After an indulgent festive period, we often feel ready to make healthy changes to support overall health and well-being. So if like me, you are chomping at the bit to kick-start some new health habits, I’d love to share five areas you can work on, to steer you on the right path to feeling fantastic in 2023.
When I create new healthy habits, I like to think of it as a full-body experience and tackle a few different areas, that collectively help me feel brighter, lighter and more balanced.
In 2023, the areas I’m going to be focusing on are gut health, immunity, liver support, weight management and emotional well-being.
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Support your gut health
If you regularly read my blogs then you’ll know that I love to discuss gut health, the reason being that what happens in our gut has a huge impact on our overall health and wellbeing. Although our gut is essential for breaking down food, it also has many other functions namely synthesising vitamins and supporting our liver; it also has a key role in immune health, as well as emotional, brain and lung health.
Our gut bacteria, known as the microbiome, is all about diversity. The more diverse the better, as this ultimately results in greater health benefits. For me, the simplest way to do this is by ensuring that I eat a wide variety of plant foods, such as veggies, fruits, legumes and beans. If then you want to give your microbiome an extra boost, you can add in some fermented foods such as kimchi or kefir, or a probiotic supplement.
I often eat a bowl of live yoghurt mixed with flax seeds, hemp seeds with mixed berries and banana to support my gut health.
Boost your immunity
When you feel below par, it affects everything, both at work and at home. Everything can become a struggle, especially if you’re a working parent. If your immunity is weak and you suffer from regular coughs and sniffles, not only do you feel rotten, but it can really bring you down emotionally.
In the winter months, when bugs are rife, I really like to bolster immunity for both me and my family. This is to try and swerve those pesky viruses and bugs which can be exhausting for everyone involved.
There are some key vitamins and minerals that are essential for supporting immune health such as vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc. We are unable to make vitamin C so we must include foods such as citrus fruits. Think oranges, grapefruit and kiwi, strawberries, peppers, tomatoes and cruciferous vegetables and add them into your daily food intake. There are only two reliable sources for vitamin D, namely the sun in the summer and supplementation through the winter months from October to March. Daily supplementation is recommended by NHS England. You can read more about this in my blog, ‘How to win against winter bugs with Vitamin D’.
To keep our immune system strong we also need zinc. Zinc supports our immune system to fight off invading viruses and bacteria. The best sources of zinc include red meats such as beef and lamb, shellfish, eggs, chickpeas, lentils and beans as well as seeds and nuts.
Look after your liver
Our liver is one of the most important organs in the body (and the second largest, after our skin), so it’s essential that we treat it with some TLC. It is responsible for removing toxins (such as alcohol) from our blood, it releases bile which helps to break down fat and support digestion it also helps to maintain our cholesterol levels. What’s amazing about the liver is that it has the capacity to regenerate within a few weeks, so if you have overdone things this Christmas, fear not and read on!
The best ways to support this amazing organ is firstly to take a break from the booze. The British Liver Trust recommends avoiding alcohol for at least 2-3 days a week, allowing your liver time to repair and renew. It’s best if they are days in a row.
Another substance that is toxic to our liver and could be a driver for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and metabolic disease, is high fructose corn syrup (usually known as glucose-fructose syrup in the UK). This type of sweet syrup is present in many processed foods such as sweets, fizzy sugary drinks, take-away foods, sauces and condiments, ice cream, some breakfast cereals, jams, syrups, breads and crackers. If you want to ensure your liver is well cared for, as well as taking regular breaks from alcohol, avoid foods which contain glucose-fructose syrups.
We can also include good food and drinks in our diet to support our liver. If you love coffee and/or green tea, you’re in luck as some studies show that consuming moderate amounts of coffee has some protective benefits whilst green tea was also associated with improved liver health.
Grapefruit contains antioxidants that naturally protect the liver by reducing inflammation whilst also protecting cells. Other fruit and veggies that are beneficial for our liver include blueberries, cranberries, grapes, beetroot juice, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Just a note of caution, it’s best to avoid grapefruit if you take certain medications such as statins, warfarin or immunosuppressants, always check with your GP if you’re unsure.
Maintain a healthy weight
I’m not a fan of fad diets in January that over-promise and under-deliver. I much prefer to eat a healthy, balanced diet throughout the year, which usually consists of three meals a day and try to minimise snacks. For mental and physical health benefits, I also enjoying staying active. In the winter I love frosty runs, and in the summer I enjoy playing tennis with my family and sea swimming.
Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is super important for overall health as when our bodies are in optimal condition, it reduces our risk of lifestyle driven diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. My main guidelines for maintaining a healthy weight is to be mindful of the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits, chocolate) consumed throughout the day. When we overeat these foods, they play havoc with our blood sugar levels, as well as the hormones that control our appetite.
Overconsumption of refined carbs is a really easy trap to fall into, and not only leads to unwanted weight gain but can leave us with a fuzzy brain, disrupted sleep and fluctuating moods. Swap out the refined carbs for complex carbohydrates such as lentils, chickpeas, brown rice, quinoa and porridge oats, as well as including lots of delicious veggies in your diet.
Stay emotionally balanced
As a hard-working mum, one thing I really struggle with (and I’m going to make a priority in 2023) is to find a sustainable work/life balance. I love my job, my heart and soul goes into everything that I do. But the daily demands of modern life can feel overwhelming. Taking care of my family, spending time with important friends, running my business and mentoring my team can leave me feeling frazzled by the end of the week.
So, in 2023, I intend to carve out plenty of ‘me’ time. Taking time out will help my busy brain unplug and unwind, it will also recharge my batteries. In doing this I will reduce my stress levels, which will help me sleep better, increase my patience levels and help me be more present. We all relax and unwind in different ways and my favourite ways are walking in nature listening to a podcast or playing games and puzzles with my kids.
Think about what helps you to relax and do more of it! Some other ideas include reading a few chapters of your favourite book somewhere nice like a local coffee shop, park or in a warm bubble-bath; going tech-free for one day a week, booking yourself in for a monthly massage or facial, meditating, going for a walk somewhere you adore, or exploring new ventures such as painting or yoga classes.
Having some health goals for 2023 is a great way to ensure that you are looking after yourself. Why not write yours down so that you can keep an eye on them throughout the year?
I hope you have found my tips helpful and that you are excited about your health choices for 2023. Have a lovely time!
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- A healthy gastrointestinal microbiome is dependent on dietary diversity
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- Vitamin D and Immune Function
- Zinc and its importance for human health: An integrative review
- British Liver Trust
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