Some people rarely get sick and are always fizzing with energy. They don’t gain weight or lose their memory. So what’s their secret? When leading nutritionist Patrick Holford carried out Britain’s largest-ever health and diet survey, completed by more than 55,000 respondents, the results showed that to be super-healthy, all you need to do is follow 10 simple rules. Make them your resolutions – and look forward to a happier, healthier new year.
How efficiently you digest food affects your state of mind. It also determines your longevity and whether you feel energized or tired. In my survey, those who ate fresh fruit
, seeds, nuts, fish and vegetables reported the healthiest digestion. Many foods, such as fruit and vegetables, contain enzymes that help digestion, but this occurs only if the food is eaten raw or lightly cooked.
One myth is that you can’t digest meals of both protein and carbohydrate. This isn’t true. Protein is digested in the stomach, a process that takes an hour or two, whereas carbs are digested lower down in the small intestine. However, if you eat a high-protein meal and follow it with a fruit salad, the fruit may get trapped in the stomach and start to ferment.
Many people become allergic to common foods for the simple reason that their digestive tract becomes too permeable, allowing whole food proteins to pass through, causing the immune system to react. The main culprits that cause gastrointestinal permeability are painkillers (the average person takes more than 300 a year), antibiotics and alcohol. If you suffer from excessive bloating, that is also an indicator of food allergies.
So, do some homework in identifying what you might have become intolerant to (wheat, milk and yeast are the most common culprits). As well, taking digestive enzymes in addition to probiotics and glutamine will restore intestinal health.
Digestive enzymes help to completely break down food (look for formulas that contain glucoamylase and alpha-galactosidase which are the enzymes that break down beans and greens). Probiotics work to reinoculate the gut with friendly bacteria – you need both Acidophilus and Bifidus strains.
And the amino acid glutamine literally feeds mucousal cells, helping them to regenerate and protect the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. (In fact, some experts speculate that glutamine deficiency may play a role in the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD
), namely ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
). Take a heaping teaspoon of glutamine in water, last thing at night.
BALANCE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR
When your blood sugar is low, you feel tired and hungry. If you refuel with fast-energy-releasing high-GL (glycemic load) carbohydrates (sweet or refined foods), you cause your blood sugar to rise rapidly and your body dumps the excess into storage as fat. Then your blood sugar level drops again, and you enter the vicious cycle of yo-yoing blood sugar that leads to weight gain.
To balance your blood sugar, eat more slow-release foods (such as fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grain carbohydrates). You also need to graze rather than gorge. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, and also mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. This provides your body with an even supply of fuel.
Another tool is a daily spoonful of cinnamon. A Scandinavian study found that about two teaspoons of cinnamon may slow down digestion in the stomach. This would effectively ‘slow-release’ the carbohydrates in a meal.
SHARPEN YOUR MIND
Do you wonder how your brain and body chemistry manages to stay in balance? How it makes insulin when your blood sugar is high, or adrenalin when you’re stressed?
Behind the scenes, there’s a process called methylation that is the key to feeling connected, happy, alert and motivated. How good you are at methylation is indicated by the level of a substance in your blood called homocysteine. Keeping your homocysteine low, indicating that you are able to rapidly adapt and respond to life’s stresses, is the third secret of 100% health. A low H score means a low risk of strokes, heart attacks, pregnancy problems, memory decline, depression, mental illness, osteoporosis and many other health issues.
There are four factors that raise homocysteine: stress, smoking, drinking coffee, and lack of exercise, – as well as a diet low in B vitamins, especially folic acid.
If your homocysteine level is high, there is a combination of nutrients that really works – folic acid, B6, B12, TMG, zinc and sometimes glutathione or N-acetyl cysteine
. B12 is poorly absorbed, so it’s worth getting a formula that contains methylcobalamine, the most absorbable form. You need high doses, in the range of 500mcg. Two in five people over age 60 are B12 deficient. In patients with dementia, we often find that also giving glutathione or n-acetyl cysteine makes a big difference.
EAT ESSENTIAL FATS
Today we know that omega-3 fats are essential for good health, acting as natural painkillers and more potent antidepressants than conventional drugs. On top of this, they are your skin’s best friend, keeping it soft and moisturized. Omega-3 fats are found in colder-climate nut or seed oils, such as flaxseeds and walnuts, and in oily fish. The decline in our oily fish consumption, largely because of fat phobia, has fuelled an epidemic of omega-3 deficiency. In my survey, I found that the likelihood of optimal health increases by nearly two-thirds in those consuming three or more servings of oily fish (herring, sardines, mackerel, salmon, tuna and trout) a week, compared to only two a week.
