Start 2014 on the Right Foot and Improve your Health

walgreens at the corner of healthy and happyAs 2014 begins, people around the country begin to plan how they will conquer their new year’s resolution. While a typical resolution involves weight loss, a goal of improving our overall health can be a better long-term and sustainable solution.

Now more than ever, people are paying attention to the health effects of what they eat and drink. Healthy eating habits are important for overall wellbeing.  Along with physical activity, a healthy diet reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke. Also, stronger immune systems through proper diet can lessen the chance of infections. Conversely, obesity is a public health issue of growing importance — about two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. Here are 5 tips to staying healthy and enjoying what you eat and drink in 2014 and beyond:

  1. Adopt a Mediterranean-like diet to help prevent heart disease. This includes: large amounts of fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds, olive oil, low to moderate amounts of dairy products, fish and poultry, even smaller amounts of red meat, no more than 4 eggs a week and wine consumed in low to moderate amounts. An analysis of studies showed that strictly following the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease as well as the risk of developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, although further study is needed to determine whether factors other than diet may prevent some of these outcomes.
  2. Eat more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Simply put, this essential fat is found in salmon, fresh or water-packed tuna, nuts and seeds, and eggs – particularly from free-range chickens. Their health benefits come from reducing inflammation in blood vessels, joints, and in other places. Supplements containing omega-3 such as fish oil are also available, but you should consult with your health care professional first as they can interact with certain medicines.
  3. Add probiotics to your diet for improving your digestive system. Perhaps the best-known probiotics are found in yogurt with live cultures. Yogurt contains healthy, live cultures of Lactobacillus acidophilus that can help keep your digestion healthy. Many people take probiotics to prevent diarrhea and gas that may be caused by antibiotics. Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements.
  4. If you drink alcohol, one to two glasses per day has health benefits. Moderate drinking has been linked to improvements in cardiovascular health. Red wine contains flavonoids that have beneficial antioxidant properties. Of course, moderation is the key.
  5. Sweeten your life with a little dark chocolate. A recent review of dozens of studies reported beneficial effects of chocolate on risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as reducing levels of blood pressure, bad cholesterol levels and even improving insulin resistance.