?
Water energizes muscles. Cells that don't maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue.((https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/6-reasons-to-drink-water#1))
Therefore, make sure that you are drinking the recommended fluid intake for men of 125-130 oz/day (approx. 16 cups) and 91-95 oz/day (approx. 12 cups) for women. Fluids from all food and beverage sources count towards these amounts.
The human body is approximately 60% water. You can only survive a few days without water. The fluid levels in your body are constantly fluctuating as you lose or gain water.
Water is also key to your biological functions, including maintaining your core temperature, transporting nutrients to your cells, removing waste products and keeping your pH levels balanced.((https://blog.nasm.org/nutrition/hydration-health-performance/))
In addition, drinking water helps boost your metabolism, cleanse your body of waste, and acts as an appetite suppressant. Also, drinking more water helps your body stop retaining water, leading you to drop those extra pounds of water weight.((https://www.gaiam.com/blogs/discover/how-drinking-more-water-can-help-you-lose-weight))
2. Cook at Home
Why cook at home? It takes so much time!
Restaurant and other commercially prepared foods are notoriously high in fat, salt and sugar. These foods are fine as an occasional indulgence or for a special occasion, but not healthy as a regular diet. Preparing most of your meals at home helps train your palate toward healthier fare.((https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/advantages-home-cooked-meal-1930.html))
3. Start Eating More Whole Grains
What is so great about whole grains?
Whole grains help to fight a number of diseases including:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- High cholesterol
- Bowel disorders
Studies show that people who regularly eat whole grains reduce their risk for all of these diseases. Research also suggests that whole grains may be even better than fruits and vegetables as a source of key nutrients for fighting disease.((https://www.calorieking.com/learnabouts/Whats-So-Great-About-Whole-Grains_OTMy.html))
4. Increase Sweet Vegetables
Sweet vegetables can help to crowd out sugary sweets. Vegetables like winter squash (i.e. butternut, acorn, kabocha), carrots, onions, beets, sweet potatoes and corn have a sweet flavor when cooked. According to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, because many of these vegetables are root vegetables, they are energetically grounding, which helps to avoid the sugar highs people often feel after eating other kinds of sweet foods.((https://healthycrush.com/sweet-vegetables-for-sugar-cravings/))
5. Increase Leafy Green Vegetables
Why are leafy green vegetables good for you?
Dark green leafy vegetables are great sources of nutrition. Salad greens, kale and spinach are rich in vitamins A, C, E and K, and broccoli, bok choy and mustard are also rich in many of the B-vitamins. Because of their high content of antioxidants, green leafy vegetables may be one of the best cancer-preventing foods.((https://www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2013/dark-green-leafy-vegetables/))
6. Eat Enough Protein
What are the benefits of protein?
Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.
The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. This amounts to: 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man. 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.
7. Eat Less Processed Foods
Why are processed foods bad for you?
According to Kris Gunnars of Authority Nutrition:
Processed foods are the main reason why people all over the world are getting fat and sick. How do we know? Every time a population adopts a “Western” diet high in processed foods, they get sick. It happens within a few years. Their genes don’t change, their food does.
What is Processed Food?
If it’s a single ingredient food with no added chemicals, then it doesn’t matter if it’s been ground or put into a jar. It’s still real food.
However… foods that have been chemically processed and made solely from refined ingredients and artificial substances, are what is generally known as “processed food.”
The Many Problems with Processed Food:
- Excess sugar consumption is strongly associated with increased fat in the liver, abdomen, insulin resistance, high triglycerides, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
- Food manufacturers spend massive amounts of resources on making their foods as “rewarding” as possible to the brain, which leads to bingeing.
- Many of the ingredients in processed food are not actual food, they are artificial chemicals that are added for various purposes.
- Sugar and highly rewarding junk foods activate the same areas in the brain as drugs of addiction like cocaine.
- The simple carbohydrates in processed foods lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels which are associated with chronic diseases.
- There are many nutrients found in whole foods that are not found in processed foods.
- Soluble, fermentable fiber has various important health benefits, but most processed foods are very low in fiber because it is lost or intentionally removed during processing
- We only burn half as many calories digesting and metabolizing processed foods compared to whole foods.
- Processed foods are often high in unhealthy fats (Omega-6 fatty acids) which drive inflammation in your body.
- Several studies show that when people eat more of these oils, they have an increased risk of heart disease, the most common cause of death in Western countries today.
- Instead, eat real fats like coconut oil and olive oil instead.
- Real food is the key to good health, processed food is not. Period.
8. Make a Habit of Nurturing your Body
Where should I invest my time and money?
Invest your money in yourself, your own health.
Pay less attention to satisfying your the cravings of your tongue.
And pay more attention to what you know intuitively is good for your body.
You are worth investing in, this is your body, your life.
Make a habit of considering what you are about to eat or do, will this help or harm your health?
9. Have Healthy Relationships
Why are healthy relationships so important?
- Less Stress
- Better Healing
- Healthier Behaviors
- Greater Sense of Purpose
- Longer Life
Speaking of adding years onto your life, research suggests that having healthy social relationships makes a bigger impact on avoiding early death than taking blood pressure medication or avoiding air pollution. One study even suggests that a lack of social relationships has the same effect on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.((https://www.nmbreakthroughs.org/wellness/5-benefits-of-healthy-relationships))
10. Enjoy Regular Physical Activity
How much physical activity should I get each day?
Physical activity or exercise can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Physical activity and exercise can have immediate and long-term health benefits. Most importantly,regular activity can improve your quality of life.((https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/physical-activity-its-important))
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise per week, ideally 30 minutes per day.((https://blog.nasm.org/fitness/fitness-how-much-activity-is-enough/))
11. Find Work You Love
Whoever coined the phrase “do what you love and the money will follow” may have been on to something. Numerous studies have shown that happy people tend to earn higher salaries — and it stands to reason that these high-earners are happy — at least in part — because they have jobs they love. They feel more fulfilled, productive, motivated, healthy and their work is never a chore.((https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7995-reasons-to-do-what-you-love.html))
12. Develop a Spiritual Practice
A growing body of research suggests that spirituality may help some people better cope with illness, depression and stress.((https://www.healthafter50.com/mental-health/article/the-health-benefits-of-spirituality))
What other steps to better health have worked for you? Please share, thank you.
Bonus: View and/or Download This PDF for 12 Steps to Better Health.