The 5 Healthiest Foods You Should Be Eating

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there has been a dramatic increase in chronic diseases and other health problems worldwide. In fact, WHO projects that by 2020 chronic diseases will account for almost three-quarters of all deaths worldwide. Therefore, a greater emphasis has been placed on practicing healthier lifestyle habits, such as choosing more nutritious foods, getting daily exercise, and managing stress. There are lots of healthy food choices available, but these 5 healthiest foods will get you off to a great start on your health journey.

Vegetables:  You probably remember your parents saying, “eat your veggies!” Well, your parents were right. Vegetables contain a plethora оf vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients аnd dietary fibers, whісh offer numerous health benefits. Experts recommend аt lеаѕt five servings оf vegetables every day to keep our immune system strong, so we can have a better chance at keeping illnesses and diseases at bay. All vegetables are excellent for your health. Spinach, for example, is chock full of calcium, vitamin A аnd C, magnesium, riboflavin, and iron, giving your skin and hair a nice, healthy glow. Steamed broccoli is another nutrient-rich veggie that provides lots of potassium, fiber, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc and so much more. Eating plenty of leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, arugula and collard greens, is especially advantageous because they are nutritional powerhouses filled with chlorophyll, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. They are most nutritious when lightly steamed or raw.

Fruits:  Studies have found thаt people whо eat fruits regularly are less likely to develop diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and heart disease. Amоng thе different types оf fruits, thе two healthiest fruits that you should include in your diet аrе berries аnd citrus fruits. Berries, such as raspberries, strawberries аnd blueberries, аrе high іn disease- fighting antioxidants that help to protect our cells from free radical damage. Berries can help improve memory function, too. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits and limes, provide a rich source of vitamin C, fiber, phytochemicals аnd flavonoids. Consumption оf thеѕе fruits may also lower cholesterol, high blood pressure, improve heart health, аnd may prevent thе development оf colon аnd stomach cancer. You don’t have to stick to just berries аnd citrus fruits either. Othеr fruits like red grapes, apples, apricots, plums, and papaya are also very beneficial to your health.

Whоle Grains:  Whоle grains include foods like oatmeal, millet, quinoa, barley and wild rice. Most whole grain foods are abundant in fiber, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium, to name a few. Regular consumption of whole grains can help reduce your risk of colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The dietary fiber in whole grains will also help you feel full faster and longer, as well as help prevent constipation and aid digestion.

Nuts:  Anоthеr food having аn important place оn thіѕ list іѕ nuts. Nuts, еѕресіаllу almonds аnd walnuts, provide аn excellent source оf protein and omega-3 fatty acids. According to Mayo Clinic, people who eat nuts can lower their bad cholesterol, or LDL’s, thus improve overall heart health.   Thеу аlѕо possess vitamins B аnd E, monounsaturated fats, calcium, potassium аnd fiber. Try a handful of nuts as a between meal snack to help curb your appetite until the next meal.

Yogurt: Yogurt contains healthy bacteria, called probiotics, which can benefit your health by enhancing your digestive and immune system wellness. Yogurt is also rich in calcium and vitamin D, both essential for bone health. And, according to a study published in the January 2005 issue of the “International Journal of Obesity,” yogurt may speed weight loss because of its fat-burning properties and low-calorie content. Therefore, it’s important to choose low-fat, low-sugar yogurt to reap the health benefits without packing on the pounds. Eating yogurt may also help treat certain intestinal infections, irritable bowel syndrome, and diarrhea, especially after receiving antibiotic treatment, according to Mayo Clinic.



5 Tips to Improve Your Cardiovascular Fitness

Improving your cardiovascular fitness offers many health benefits, such as better circulation, increased metabolic rate, more energy, greater strength and endurance, protection against chronic disease and much more. Therefore, my goal here is to help you enjoy all these benefits and more by providing you with five tips to improve your cardio fitness.

Play A Sport

Sports are an excellent way to boost your cardiovascular fitness for a number of reasons. They’re a lot of fun, they allow you to socialize with your friends and meet new friends and they generally have a regular schedule, which guarantees that you get consistent cardiovascular exercise. Furthermore, the nature of sports means that you’ll have periods where you’re working at an all-out intensity and periods where you’re exercising at an easier, slower pace. This kind of variety will give your cardiovascular fitness an enormous boost.

Participate is a High Intensity Exercise Class

High intensity exercise classes are another very beneficial way to increase your cardiovascular fitness. Your instructor will not only help you to stay on track, but also make sure that you put in your best effort and not give up. Also, when you participate in a high-intensity exercise group, you will see everyone else working hard and encourage you to do the same. Following a weekly class schedule can also help you to work on your cardiovascular fitness on a regular basis.

Do Cardio Whenever You Can

While it’s a good idea to have scheduled cardiovascular activities such as exercise classes or sports in your routine, you should also look for opportunities during the day where you can spontaneously do some extra cardio.

Walking is probably the easiest way to fit extra cardio into your day and by taking the stairs or leaving the car at home, you can easily add lots of additional walking to your routine. However, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can go beyond walking and do sprints, jumping jacks, burpees or more whenever you have some time to spare.

