A few weeks ago I wrote about a cooking class that I was teaching in Honolulu. Sadly the class was canceled, but the during the trial run the owner asked me some key questions that would have helped guide the class.
She asked what three things would be most important to students in the new year. After my years of teaching and trying to help students learn to care for their bodies, three main things stand out as keys to EASY health improvement that you can start TODAY. You can do these three things today– and everyday– and feel better, lighter, and more vibrantly well every day.
3 Ways to Improve your Health for Free!
1. Eat more Fiber
Fiber is one of the most important parts of a healthy diet, and most Americans are getting about half of the recommended dose each day. It is recommended that adults consume about 25-38 grams of fiber each day, and research suggests that more than 90 percent of Americans aren’t meeting their daily fiber requirement.
Proper fiber intake is linked to better health for many reasons, but the primary function is to sweep toxins and waste matter from the digestive tract. Too little fiber can lead to buildup of waste matter, digestive discomfort and weight gain.
Increased fiber is linked to weight loss, reduced risk of breast cancer and lower cholesterol. Fiber literally binds with excess hormones and cholesterol to flush it out of your system- this is the reason oatmeal is considered a great food for those looking to lower their cholesterol. There are lots of ways to boost your fiber intake:
- Lentils and other beans: cheap, delicious, and endlessly versatile, lentils and beans can be your new best friend. Buy red, brown, green– it doesn’t matter. Find inspiration with our recipes: Tamarind Lentils, Homemade Baked Beans, Lentil Wraps, Pumpkin Chili and Vegan Sloppy Joes.
- Whole Grains: brown rice, millet, wheat berries, teff, amaranth, quinoa, and oats all add up to a diet rich in fiber. Whole grains provide minerals, healthy complex carbohydrates, and lots of fiber, with oats and wheat berries leading in fiber content. Click the links to find recipes and cooking tips for each.
- Daily fiber supplements: If you need a boost of fiber, my favorites are psyllium husk or chia seeds. Psyllium is just the generic name for Metamucil, but with a lot fewer crappy ingredients hiding inside. Click the links to find out how to best use each.
2. Eat less sugar
This might be the hardest one on the list, but eating less sugar is very important for people of all ages.
Almost every food we eat here in the US is over-sweetened. Breads, cereals, drinks, coffees, pasta sauce– it all has sugar, and all this sugar is leading us to devastating health consequences like obesity, diabetes and general ill health. But the good news is that it can be changed!
It can be a challenging process though– studies have shown that sugar is exceptionally addictive (especially for children), and our addiction tells us to eat more and more, even if it’s harming our body. Learn more about health issues with sugar, five reasons to definitely avoid sugar, and the social and environmental costs of sugar. Get some of my favorite tips for reducing sugar in your diet, which I do often to help fight candida issues and to just feel BETTER. Also, dropping sugar (and all sugar-sweetened things) is a quick way to lose weight.
Start learning more about where sugar is hiding in your diet. Look at the label on your can of juice, your pasta sauce, or the granola bar. The World Health Organization and the American Heart Association suggest that adults should have only about 25 grams TOTAL per day; once you know that number, you can read your labels more carefully and start reducing your intake daily.
3. Eat more vegetables and fruits
If you already eat a lot of fruits and veggies, great! But you could always add more, right? Whether you start your meals with a big salad, sneak veggies into comfort foods, or just try a new veggie each week at the farmer’s market, adding more fruits and veggies into your diet helps you boost your fiber, increase vitamins and minerals, reduce your risk of illness, and reduce your risk of cancer. Vegetables can also make you happier!
And this ties into our first point about eating more fiber: fiber is ONLY found in plant foods, so veggies are especially important if you’re eating animal foods. It doesn’t matter which fruits or veggies you choose, just eat more veggies this week than you did the previous week, and you’ll be on your way to a better you each week.