Health Hacks To Start The New Year Right
Health Hacks To Start The New Year Right

Health Hacks To Start The New Year Right


New year, new me. We all say it to ourselves. Here – thanks to nutritionist Jo Rowe, our new SLMan wellness columnist – are some easy ways to actually make it happen…
Words Jo Rowe

Go For Whole Natural Foods

Consume foods that are as close to their original state as possible, such as organic meat and fish, lentils, beans and pulses, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds. If food has been processed (think ready meals, crisps, chocolate and takeaways) chances are it will be pro-inflammatory, which can have detrimental effects on metabolic health leading to long-term diseases.


Eat The Rainbow

Include a rich variety of colours in your diet and a diversity of plant foods. Each coloured plant contains distinct phytonutrients which perform different roles in the body including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and even antihistamine. Examples include orange fruits and vegetables such as sweet potato and carrots containing beta-carotene for immune and eye health; and red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes containing lycopene for anti-cancer properties and heart health. Try to eat seasonally and look to source produce from local farmers markets for more nutrient-rich and sustainable options.


Have 3 Satisfying Meals A Day

Incorporate a palm-sized portion of protein with every meal to aid satiety and decrease the need for snacking. Include animal sources of protein such as eggs, fish, red meat and chicken as well as plant-based options such as tempeh, tofu, quinoa, lentils and chickpeas. Protein is the building block of the body and is essential for repair and regeneration as well as assisting in fullness and balancing blood sugars. Signs you aren’t getting enough protein in your diet include fatigue and weakness, slow recovery from exercise, weakened immune system and mood changes. 


Increase Fibre

While protein has had the most interest lately, fibre is set to be the focus for 2024. By increasing fruits and vegetables, you will naturally increase fibre. Other sources include wholegrains, pulses and beans, chia seeds and psyllium husks. We should be consuming 30g of fibre per day, but Public Health England indicate only 9% of adults are reaching this target. Fibre is key for our gut microbiome which links to all bodily systems. It also helps with regular bowel movements, satiety, immune function and blood sugar balancing. Increase slowly to avoid excessive gas and bloating, and keep hydrated.


Up Your Hydration

Aim to increase hydration to 1.5-2.5l per day as recommended by the European Food Safety Authority. Hydration is a must to maintain a healthy functioning body and energy levels, as our bodies are made up of 60% water. Replace caffeinated beverages with filtered water and herbal teas or try adding slices of lemon, cucumber or herbs to drinks for added flavour. High water content foods also count towards your daily water intake, such as watermelon and cucumber. Electrolytes are another useful way to maintain hydration. Opt for natural sources such as coconut water or Elete electrolytes.

Adequate hydration will help flush out toxins from the body and support liver detoxification. Water also allows your liver to burn fat (lipolysis). Even mild dehydration will affect your concentration, how your metabolism works and can lead to constipation. Thirst can also be mistaken for hunger so try and hydrate first.


Improve Your Sleep

Try to get 7-9 hours per night and have a consistent sleep pattern, which means going to bed and waking up at similar times each day. A good night’s sleep is key to help your body recover and regenerate. Sleep deprivation increases ghrelin, the hormone responsible for hunger, which is why we often crave sugar, salt and carbohydrates as quick energy sources when we are tired.

To improve sleep hygiene for a better night’s sleep: try to finish eating three hours before you go to bed so digestion is finished before sleep. Either wear blue light-blocking glasses or avoid screens for an hour before bed to encourage more restorative sleep. Try a relaxing Epsom salt bath or spraying lavender drops on your pillow, and keep the bedroom cool at night. Avoid caffeine after midday, as the half-life of caffeine can be 8 hours (this is how long it remains in your body) which can affect sleep quality and quantity. Get outside first thing each day to allow morning sunlight to your eyes and skin, which will assist your circadian rhythm. Early morning light is shown to help with the regulation of serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter which converts to melatonin to assist with sleep.


Think About Adding More Movement

Moving your body daily helps your lymphatic system, boosts circulation and aids the digestive system function. It doesn’t need to be a hard gym circuit; try stretching, walking or a Pilates class. Gentle movement in the forms of walking, hiking, swimming, Pilates and yoga are shown to be beneficial for the entire body. While gym work has a place for increasing cardiovascular health, excessive high intensity exercise can be pro-inflammatory. Excess inflammation in the body can lead to many systemic diseases. Optimising muscle function through bodyweight exercises, resistance bands or weight lifting will increase mitochondria (the body’s powerhouses) which will improve energy, metabolism and longevity.

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Disclaimer: None of the information provided is intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent disease. Always seek medical advice from a healthcare provider regarding any medical condition and before making any dietary or lifestyle changes.

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