Sometimes, it’s the little things that count, and this couldn’t be more true than when it comes to your health. Small changes can equal big results, which means living a longer, healthier, and happier life. Here are five habits you can start doing today that will lead to improving your health tomorrow… and beyond. Best of all, these changes are so easy to make, there’s simply no excuse not to incorporate them into your everyday life.
1. Eliminate diet soda, fight depression. Here’s a novel way of reducing the risk for depression: cut down—or out completely—on sweetened diet drinks. These were the findings from a study conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. Research participants who drank more than four cups or cans of soda, either sugar-sweetened or diet, per day were 30% more likely to have received a diagnosis for depression than those who consumed none. Additionally, the research findings showed consuming diet versions of the sweetened drinks was associated with a higher risk for depression than drinking versions sweetened with regular sugar.
2. Eat grapes, eat better overall. Grape juice, raisins, or just plain old grapes themselves— make a habit of consuming these on a regular basis and you’re on your way to making other healthier food choices, too, so says a study presented at the 2008 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Researchers discovered that individuals who consume products made with grapes have healthier diet habits than those who did not consume grape products. They also found that grape consumers have a higher intake of essential minerals and vitamins such as dietary fibre, potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.
3. Tweet off the pounds. Addicted to social networking, and more specifically, to using Twitter to announce your daily goings-on? Well, good news: a group of researchers from the University of South Carolina’s School of Public Health discovered that using Twitter as a support system can be beneficial as part of a weight loss program. The study examined 96 overweight and obese males and females for a six-month period and found that people who tweeted “informational” status updates (“Woohoo! I had oatmeal instead of a chocolate chip muffin for breakfast today!”) were more successful with losing weight than those who did not use Twitter at all. So, what are you waiting for? Get out your smartphone and start #losingweight.
4. Take omega-3s to prevent skin cancer. A new study by researchers at the University of Manchester in England—published in the March 2013 issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition—has found that omega-3 fish oils may help prevent skin cancer. The researchers explained that sunlight can induce immunity suppression (known as immuno-suppression), which hinders the body’s ability to protect against skin cancer and infection, while fish oil directly decreases the immuno-suppression that sunlight would cause. The study revealed that immuno-suppression was 50% lower in participants who consumed a four-gram dose of omega-3 daily (that’s about one and a half portions of oily fish) compared to the group who took a placebo. So, when it comes to sun safety, in addition to the sunscreen, you may want to carry a bottle of omega-3s in your beach tote.
5. Sleep more, weigh less. As if you needed another reason to get a good night’s rest, but here’s one anyway: getting adequate sleep helps you lose weight. A study by researchers at University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder) found that participants who slept only five hours a night during a working week put on almost two pounds in weight if they had unlimited access to food. “Just getting less sleep, by itself, is not going to lead to weight gain,” says Kenneth Wright, director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at CU-Boulder. “But when people get insufficient sleep, it leads them to eat more than they actually need.” Wright goes on to add, “I don’t think extra sleep by itself is going to lead to weight loss, but I think it could help [as part of an overall diet plan].”