Four Key Behaviors Contribute to a Long, Healthy Life
Practicing good health habits isn’t always easy for busy moms, but the reward is a longer, healthier life. When it comes to maintaining good health and living longer, scientists have identified four key behaviors that have the greatest impact.
- Eat a nutritious, balanced diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Don’t smoke.
- Don’t drink alcohol.
Adopting these behaviors dramatically reduces your risk of dying from heart disease or cancer, and it can also cut your risk of premature death to that of a person 12 years younger. With so much work to be done, every mom can benefit from better health and an extra 12 years of life!
Mom Was Right—Fiber Is Good for You
Your mom has always known that a high-fiber diet is good for you, and now she has hard evidence to back her up. Scientists studying the effects of high-fiber diets have discovered that the stuff your mom called roughage does more than ward off constipation. Fiber plays an important preventive role in diseases like diverticulosis, cancer, heart disease, and obesity.
All fiber is good for you, but there are two different types, each with important health benefits. Water-soluble fiber is found in products like oat bran, whole-wheat products, and the skins of fruits and vegetables. If you want to lower your cholesterol level, water-soluble fiber is the type for you.
Insoluble fiber is found primarily in the bran layers of cereal grains, and is removed during the refinement process. Insoluble fiber won’t lower your cholesterol levels; it functions mainly as a bulking agent, increasing the weight of your stool and helping whisk it through your colon to its ultimate destination.
The current recommendation for fiber intake is 20 to 35 grams a day, with roughly equal amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber. That’s a lot—most of us eat less than half that amount.
You don’t have to eat a bale of hay to get your fiber, but it’s difficult to get all you need from just fruits and veggies. It takes about five servings of fruits and vegetables and six servings of whole-grain, unrefined breads, cereals, and legumes (like dried beans) every day to get the recommended amount. If you can’t manage to work all of these good foods into your diet every day, a high-quality fiber supplement might be a great option for you.
The Rewards of Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t just about looking good in your favorite pair of skinny jeans. It can also help you feel more energetic and self-confident, while it improves your health and saves you money to boot. Keeping the extra weight off dramatically reduces your risk for dozens of diseases, including obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Because you’re likely to stay healthier longer, insurance companies routinely offer lower monthly premiums to folks who maintain a healthy weight. As a bonus, you’ll look great in your favorite skinny jeans, and with the money you save on health insurance, you can buy a new pair!
Antioxidants Promote Better Health and a Longer Life
There’s no doubt that we need oxygen to live, but surprisingly, oxygen has some negative effects in the human body. One of the leading theories on aging is the oxidation theory, proposed by scientists who compare the aging of the human body to the rusting of old car. When any metal that contains iron is exposed to oxygen, a compound called iron oxide—better known as rust—is formed through the process of oxidation. Oxidation of the human body results in a similar type of deterioration—it’s a natural but unfortunate consequence of living in an atmosphere full of oxygen.
Oxygen works its destruction in the body through the formation of toxic compounds called free radicals. These unstable molecules are bursting with excess energy, and they stabilize themselves by transferring their energy to innocent bystanders in the body. If the energy is transferred to a key cell or tissue, serious damage or dysfunction can result.
If these renegade free radicals manage to penetrate the control centers of our cells, they can scramble our precious genetic material. Some researchers estimate that our DNA receives about 10,000 free radical “hits” every day. If these hits aren’t intercepted by our natural defenses—or by the antioxidants we get in our diet—DNA damage occurs, triggering abnormal cell growth or cell death. Free radicals are thought to play a key role in virtually every disease and ailment associated with aging, including a weaker immune system, cataracts, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
How can get more antioxidants in your diet? Whole, natural foods are the best sources of the disease-fighting, immune-boosting compounds. Virtually any plant food, including pomegranates, cacao beans, blueberries, and broccoli, is a great source.