When it come to health, most of us have a few nagging "shoulds" that we never quite get around to tackling (I really should exercise more, snack less, meditate...at all
). But what if the shoulds were shrunk to a manageable size? For the New Year, I've zeroed in on eight small but smart changes that yield big results.
1. Drop a pound a month this year.
Studies on overweight people of varying sizes have shown that ten pounds is the magic weight loss threshold for achieving astounding health benefits: Passing that mark reduces your risk of heart attack, diabetes, and arthritis by 50 percent, lowers your blood pressure, and may decrease your chances of developing breast cancer. The first ten pounds can save your life; the last two are icing on the cake.
2. Leave shoes at the door.
We track all sorts of pollutants into our homes, including lawn pesticides (which have been linked to certain cancers and neurological and reproductive disorders), coal tar from asphalt surfaces (which contains carcinogens), lead, and even E. coli. Taking off your shoes when you get in is an easy way to keep those toxins out.
3. Sweat to the commercials.
Research from the University of Massachusetts has found that eating in front of the TV can add an extra 288 calories to your daily intake. During the commercials, swap out the snacks for a minute of "stand-up-sit-downs"—repeatedly standing then sitting as many times as possible—which will give you a boost of feel-good chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.
4. Get in the mood.
Studies have shown that having sex once or twice a week increases immune function, reduces stress, improves mood, lowers blood pressure, and burns calories.
5. Cook with black rice.
Compared with blueberries, which are a better-known superfood, this high-octane grain has more heart-healthy, cancer-fighting antioxidants and fiber, plus it contains less sugar. Black rice needs a little extra time to cook, but it has significantly more flavor than white rice.
6. Alternate your heel height.
High heels put up to 26 percent more pressure on your knees and up to 76 percent more pressure on the balls of your feet, and wearing them every day can stiffen your Achilles tendons and permanently damage the muscles in your legs and joints in your feet. Lessen those effects by alternating heels of varying heights.
7. Add fish oil to your pillbox.
Fish oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which may help reduce your breast cancer risk, slow the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques, and lower your risk of heart attack. Look for fish oil supplements that contain at least 600 milligrams of DHA.
8. Read food labels.
In addition to skimming the calorie counts, check the ingredients for these red flags: partially hydrogenated oils (a source of trans fats); the words enriched, bleached,
which mean the flour used was stripped of its nutrients, and anything ending in -ose,
which indicates sugar. When possible, put products that list these ingredients high on the label back on the shelf.
More From Dr. Oz
Mehmet Oz, MD, hosts
The Dr. Oz Show (weekdays; check listings). He can also be seen on Ask Oprah's All-Stars
, new this month on OWN.