The two most common health-related resolutions – eat less and exercise more – are so mundane and uninspiring they often don’t last as a goal.
Below are some new twists on these old standards, along with a few new ideas for resolutions to boost one’s health and well-being this year:
1) Resolve to eat MORE fat
Good fat, that is. It’s true that high-fat diets (more than 35 percent calories from fat, or those containing high levels of saturated or trans-fatty acids) can lead to obesity, heart disease and other serious health dangers. However, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that a diet too low in fat can actually increase the likelihood of a heart attack by reducing the levels of “good cholesterol” in the bloodstream.
In fact, recent research has shown that certain, specific kinds of fats are essential to human health and well-being. In particular , the monounsaturated fats found in olive and canola oils, and the omega-s essential fatty acids (EFAs) found in fish oils, are important for promoting cardiovascular, neurological and psychological health.
Salmon and tuna are good dietary sources of EFAs, but an easier way to up one’s intake is with fish oil supplements. It’s critically important to be sure of the sources, though, and take only high-quality, ultra-distilled products because of the risk of heavy metal contamination (mercury, lead) in poor-quality supplements.
2) Don’t resolve to “lose” weight, “manage” it instead
Fad diets and “miracle diet pills” come and go, but there are really just a few basic concepts behind reaching an ideal, healthy weight. Adopting a healthy attitude and setting realistic goals, incorporating both aerobic and resistance exercise into a daily routine and taking in adequate but not excessive calories are all important steps toward better health. A fourth, highly essential concept is ensuring proper nutrition.
A lifetime nutritional philosophy, focusing on the consumption of nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods and vita-nutrient supplementation is the cornerstone of a healthy diet. High carbohydrate, low-fat meals tend to be less satisfying than those that contain adequate fat levels, leading to more eating. People can get off this insulin-generating roller coaster by eating a diet more balanced between complex carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
There are also certain minerals, vitamins and herbs, such as chromium, bitter orange and glucomannan that actually cause the body to burn excess fat when taken to supplement a healthy diet. Other nutrients, like 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and fiber can control sugar cravings and generally curb your appetite.
One note of caution: ephedra, otherwise known as ma huang, is used quite commonly in this country as a diet aid. This nutrient, although considered “natural,” works as a stimulant and can have negative side effects. People with a history of heart disease, hypertension and certain other disorders should avoid products containing ephedra, since it can cause cardiac arrhythmias and a host of other problems including the potential for death. Even if you don’t have these conditions, use this product only as directed. Do not exceed indicated maximum doses and consult your physician promptly if you experience side effects.
3) Resolve to boost workouts with proper nutrition
Many people resolve to get more exercise when the new year rolls around, but an increase in physical activity makes demands on the body that need to be addressed through proper nutrition. Adequate intake of protein (for building muscles) and complex carbohydrates and fat (for fuel) is essential for optimal performance. In addition to these macronutrients, specific micronutrients are also required by the body to burn fuel efficiently. These include acetyl-L-carnitine, the B complex vitamins, coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ10) and magnesium.
Despite the many benefits of exercise, it does produce a detrimental by-product in the form of free radicals. These highly reactive molecules cause damage to body tissues. The best way to protect against this “oxidative damage” is by increasing intake of antioxidants, such as vitamins C, E, B2, B6, lutein and coenzyme Q10. Although these substances are present in a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, the high levels of free radical formation produced by intense physical exercise warrant supplementation with a high-quality antioxidant supplement.
4) Resolve to take care of your body and your mind
With recent, high-profile cases of Alzheimer’s Disease in the news, public concern about preventing this and other debilitating, age-related diseases is growing. A number of nutrients have been shown to have neuroprotective properties, and may prevent or slow the progression of neurological diseases. These include alpha lipoic acid (ALA), acetyl-L-carnitine, coenzyme Q10, phosphatidylserine, Vitamin E, and the B-complex vitamins, and standardized ginkgo biloba. People concerned about the stability of their brain function should consider increasing their intake of these nutrients, either through diet or supplementation.
5) Resolve to take vitamins that are what they say they are
Although there are clear benefits to incorporating nutritional supplements into the diet, the effectiveness, quality and potency of multivitamins and nutraceuticals can vary widely. Typical multivitamins often contain only the most common, inexpensive nutrients, already available in a healthy diet. They often lack the more “exotic” but expensive substances needed for effective disease prevention and health. For example, the chief ingredient of most multivitamins today is calcium carbonate, which is derived from rock and is a principal ingredient of concrete. Far more effective at preventing and even reversing bone loss is calcium-citrate-malate, but since it is more expensive (and therefore less profitable), many manufacturers choose the inferior form for their products.
On the other hand, some manufacturers include “trendy” nutrients, but at levels less than the dose scientifically found to be effective. Even worse, in many cases lab analysis of nutrient supplements has shown the amount present can be drastically higher or lower than that listed on the bottle. And impurities introduced during the manufacturing process can be harmful.
Consumers should be very careful about where they purchase their supplements, seeking a supplier that guarantees the purity, potency and competitive pricing of its products. The source should be committed to selling products based on scientific principles, not the latest fads. Ideally, the supplier should be run by or work directly with doctors and scientists who ensure its products are in step with current progress in nutraceutical research. One way to confirm this is to ask the supplier whether it has a scientific advisory board, and to look for information (either in the catalog or on the Web site) that educates the consumer about different nutrients and cites scientific studies performed by reputable scientists.
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