woman washes vegetables to prepare a healthy meal

We can often get overwhelmed and confused about what we need to do to stay healthy—one study will say eat this or that and six months later another study will say the opposite!  The truth is, we humans are complex beings and our health is influenced by our environment, our genes, and our lifestyles.  The one area that we have the most control over is our lifestyle—what we eat and drink, how much we move and our attitude—which can influence how we think about our health and whether or not we are committed to doing things that can enhance or damage it.  So here goes:

Things that begin with S that we should all limit:

Sugar:  Should be used sparingly: sugary cereals, granola bars, cookies, donuts, cakes, pastries, jams, fruit juice, candy and candy bars, puddings, ice cream, etc. Sparingly means once or twice a week and adhere to serving sizes.  For example, a serving size of ice cream is ½ cup!

Salt:      Many restaurant and processed foods have way too much salt.  Many of us eat well over the recommended one teaspoon per day (2400 mg).   For those with high blood pressure, salt intake should be ¾ teaspoon (1700 mg/day).  There are wonderful ways to season food with dried or fresh herbs such as basil, thyme, oregano, garlic, curry, various spicy peppers, marinades, and rubs.  We do need some salt—just not too much.

 Saturated Fats: Think anything from an animal: meat/fowl/fish, butter, cheese, milk, yogurt; palm kernel oil, palm oil, and coconut oil.  We should limit saturated fats to 20 grams/day. Choose lean meats, low or non-fat dairy products, trim the fat from meats/chicken; slow cook or braise meats and skim the fat; use rubs/marinades for flavor.  A serving of flesh is the size of a card deck.  Limit red meat to twice weekly.

Soda:    There is nothing good about soda—empty calories and liquid sugar.  One soda a day increases the risk of diabetes by 18%; two daily increases the risk by 35%.  Try Le Croix instead if you like the fizz.  Fruit juice is similar to soda—so limit it also.

Smoking: Cigarette smoking is linked to several cancers besides lung: stomach, pancreatic, esophageal, and bladder.  Smoking is also the major cause of chronic bronchitis and  emphysema.

Sedentary:  Our bodies were meant to move and no, we don’t have to do a marathon.  But 30  minutes, five days a week is adequate.  Garden, walk, ride a bike, swim, put some music  on and dance around the house, climb the stairs, do a zumba class—just move!  Being sedentary increases diabetes risk, heart disease risk, and breast cancer risk.

Simmering emotions: Unfortunately, we get hurt by others.  But we need to let go and  move on.  Forgiveness helps us to do that—it doesn’t mean we have to like those who hurt us.  Carrying grudges and being angry about the past only hurts us.                       

Things that begin with S we should all do more of:

Smile:  Even if we don’t feel like it, studies indicate that it makes us feel better.  And the recipient of a smile feels better too!

Socialize:  Getting together with friends or family or going to an event where others are and interacting makes us feel good.

Shop the perimeter:  Of grocery stores—that’s where the real food is—fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and  low fat dairy.  Exception: Nuts, whole grains, and dried beans (pinto, black, white, lentils) may have to be hunted down.  Ninety percent of our diets should be real food, 10% whatever (I do like a good potato chip!)           

Seek out nature: Walking on grass or a trail, surrounded by trees and plants, hearing  birds, splashing in water, picking wild blackberries—all nurture our souls and can lessen depression—we just feel better when we get outside. And it’s fun to  notice the sights and smells and feel of nature!  Plus we get vitamin D!

Stimulate your Brain:  Learn something new:  a new recipe, a new dance move, a newboard game, a new language.  New activities help keep our brains sharp, and decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Spice it up:  Whatever seems a little dull in life—add some spice:  Try healthy anti- inflammatory spices in your diet:  turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, garlic.  Add  some color to a room or wardrobe. Try some sensual essential oils:  rose,   sandalwood, neroli, amber, jasmine, or ylang ylang  in a diffuser or make your  own scent (in a carrier oil such as sweet almond or jojoba oil).

Satiety:  Means full.  We should stop eating just before we feel full.  We don’t have  to eat everything on our plate—especially at restaurants.  Pack up half or split an entree with someone.  Eat mindfully—be aware of when you are starting to feel you’ve had enough to eat.


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