Whether your’re fast travelling or slow travelling, there will be a suggestion below to suit you with these 10 easy swap-outs for a healthier life on the road. We have incorporated all of these suggestive swaps into our own lives and not only do our blood tests come back great we feel pretty wonderful too.
We all know that travelling can lead to some pretty unhealthy habits, right!? Whether it’s eating double portions because you’re in ‘holiday mode’, adding deserts every night or having ice-cream and high sugary snacks because ‘you’re worth it’ (note you’re actually not. Sorry), it’s very easy to slip into bad habits.
Health Isn’t All About Weight
Shock horror news spoiler, your health isn’t all about weight. According to That Sugar Film of people who eat a bad diet, 40% will be overweight, 40% will be underweight and about 20% will look healthy. You really can’t measure health by weight and sadly, you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet either.
It’s pretty hard to take into consideration brain, heart, bowel and blood health but the suggestions below factor in a range of health benefits that we’ll try to explain.
10 Easy Swap-Outs For A Healthier Life On The Road
1. Swap Black Tea for Green Tea
This is the easiest swap-out to start with and I was surprised by the results. You see, black tea contains both caffeine and a stimulating substance called theophylline. Both can speed up your heart rate and make you feel more alert but for those of us who are caffeine sensitive it can be a big no-no.
Also compounds in tea called tannins can combine with nonheme iron and make your body less able to absorb iron. Drinking tea with a meal can decrease iron absorption by 50% or more and that may increase the chances of iron deficiency.
In contrast green tea:
- Is loaded with polyphenol antioxidants, including a catechin called EGCG. EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate) has been studied to treat various diseases and may be one of the main reasons green tea has such powerful medicinal properties (Source).
- Contains less caffeine than coffee, but enough to produce an effect. It also contains the amino acid L-theanine which can work synergistically with caffeine to improve brain function.
- Has powerful antioxidants that may protect against cancer. Multiple studies show that green tea drinkers have a lower risk of various types of cancer.
- Multiple studies also show that the catechin compounds in green tea have various protective effects on neurons in test tubes and animal models, potentially lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (Source, Source, Source).
- Can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels (Source). One study in Japanese individuals found that those who drank the most green tea had a 42% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (Source). According to a review of 7 studies with a total of 286,701 individuals, green tea drinkers had an 18% lower risk of becoming diabetic (Source).
- Dramatically increases the antioxidant capacity of the blood which protects the LDL particles from oxidation, which is one part of the pathway towards heart disease (Source, Source).
- Given the beneficial effects on risk factors, it is not surprising to see that green tea drinkers have up to a 31% lower risk of cardiovascular disease ( Source).
2. Swap Breakfasts High in Sugar & Simple Carbohydrates for Vegetables
Most western breakfasts are loaded with sugar which does not provide us with any nutritional value. In fact, sugar can contribute to anxiety, obesity, diabetes, cancer and a whole range of other illnesses. People who eat fruit and vegetables as part of their daily diet have a significantly reduced risk of many chronic illnesses and diseases.
So, give your glycemic index some love by eating vegetables for breakfast; a nutritious, well-balanced breakfast can give you loads of energy and prevent you from over-eating during the rest of the day. All vegetables come with a healthy dose of vitamins, minerals and fiber; they add bulk, but not calories, so you’re feeling satiated for longer. Kara Landau, gut health expert, dietitian and founder of Travelling Dietitian, says “You can expect to feel less hungry between meals due to the extra dietary fibre and water weight”.
- For optimal health, we need a rainbow of nutrients and colours. Each colour is caused by specific phytonutrients, which are natural chemicals that help protect plants from germs, bugs, the sun’s harmful rays and other threats, and each color indicates an abundance of specific nutrients.
- Red Fruits and Vegetables Help Fight Cancer, Reduce the Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease, and Improve Skin Quality. A daily dose of tomato has been found to reverse the progression of prostate cancer.
- Orange and Yellow Fruits and Vegetables Improve Immune Function, Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease and Promote Eye Health.
- Green Fruits and Vegetables Boost the Immune System, Help Detoxify the Body, Restore Energy and Vitality and green veg are some of healthiest foods we can eat. Green fruits and vegetables are rich in lutein, isothiocyanates, isoflavones, and vitamin K — which is essential for blood and bone health.
- Blue and Purple Fruits and Vegetables Fight Cancer and Unwanted Inflammation and Help Keep You Young. Blue and purple fruits and vegetables are rich in phytonutrients, including anthocyanins and resveratrol, and have been studied extensively for their anti-cancer and anti-aging properties.
- White and Brown Fruits and Vegetables Protect Against Certain Cancers, Keep Bones Strong, and Are A Heart-Healthy Choice. Cauliflower
3. Swap Phones In The Bedroom For…
The blue light emitted from your phone/tablet is part of the full light spectrum which may be damaging your vision.
- Studies show that direct exposure to blue light can damage your retinas. The American Macular Degeneration Foundation warns that retinal damage caused by blue light could lead to macular degeneration, a condition that causes the loss of central vision.
