Tiny tweaks to transform your body

Often it’s the little things we alter that can make a real difference to our health…

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Often it’s the little things we alter that can make a real difference to our health…

Lowering your risk of disease, getting faster results at the gym or with your weight-loss plan, boosting your mood – none of these need a major life overhaul to achieve success. Check out these seven easy ways to get big benefits.

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Eat dark chocolate (not milk) when you’re stressed

The benefit: You halve the negative effects on your body.

Many of us look for a sweet treat when we’re having a bad day as the sugar raises endorphins and helps calm our mood – but if you swap your milk chocolate treat for dark, you’ll get an extra boost. How? Inflammation in the body triggers a potentially dangerous increase in blood clotting, that could raise your risk of heart attack or stroke by as much as 55 per cent.

When you make the swap from milk to dark, that risk is lowered. The magic ingredient is the flavonoids in chocolate, which seem to act on the blood. “But we think that milk interferes with the metabolisation of flavonoids, making dark chocolate a better choice,” say German researchers.

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Use a food app

The benefit: You could lose around 4 kg more if you use technology to help you record your food intake.

Calorie-counting apps like MyFitnessPal help you record what you’ve eaten throughout the day, keeping a running tally of how much you’ve consumed. This approach has been shown to help app users lose considerably more weight.

“Humans find feedback very reinforcing, and apps give immediate feedback about how you’re doing on energy balance,” says Dr Bonnie Spring from the US’s Northwestern University. “It’s also easier – you don’t need to write down the item, look up the calorie information then do the maths. The app does it all for you.”

Fidget more

The benefit: It cuts the risk of premature death by 30 per cent.

That’s right, living longer might be as simple as tapping your fingers while you watch television or swinging your foot while you’re in a meeting. The reason for this is that even these little bursts of movement are enough to counteract the harmful effects that come from sitting down all day.

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Try a new type of sunscreen

The benefit: You protect your skin but still make vitamin D.

We know that it’s essential to wear sunscreen to protect our skin against UV damage, but normal sunscreens also block the rays that allow our bodies to make vitamin D. Trying a different type of cream could prevent that. “Just a small change to the ingredients allows more of the vitamin D-producing UV rays to reach your skin but still gives the same SPF,” explains Dr Michael Holick from Boston University School of Medicine. The product, called Solar-D, at AUD$12.95 (S$13.90), is available online from solar-d.com.au.

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Use your range hood and stove wisely

The benefit: You cut your exposure to pollutants by 50 per cent.

While you might think your biggest exposure to pollutants comes from walking outside in traffic, indoor air pollution may also be a risk to our health, particularly in your kitchen. Fumes emitted while we cook, particularly with gas, are a major source of harmful pollution.

Cooking produces nitrogen dioxide, a gas which can cause respiratory problems, and also creates tiny particles from food and dust that can enter the lungs. However, if you switch on the range hood and use the back two rings, you suck up twice as many pollutants as you do using the front rings, with no extractor. This tiny tweak is definitely worth doing.

Swap all your drinks for water

The benefit: You consume significantly less sugar, sodium and calories (kcal).

If you increase your daily intake of water by between one to three cups (by swapping it for other drinks), you’ll consume between 68 to 205 kcal less daily, decrease sodium by up to 235 g daily and consume as much as 18 g less sugar. So fill up your drinking flask with plenty of H2O. “Drinking plain water provides satiety, reducing hunger and also cravings for food. It’s therefore possible that the results come from simply eating less after consuming water, says Professor Ruopeng An, who measured the benefits at the University of Illinois in the US.

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Make your meals look pretty

The benefit: They’ll taste better – really!

The more beautiful a dish looks, the better it tastes, as we think more effort has gone into its preparation, say experts. So, how do you pretty things up? We asked Tony Panetta, executive chef at the International Convention Centre in Sydney, for his tips: “I like to use fresh, local produce – natural choices like heirloom tomatoes will also look more appealing than something processed. Then play with textures – use ingredients in new ways. Finally, serve it on simple crockery on light shades, like white or earthy colours, so the food stands out on the plate.

Text: bauersyndication .com.au / Photos : 123rf.com, Kristina Soljo/bauersyndication.com.au.

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