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Little Shifts, Big Results
Little Shifts, Big Results

Every new year, we make lists of resolutions with big, ambitious plans for diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes—and by February, most of us are back on the couch with a bag of chips and the latest Netflix binge opportunity. Can you relate? Try a more manageable approach. We asked Mark Hyman, MD, bestselling author and founder and director of The UltraWellness Center, for a dozen simple, specific, science-based changes to make. You don’t have to make all of these changes at once! Implement over the course of the year. By the time everyone else is breaking their 2021 resolutions, you’ll have created lasting habits—and a total health transformation.

1 Be less refined. One of the best things you can do for your health: dramatically reduce or eliminate refined sugars and flours, and limit all things sweet. “Sugar and flour aren’t doing our health any favors, especially considering how they wreak havoc on our blood sugar—blood glucose is one major predictor of longevity,” says Hyman. Studies have linked blood sugar levels to increased longevity, and a high sugar diet may increase the risk of heart disease, even in healthy people. [Editor’s note: read more about this on p. 28]

While certain sweeteners are safer than others (like maple syrup instead of aspartame), your body still produces insulin in response—so save the sweet treats for special occasions. For everyday desserts, ditch the cookies and pastries for berries, pomegranates, pears, and other high-fiber fruits: they’re linked with a reduced risk of heart disease.

2 Up the veggies—a lot. Fill 75 percent of your plate with non-starchy, colorful vegetables at every meal (including breakfast), to support digestion and up the nutrient density of your diet. “This helps your health in numerous ways, like providing fiber for satiation and digestive support— fiber feeds good gut bugs,” says Hyman. “And the colors in plant foods signal potent phytonutrients like antioxidants that fight inflammation and keep us youthful.” Some vegetables, like broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, are also high in compounds that protect against cancer. Overall, studies have linked increased fruit and vegetable consumption with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality.

Include more vegetables in every meal— have a baked sweet potato instead of a bagel for breakfast, loaded with scrambled eggs, chopped greens, and tomatoes; have a big salad with lean protein for lunch; add two veggie sides to dinner; and snack on kale chips or sliced veggies with hummus. Bonus: you can eat as much as you want of nonstarchy vegetables such as artichokes and celery—they won’t impact your blood sugar the way starchy ones can.

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February 2020