"What is the one thing, above all else, I can do to improve my health?"
If I had a dollar for every time a patient has asked me this question, I could take a bus load of you out to a nice dinner and order us all a lavish dessert. But on second thought, let's skip the dessert.
Now, of course, I would love to see you fully commit to your wellbeing and implement a variety of lifestyle changes to improve your health, not just ONE THING. For example:
Start taking 10 minutes walks, three times a day, even if it is just around the inside of your house.
Stop eating at 6pm every evening giving yourself at least a 12-15 hour fast, six days a week.(Enjoy a cheat day one night on the weekend!)
Get 8 hours of sleep every night preferably between the hours of 10pm-6am.
But if you are only willing to do ONE thing to better your overall health in 2018, my suggestion is to stop eating refined sugar. Refined sugars are sodas, candies, cookies, cakes, desserts, white flour buns and breads, anything with added sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
By implementing this one lifestyle change you will drastically improve the trajectory of your health. You will likely lose weight, have more energy, and you could even see your grocery bill go down because you are not buying "sugary" products. However, most importantly, you will decrease your chances of developing numerous life-threatening diseases.
A large part of my practice is nutritional counseling so I highly recommend an extensive blood panel when patients begin treatment. In as little as two months, the folks that cut out refined sugar, get regular treatments, and begin my Wellness Plan, often see drastic results from one blood test to the next. Just this morning a lady I have treated for three months brought in her latest blood panel results. Her thyroid function has improved, her triglycerides are down, and she is no longer pre-diabetic! This made me dance around the office. I love it when my patients get better!
Study after study(see link at the bottom of this page)has shown that sugar is not just an agitator, but is often the root cause of many debilitating diseases. From the obvious "sugar" illnesses like Type 2 diabetes and obesity, to the not so obvious, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer. Sugar is indeed toxic to the body and plays a major role in the development of these diseases.
When I first began researching studies on the effects of refined sugar on the human body and mind, I was just as disappointed by the facts as the next person. Having grown up on a farm where home-made cakes and pies are considered a major food group, I have always loved sweets, especially since my mother is an amazing cook! But alas, when my fit and very active father had a heart attack at age 55, and then a stroke at age 64, it became my mission to find the cause. I am now convinced that sugar was the culprit.
But the good news is that moving away from a sugar based diet does not have to be that challenging. Try these simple, yet healthy alternatives:
Try substituting soda with Seltzer water. A lot of soda drinkers find that they are addicted to the fizz of the carbonated water as much as the sweet taste. If this change alone is too drastic then add 1/4 cup of organic, 100% grape juice to the Seltzer water for a homemade grape soda. However, go easy on the grape juice because a glass of fruit juice without the fiber of the whole fruit has been shown to be as unhealth as a soda.
The next time you crave something sweet reach for blueberries or strawberries with a handful of walnuts, almonds, or a tablespoon of almond butter. The healthy fat of the nuts with the antioxidant powerhouse blueberries will satisfy the brains craving for sweet and fat as well as support your overall health.
As frustrating as this might sound to all of us with a sweet tooth, this is big stuff, folks. Heart disease is still the number one cause of death in our country, and diabetes, a horrible disease, is the 7th leading cause of death. I have patients and family members with both heart disease and diabetes, one of which is a double amputee and another confined to a wheelchair. Please do everything you can to prevent yourself from developing these debilitating diseases. And the first step, in my professional opinion, is to stop consuming refined sugar.
Study: Habitual consumption of sugar sweetened beverages was associated with a greater incidence of type 2 diabetes, independently of adiposity.