By Dr. Mercola
Happy New Year! Have you made any New Year's resolutions yet? About half of Americans make them, but by the time February or March rolls around, many have already abandoned their efforts.
Overall, it's estimated that 92 percent of Americans fail to achieve the goals they commit to on New Year's Day.1 For this reason, I propose making a commitment to simply make healthier choices and live better this year.
Changing your lifestyle is an ongoing process, and not something you can achieve overnight or even in a few weeks. Rather, it's a lifetime plan that you stick with over the long haul.
10 Healthy Lifestyle Strategies to Implement in 2017
Are you ready to start fresh in 2017? Then read on. The 10 positive changes that follow are the crème de la crème of lifestyle strategies that will allow you to live a longer, healthier life, boosting your happiness and well-being all the while.
1. Give up soda
Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver damage, osteoporosis and acid reflux are just some of the health conditions linked to soda consumption.
If you're still drinking soda on a regular basis, committing to swapping it for healthier beverages like water, sparkling water and the occasional cup of tea and/or organic black coffee could be one of the most health-promoting decisions of your life.
When you consume soda your body increases dopamine production, which stimulates the pleasure centers of your brain — a physically identical response to that of heroin, by the way. This explains why so many find it difficult to give up their daily soda fix. It can be done though, and you'll feel better for it.
If you struggle with soda or sugar addiction, try Turbo Tapping. Don't make the mistake of switching to "diet" sodas and other artificially sweetened drinks. Research shows these actually wreak the same or worse havoc on your metabolism and health as sugar-sweetened sodas.
2. Eat an avocado every day
Avocados are a rich source of monounsaturated fat your body can easily burn for energy. Because they are so rich in healthy fats, avocados also help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other foods.
Research2 has shown that adding avocado to salad allows your body to absorb three to five times more carotenoids, antioxidants that help protect your body against free radical damage.
Avocados also provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, including potassium and vitamins E and B (including folate). Avocados have a long list of potential health benefits.
Besides its anti-inflammatory properties, research suggests it can help improve your lipid profile, protect against liver damage and inhibit oral cancer cells. I personally have two avocados a day as they fit in perfectly with optimizing mitochondrial health.
3. Make fermented vegetables with family or friends
One lifestyle factor that appears to be driving not only obesity but also many chronic disease processes is the fact that we eat too frequently. Our ancestors didn't have access to food 24/7, and biologically your body simply isn't designed to run optimally when continuously fed. If you eat throughout the day and never skip a meal, your body adapts to burning sugar as its primary fuel, which downregulates enzymes that utilize and burn stored fat.
Moreover, research has confirmed that many biological repair and rejuvenation processes take place in the absence of food, and this is another reason why all-day grazing triggers disease. In a nutshell, your body was designed to a) run on fat as its primary fuel, and b) cycle through periods of feast and famine. Today, most people do the complete opposite.
Intermittent fasting is a term that covers an array of different meal timing schedules. As a general rule, it involves cutting calories in whole or in part, either a couple of days a week, every other day, or even daily. The key is the cycling of feasting/feeding and famine/fasting. By mimicking the eating habits of our ancestors, who did not have access to food around the clock, you restore your body to a more natural state that allows a whole host of biochemical benefits to occur.
"Peak fasting" involves fasting for 13 to 18 hours each day and eating all of your meals within the remaining window of six to 11 hours. To make this schedule work, you need to skip either breakfast or dinner. Which one to omit is up to you. However, if you chose to eat dinner, be sure to do so at least three hours before bedtime.
When you're sleeping, your body needs the least amount of energy, and if you feed it at a time when energy is not needed, you end up creating a situation in which your mitochondria create excessive amounts of damaging free radicals. This is another important factor that can help optimize your mitochondrial function and prevent cellular damage from occurring.
9. Get eight hours of sleep every night
Sleep deprivation has the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or illness, which helps explain why lack of sleep is tied to an increased risk of numerous chronic diseases.
Sleep is also intricately tied to important hormone levels, including melatonin — a potent antioxidant with powerful anti-cancer activity — which is diminished by lack of sleep. Small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep and, thereby, better health. For example, one important factor is to sleep in total darkness.
Recent research reveals being exposed to even dim light during sleep can have adverse effects on brain function and cognition, even after a single night. If you're not sure how much sleep you're getting, a fitness tracker can be beneficial for helping you keep track of the actual time you're asleep (as opposed to the time spent in bed). If you need more sleep, read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for details on proper sleep hygiene.
10. Eat more fiber
Most Americans need to eat more fiber. A high-fiber diet can help reduce your risk of premature death from any cause, likely because it helps to reduce your risk of some of the most common chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Researchers have also found that short-chain fatty acids produced by bacteria that feed on plant fiber are major epigenetic communicators. In other words, they actually communicate with your DNA, thereby providing protection against disease. 9,10,11
When it comes to boosting your fiber intake, be sure to focus on eating more vegetables, nuts and seeds (not grains). Recent research confirms that in order to work, the fiber must be unprocessed.12,13 Processed supplement fiber such as inulin powder does not provide gut bacteria with what they need.
Organic whole husk psyllium is a great fiber source, as are sunflower sprouts and fermented vegetables, the latter of which are essentially fiber preloaded with beneficial bacteria. Flax, hemp and chia seeds are other excellent fiber sources.