- Blue light disrupts the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body’s sleep cycle. Not only will this result in more sleepless nights and fatigue but can also lead to a variety of health problems including heart disease, weight gain, depression and anxiety. (Source).
- In addition to regulating your sleep cycle, melatonin is a powerful antioxidant essential to your body’s ability to naturally fight against cancer. When your melatonin levels are suppressed, your risk for cancer – and other ailments – increases. If your melatonin is disrupted for one night, it wouldn’t pose a serious threat. However, if you’re a chronic nighttime phone user, you significantly increase your risk of cellular damage, increased inflammation, healthy immune function and disease.
- It can lead to depression: Researchers advise ‘physical boundaries’ over devices in bedrooms after study finds poor sleep associated with phone use linked to depressed moods (Source)
Swap phones for talking, candles, music, reading, cuddles and more!
4. Swap Complaining and Practice Gratitude
A real shift in our attitudes and approaches to life can really make our brains happier and healthier. REALLY!
Robert A Emmons’ research (PhD, University of California) has found that those who adopt an “attitude of gratitude” as a permanent state of mind experience many health benefits, including:
- take better care of themselves physically and mentally
- engage in more protective health behaviors and maintenance
- get more regular exercise
- eat a healthier diet
- have improved mental alertness
- schedule regular physical examinations with their doctors
- cope better with stress and daily challenges
- feel happier and more optimistic
- avoid problematic physical symptoms
- have stronger immune systems
- maintain a brighter view of the future
Some other benefits of practicing gratitude:
- Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kind, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.
- Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.
- A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athlete’s self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs, which is a major factor in reduced self-esteem, grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.
- Research also shows gratitude not only reduces stress but may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11.
It appears that recognising all you have to be thankful for – even during the worst times of your life – fosters a whole range of psycho-social benefits. So how can you practise gratitude?
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Be mindful & grateful of what you have
- In the famous words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Set out a specific time to remind yourself of all the positive things in your life. Sit down daily and think through five to ten things you are grateful for. The trick is that you need to picture it in your mind and sit with that feeling of gratitude in your body. Doing this every day will rewire your brain to be naturally more grateful and you’ll start feeling happier after every session.
- Turn negative experiences into positive by being thankful for the experience. See it as a learning experience and be grateful…and move on.
- University of Pennsylvania professor, Martin Seligman, produced research in Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. suggesting that volunteering, and helping others, is the single most reliable way to momentarily increase your well-being.
- Improve your happiness in other areas of your life. Being grateful can make you happy, but being happy can also make you grateful.
- Try reading this article on 40 different ways to improve gratitude.
- Practice yoga and meditation (Source).
5. Swap That Extra Donut For Intermittent Fasting Or Restricted Houred Eating
For years I practised restricted houred eating after about 8pm and I didn’t eat until about 1pm the following day however I have recently swapped this practice as I felt my days were becoming too late and I would regularly still be up at 3am.
Now I eat between 7am and 3pm and I am in bed easily for 10pm; I sleep better; function better; look better and feel generally much healthier and happier.
- When you fast, insulin levels drop and human growth hormone increases. Your cells also initiate important cellular repair processes and change which genes they express. (Source)
- Generally speaking, intermittent fasting will make you eat fewer meals. Unless if you compensate by eating much more during the other meals, you will end up taking in fewer calories. Lower insulin levels, higher growth hormone levels and increased amounts of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) all increase the breakdown of body fat and facilitate its use for energy. For this reason, short-term fasting actually increases your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%, helping you burn even more calories (Source, Source).
- Studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the body. This should have benefits against aging and development of numerous diseases. (Source)
- Fasting triggers a metabolic pathway called autophagy, which removes waste material from cells.
- Animal studies also suggest that fasting may protect against other neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease (Source, Source).
6. Swap Late Nights For Early Mornings
You know you should be getting between seven & nine hours of sleep per night but did you also know that going to bed earlier (rather than later) has health benefits too?
- “People who stay up late tend to eat late—and eat even when they’re not hungry,” says Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D., who cautions that the body stores (instead of burns) calories taken in from late-night snack fests. Plus, if you binge at midnight, you’re more likely to skip that all-important breakfast the next day.
- “You’ll have lower energy and be more likely to overeat later on” says Rafael Pelayo, M.D., associate professor of Sleep Medicine at Stanford University.
- Want to lower your chances for developing chronic conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke? In addition to eating right and exercising, be vigilant about getting enough sleep. While you sleep, your body is hard at work performing repairs on your heart, blood vessels, brain and other tissues that help keep chronic disease at bay.(Source)
- In a recent survey of 700 respondents aged 17 to 79, those who identified as early risers reported feeling happier and healthier than their night owl counterparts. Researchers say that exhaustion can create a wide array of negative impacts on the brain, including depression, anxiety and other mood disorders. Being happier—and limiting your stress—could be as simple as getting an extra hour of sleep every night.
- A recent Swedish study confirmed that when participants viewed images of people who were sleep-deprived they were rated as less attractive, less healthy, less approachable, and sadder looking.