Do High Intensity Cardio Intervals

No matter what form of cardio you choose to do, you should try to add in some high- intensity intervals into your workout routine. Exercising at high intensity will test your current cardiovascular fitness to its limits and build up your lungs and heart in the process, which results in improved cardiovascular fitness every time you work out. In addition, you will burn more calories than fat, which means that you will expend more calories for greater fat loss down the road.

In a nutshell, you’ll end up in better physical condition with less body fat and better overall health. All very good reasons to add high intensity training into your exercise sessions.

Consistency Is Key

The four tips above are all tremendous ways to develop your cardiovascular fitness. However, if you’re not consistent with your cardio training, they’ll yield limited results. Therefore, to get the most out of these tips, make sure you’re doing some scheduled cardio training at least three to four times per week and including spontaneous cardio exercises into your routine every day.

So, if you find yourself having to catch your breath after walking up the stairs or rushing to catch a bus, now is the time to give your cardiovascular fitness a kick. Simply implement the five top tips from this article and you’ll start to see your cardiovascular fitness rapidly increase and enjoy all its health benefits.

Foods That Help Lower Cholesterol

Photo Credit: Klaus Höpfner CC-BY-SA-3.0-migrated

Have you been diagnosed with high cholesterol or are your concerned about your cholesterol levels? If you have high cholesterol or want to make sure your cholesterol level stays low, you have to make some changes to your diet and lifestyle. Changes in your diet should include cutting down or eliminating trans fats and saturated fats from your diet. Replace fatty foods with more whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. There are some foods that are more beneficial in reducing the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol. You should change your diet and get more exercise, even if your doctor has prescribed a cholesterol-lowering drug. 
Whole grains are an excellent addition to any diet, especially a low-fat cholesterol fighting diet. Oats, oat bran and oatmeal contains soluble fiber that works in your digestive system to suppress the absorption of LDL cholesterol. Soluble fiber is also found in fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes. Apples, bananas, pears, prunes, barley and beans are especially good choices for dietary soluble fiber. Add some raisins, banana slices or some blueberries to your morning oatmeal or cold high-fiber cereal for extra flavor and additional antioxidants.
Replace your regular cooking oil with olive oil. Olive oil contains antioxidants that helps to prevent the absorption of LDL cholesterol, but does not affect the high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or the good cholesterol. The extra-virgin olive oil is less processed than light olive oil, but both types of olive oil are high in calories. Saute vegetables in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil for extra antioxidants and soluble fiber to help reduce your cholesterol. Mix olive oil with vinegar and spices for a delicious salad dressing. 
Fatty fish, including mackerel, herring, sardines and halibut, contains omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce your cholesterol. Added benefits of eating fatty fish include lowering your blood pressure and preventing blood clots, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. Replace red meat with a fatty fish twice each week, or more often if you like fish. Bake or grill fish in place of frying to avoid adding trans fats to your diet. 
Nuts contain polyunsaturated fats, which help keep your cholesterol in check. Almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and pistachio nuts are good choices. Add a handful of nuts to your salad instead of croutons or grated cheese to help reduce your cholesterol. Choose plain nuts instead of salted nuts to avoid the extra sodium.  

Exercise For A Healthy Heart

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Most Americans do not get enough exercise. Inactivity and an unhealthy diet can lead to obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Exercise can help reduce weight and lessen the risk for heart disease and diabetes. You can lose weight by cutting back on calories, but to prevent regaining lost weight, exercise is essential. You don’t have to join a gym or buy expensive equipment to exercise and lose weight for a healthy heart. But if you have been inactive for years, or if you don’t know how to begin, see your doctor for a check-up and consider a personal trainer to help you develop an exercise program that will work for you.

You can get more exercise during the day than you realize. You can maximize the aerobic value of your everyday activities. People with babies and small children often take a stroller along when shopping or going to the park. Pushing your child in a stroller for 1/2 hour or about 1 1/2 miles is excellent aerobic exercise for you and fun for your baby. As you begin to lose weight and feel stronger, consider buying a jogging stroller for your child. You can push baby along while you jog through the park. Walk the dog for an extra 10 minutes each day. Your dog will love it and you will get more exercise. Mowing the lawn and raking leaves are common activities that are good exercise for weight loss and a healthy heart. Use a push mower to cut your grass. Shoveling snow is also good exercise, but be careful not to over-exert yourself during cold weather. Limit shoveling to no more than 15 minutes and then rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Park your car a few blocks from your workplace and walk when weather permits. Walking is one of the safest and easiest heart healthy exercises. Walk instead of driving when you can. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.

Set aside at least 30 minutes every other day just for exercise. If you don’t know how to begin, a fitness trainer can help you develop an exercise program that works with your schedule and your current level of fitness. You can break up your 30 minutes of exercise into 10 minute blocks of exercise spread throughout the day. Exercise is a critical part of a healthy life. Keep your heart strong and lose weight by eating a nutritious diet and exercising.

For more information about exercise and heart health, see:
National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Physical Activity and Your Heart (PDF File)