INCREASE ANTI-AGING ANTIOXIDANTS
The entire process of aging, from your first wrinkle to worsening eyesight, depends on oxidation. Put simply, we make energy by combusting carbohydrate with oxygen. The net result is our own exhaust fumes called oxidants. This is the stuff that rusts metal and ultimately, rusts us. An optimal intake of antioxidant nutrients is the key to living a long and healthy life. Generally, with fruit and vegetables where you find the most color and flavor, you will also find the highest antioxidant levels. Aim for five to 10 servings daily of a range of fruit and vegetables to keep your intake high.
And yes, it’s true! Dark organic chocolate is good for you. It’s rich in two anti-aging antioxidant flavonoids called gallic acid and epicatechin.
In my book The 10 Secrets of 100% Healthy People we identify the top 20 antioxidant foods, which include herbs and spices such as cinnamon (half a teaspoon has more antioxidant power than two carrots), plus turmeric and oregano. Mustard is pretty good, too. You want to eat the strong colours in nature – greens, yellows, reds, oranges and blues such as blueberries.
In terms of supplements, antioxidants are team players and you need both vitamins E and C, glutathione, anthocyandins from berries (resveratrol being the best), plus beta carotene, alpha lipoic acid and coenzyme Q10. CoQ10 reloads vitamin E once it has disarmed a fat-based oxidant, but cholesterol-lowering statin drugs wipe it out. Anyone on these drugs must take 90mg of CoQ10 a day to prevent drug-induced deficiency, which is the major cause of side-effects.
WATER IS YOUR MOST VITAL NUTRIENT
If you only drink when you’re thirsty, your body is already in a state of dehydration. Not drinking enough makes you tired and dries out your skin and your joints. It gives you headaches and reduces mental ability. It’s also a major cause of constipation. Your body absorbs more water if you drink little and often. It absorbs less if drunk with sweet drinks, or tea or coffee. For maximum hydration, drink small amounts of pure water more often.
THE CHI FACTOR
A survey of our 101 top health scorers shows that 50% practised some form of chi-generating exercise. Energy isn’t just about eating the right food and exercising. Chi or prana – which broadly corresponds to ‘energy flow’ – has been recognized for years in the East, but it is rarely included in the health agenda in the West, largely because it can’t be measured by conventional medical science.
These ancient systems of exercise such as tai chi, qigong and yoga have been designed to balance the emotions, still the mind and rejuvenate the body by removing the blockages caused by accumulated tension. Although you can, technically, learn chi exercises from books and DVDs, it is far better to have direct instruction because success depends on being in the right position, with the correct breathing pattern.
KEEP FIT, STRONG AND SUPPLE
My survey showed that 54% of people with optimum cardiovascular health exercise for three or more hours a week, compared to 1% of those with a poor rating. Simply increasing your energy expenditure from physical activity by 1,000 kilocalories a week – the equivalent of just 15 minutes of jogging, cycling or swimming, or 30 minutes of walking a day – is associated with cutting your risk of premature death by about 20%.
Get a pedometer and monitor your daily steps for a week. Aim for 4,000 steps in the first week and 6,000 in the second week, the equivalent of about three miles walking a day. When you have achieved this, aim for 10,000 steps a day.
GET YOUR PAST OUT OF YOUR PRESENT
My survey of 101 top health scorers shows that 85% consider state of mind to be extremely important for health, and 83% have a close circle of family and friends. Extreme emotions affect heart function, depress the immune system and inhibit digestion.
Everyone accumulates emotional tension. However, how you consciously experience your emotions makes all the difference. When you need to express an emotion, take a breath and say clearly: “I am feeling x,y,z (for example, angry, frustrated, sad) and that’s OK.” Take another breath and say this until you sense a different feeling. Allow the feeling, and yourself, to ‘be’ – without judgment.
FIND YOUR PURPOSE
Having a sense of purpose is one of the defining qualities in those who scored highly in my questionnaire. Your sense of purpose changes throughout life. For example, taking care of your family may give you your feeling of purpose. Many people find purpose through work that feels important and meaningful. For most of us, being of service to others works either by supporting causes that we feel passionate about or simply helping people we meet.
Ten Secrets of 100% Healthy People ~ RiseEarth.