There’s a lot of nutrition and health advice out there, and it can be tough to figure out what to believe. Even qualified experts often seem to hold opposing opinions, which can make it difficult to figure out what you should actually be doing to optimize your health.
Yet, despite all the disagreements, there are a number of wellness tips that are well supported by research. Here are 20 health and nutrition tips that are based on scientific evidence.
1. Limit sugary drinks
Consuming sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with an increased risk of weight gain, type II diabetes, and other chronic diseases. If you’re looking to cut down on sugar, it’s best to avoid sugary drinks altogether.
2. Eat nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, as well as protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Eat them in moderation as part of a healthy diet.
3. Avoid ultra-processed foods
Ultra-processed foods are those that are highly processed and often contain additives. They’re usually low in nutrients and high in calories, sugar, and unhealthy fats. Studies have shown that people who eat a lot of ultra-processed foods are more likely to be overweight or obese, as well as have a higher risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, type II diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
4. Don’t fear coffee
You don’t have to avoid coffee. Coffee has been unfairly demonized. Sure, if you drink too much of it, it can cause problems. But moderate coffee consumption — one or two cups per day — is actually associated with a number of health benefits, including a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and various types of cancer. So if you like coffee, there’s no need to feel guilty about drinking it.
5. Eat fatty fish
Fatty fish is loaded with heart-healthy omega-three fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and help prevent irregular heartbeat. Eat two servings of fatty fish per week. Some good options include salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines.
6. Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for good health. A lack of sleep can contribute to a whole host of health problems, including weight gain, heart disease, and decreased immunity. Adults should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Sleep is important for many aspects of health, and it can be a powerful tool for weight loss and management. A recent study found that people who slept for just five hours a night were more likely to become obese than those who slept for seven hours or more.
7. Feed your gut bacteria
The trillions of microbes that live in your intestines play an important role in your health, and there’s evidence that they can influence everything from your mood to your immune system. You can feed them by eating fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut, or taking a probiotic supplement.
8. Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water is essential for good health. In fact, it’s one of the simplest and most effective things you can do to improve your overall health. Aim to drink eight glasses of water per day, or more if you are active or live in a hot climate.
9. Don’t eat heavily charred meats
Research has linked consumption of heavily charred meat to an increased risk of cancer. If you do choose to eat grilled meat, try to avoid charring it too much.
10. Avoid bright lights before sleep
It’s well-known that exposure to bright light can cause headaches, eye strain, and make it difficult to fall asleep. But did you know that even dim light exposure can have negative effects on sleep? A study published in 2015 found that exposure to any light—even low levels of ambient light—before sleep can reduce the amount of time you spend in deep, restorative sleep. So if you’re looking to improve your sleep quality, it’s important to avoid bright lights in the evening and give yourself time to adjust to darkness before going to bed.
11. Take vitamin D if you’re deficient
Vitamin D is essential for good health. It helps to regulate the immune system and plays a role in calcium absorption, which can impact bone health. A lack of vitamin D has been linked to an increased risk of respiratory infections, heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline. The best way to get enough vitamin D is by spending time in the sun or taking a supplement.
12. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can boost your health. Aim to eat at least five servings per day.
13. Eat adequate protein
Protein is essential for growth, repair, and maintenance of the body’s tissues. It can also help with weight loss by increasing feelings of fullness and preventing overeating. Good sources of protein include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, and dairy.
14. Get moving
Getting regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. It has numerous benefits, including reducing your risk of chronic diseases, improving your mental health and mood, and helping you to sleep better. And there’s no need to go overboard – moderate amounts of exercise are beneficial. Just be sure to get started gradually if you’re not used to being active, and to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
15. Don’t smoke or use drugs, and only drink in moderation
This one should be pretty obvious, but it’s worth repeating: smoking and using drugs is bad for your health. There’s no way around it. If you want to be healthy, don’t smoke or use drugs. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to a whole host of health problems, including liver disease, heart disease, and cancer. If you want to drink, do so in moderation.
16. Use extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, which are both beneficial for your health. In fact, research has shown that using extra virgin olive oil can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
So, be sure to use extra virgin olive oil when cooking, and drizzle it over salads or use it in dips.
17. Minimize your sugar intake
Sugar has been linked to a long list of health problems, including weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. One simple way to cut back on sugar is to avoid processed foods and eat more whole foods instead.
18. Limit refined carbs
Consuming too many refined carbs can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other chronic health conditions. If you’re going to eat carbs, opt for unrefined “complex” carbs like vegetables, whole grains, and legumes instead.
19. Lift heavy weights
It’s a common belief that lifting lighter weights is better for you, but research indicates that lifting heavier weights is more effective at building muscle mass.
20. Get rid of excess belly fat
If you’re carrying excess weight around your waist, it’s important to get rid of it. Excess abdominal fat is linked with an increased risk of heart disease, type II diabetes, and certain types of cancer. A recent study showed that people who lost just three percent of their body weight through diet and exercise reduced their risk of developing these chronic diseases by a whopping 13-27 percent.