- Working the night shift is linked to younger mortality rates and poorer health. (Source)
7. Swap The Taxi/TukTuk For Walking
Walking is a brilliant way to keep fit and burn calories but it also has other benefits.
- It reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by about 19%. (Source)
- Walking can help protect the joints, including your knees and hips, because it helps lubricate and strengthen the muscles that support the joints.
- One study tracked 1,000 adults during flu season. Those who walked at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes a day had 43% fewer sick days and fewer upper respiratory tract infections.
- Walking increases oxygen flow through the body. It can also increase levels of cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine, the hormones that help elevate energy levels.
- Walking helps mental health. Studies show it can help reduce anxiety, depression and a negative mood. It can also boost self-esteem and reduce symptoms of social withdrawal.
- A study that included four experiments compared people trying to think of new ideas while they were walking or sitting. Researchers found participants did better while walking, particularly while walking outdoors and concluded that walking opens up a free flow of ideas and is a simple way to increase creativity and get physical activity at the same time.
8. Swap Sugar for Erythritol or Xylitol
In order to thrive our cells need glucose and this is where our bodies are amazing because they break down carbohydrates and turn it into glucose. Sugar, as in processed, white, table sugar is a combination of fructose-sucrose and guess what? Yup, our bodies do not need it. Do not need it at all. In fact it’s incredibly detrimental to our health and can even stop our immune systems from working.
- Consuming fructose increases your hunger and desire for food more than glucose (Source).
- Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is linked to an increased amount of visceral fat, a kind of deep belly fat associated with conditions like diabetes and heart disease (Source). Prolonged high-sugar consumption drives resistance to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance causes blood sugar levels to rise and strongly increases your risk of diabetes.
- Evidence suggests that high-sugar diets can lead to obesity, inflammation and high triglyceride, blood sugar and blood pressure levels — all risk factors for heart disease. A study in over 30,000 people found that those who consumed 17–21% of calories from added sugar had a 38% greater risk of dying from heart disease, compared to those consuming only 8% of calories from added sugar (Source).
- Sugary foods quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, causing increased androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, all of which play a role in acne development (Source).
- A diet rich in sugary foods and beverages can lead to obesity, which significantly raises the risk of cancer (Source). A study in over 430,000 people found that added sugar consumption was positively associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer, pleural cancer and cancer of the small intestine (Source).
- Consuming processed foods, including high-sugar products, has been associated with a higher risk of depression. Researchers believe that blood sugar swings, neurotransmitter dysregulation and inflammation may all be reasons for sugar’s detrimental impact on mental health (Source).
- 141 reasons to quit sugar? Read this article.
9. Swap The City For Nature
City breaks are fine for a change but research repeatedly shows that spending time in nature is fantastic for our bodies.
- A new empirical study found that virtually any form of immersion in the natural world, outside of your internal world, heightens your overall well-being and well as more positive engagement with the larger human community.
- Spending time in parks, gardens and forests is linked to stronger mental and physical health. Living in an area with little green space is tied to higher risk of disease, including depression and anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cancer, diabetes, and so much more.
- Being outside also has immune-boosting qualities such as vitamin D from sunlight, negative ions, phytoncides (healthy antimicrobial compounds derived from plants) and mycobacterium vaccae (good bacteria in the soil). Scientists from the University of Cambridge found that children who grow up with higher levels of proteins released in the blood during illness are nearly twice as likely to suffer from depression and psychosis as adults.
- Being in nature improves creativity and problem-solving. According to 2012 research there is a definitive cognitive advantage that accrues from spending time in a natural environment. Other research found that complex working memory span improved and a decrease in anxiety resulted from exposure to natural green space.
- Individuals with depression may benefit by interacting with nature. Research suggested that individuals with major depressive disorder who engaged in 50-minute walks in a natural setting showed significant memory span increases compared to study participants who walked in an urban setting.
10. Swap Dinner Plates For Side Plates
Whether you want to lose a few pounds or maintain a healthy weight, eating the correct sized portions are as important as eating the right foods. Over the last thirty years our dinner plates have increased in size by a whopping 10-15cm and according to the National Institute of Health, food portions in America’s restaurants have tripled.
Controlling your portions doesn’t mean you need to eat tiny amounts or measure out precisely the number of peas on your plate. You may just need to retrain your brain to see a smaller-than-normal portion as satisfying enough. A simple way of doing this is reducing the size of your dinner plate.
What are the benefits of portion control?
- Better digestion. Large of portion sizes contribute to indigestion and discomfort. Your digestive system functions best when it is not overloaded with food.
- Balanced blood sugar. Overeating can lead to a blood sugar imbalance by overloading your body with glucose; which can eventually lead to insulin resistance.
- Improved satiety. When you eat too quickly, you don’t notice your stomach’s cues that it is full. Eat slowly and pay attention to hunger cues to improve feelings of satiety and ultimately, consume less food.
- Weight loss. Eating smaller portions will help with weight loss.
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