1. Happy gut bacteria
Right now it’s about the little guys, and by that I mean the ones living in your gut. Research into gut bacteria is truly flourishing — we’re learning more and more about how the friendly (and some not-so-friendly) micro-organisms in our bodies affect health, ranging from inflammation and disease to weight and nutrition. In fact, increasing evidence suggests that the good guys in your gut help keep your immune system strong and even help you maintain a healthy weight. Join me in supporting good gut bacteria by choosing probiotic-rich foods, like Greek yogurt and kimchee.
2. Distraction-free driving
It’s important to look out for your health no matter where you go, and more than ever, that means staying safe behind the wheel. Distracted drivers are three times more likely to be in a car crash, and as a surgeon, I’m all too familiar with the horrors of automobile accidents. That’s why this year I’m turning my car into a distraction-free zone. To avoid losing focus when behind the wheel, cut out the top five distractions: cellphones, reaching for stuff, looking at things outside, reading and (as I remind my wife and daughters) applying makeup.
3. Handgrip exercises
New research suggests that really simple isometric exercises — like squeezing a handgrip — may be just what you need to lower blood pressure. In fact, performing two-minute alternating hand contractions for 16 minutes at a time, three days a week for eight weeks may result in a blood pressure drop of up to 10 percent. As someone who cares deeply about heart health, I’m definitely adding this to my fitness routine. The reason I love it? You can do it anywhere. If you don’t have a handgrip, a tennis ball will do.
4. Perfectly prepared broccoli
It may not be a new food, but the slew of recent research on how to prepare broccoli properly to maximize its health benefits recently caught my eye. First, go for fresh, not frozen. Fresh broccoli contains higher levels of sulphoraphane, a powerful phytochemical with cancer-fighting properties that may also reduce joint damage. Next, get an even bigger phytochemical punch from this cruciferous veggie by steaming it for three to four minutes until it turns a nice, bright green. The final touch? Serve it with a bit of daikon radish. The root enhances the sulphoraphane content — and can even restore it in frozen broccoli.
5. Sleep better
Between show tapings and morning surgeries, I’ve got my fair share of early starts, so I know the value of a good night’s sleep. Not only does it keep my mind clear, it’s also important for good health and weight maintenance. I’m also familiar with the sense of panic that occurs while watching the minutes tick away on nights when sleep just won’t come. But those negative thoughts and anxieties only worsen your ability to drift off. Plus, new research says they also decrease the quality of sleep that you do manage to get. So for 2014, stress-free sleep is part of my health routine. The first step? Turn the clock away from your bed — looking at the hours growing later will only increase anxiety (plus, the glow of the clock can suppress melatonin). Next, consider a sound machine. Filling your ears with “pink noise” — which sounds like falling rain — can help ease you into a restful sleep.
For more great health tips from Dr. Oz click here.