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Top 3 Things You Can Do For Better Health

Updated on November 9, 2012

Assuming that you do not smoke, use tobacco, use illicit drugs, or over consume alcohol, then the top three lifestyle choices that you can change to improve health would be to ...

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Sleep

It can be debated as to which is more important to take the number one spot: whether it is diet or exercise. Diet here does not mean restricting food intake to reduce weight. Diet here means proper food choices. Of course, one should do both proper diet and exercise. But this article sides on the opinion that diet is more important.

The Diet Trumps Exercise

A proper diet is more important than exercise.

In the video on the right, Dr. Mark Hyman says that inflammation is at the root of nearly every modern chronic disease. What causes inflammation? He says number one is poor diet. And second is lack of exercise.

The book Primal Body, Primal Mind writes that ...

"Exercise can never compensate for a lousy diet any more than drugs or supplements can. At least 70 percent of your health equation depends on your diet. Most of the other 30 percent is a combination of appropriate supplementation, stress reduction, positive attitude, and exercise." [page 155]

In the video on the right, you can hear Dr. Mercola says that nutrition is many times more important than exercise. That is not to say that exercise is not important. It is just that nutrition is at the top of the list is you want to improve health.

When Dr. Mercola interviews Dr. Doug McGuff, Doug says that he believes that diet contributes 80% or more to health. Exercise contributes the remaining 20%. McGuff says that you can never exercise your way out of a bad diet. However, a good diet can result in good improvement in health even in light of little or no exercise. [1]

And when Dr. Mercola interviews Mark Sisson, Mark says that 80% of one's body composition is based on what you eat. The remaining 20% is based on exercise and other lifestyle activities.[2]

In episode 581 of the The Livin Low Carb Radio Show, guest Dallas Hartwig said that of all the factors that affect your health, food is the factor with the greatest impact.

And in fact he and Melissa Hartwig has a book of the title "It Starts with Food"

1. Diet

Eat a healthy balanced diet. What is that? That is a whole-food plant-based diet. Eat kale, beans, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, garlic, blueberries, and the like. These are examples of plant-based whole foods. Plants contain a lot of vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function. It also contain a lot of phytonutrients that are vital to sustain health and strengthen our immune system. It contains fibers that reduce constipation and helps us eliminate toxins. Fiber also helps decrease the the rate at which sugar enters the bloodstream, helping to prevent blood glucose spikes.

Joel Furrman's write in his book Super Immunity ...

"...long term observational studies do indeed demonstrate that vegetable consumption is the most important factor in preventing chronic diseases and premature death." [page 15]

Also eat whole grains such as quinoa, wild rice, brown rice, and other. Whole grains such as these contains the germ, bran, and endosperm. But not white rice, which has been refined, and how to shell tossed out, along with this vitamins and minerals.

That is not to say you can not have animal products if you want to. It just means that the majority of the foods that you eat should be plants. Although, the proteins from plants and whole grains are preferred, meat also provides the protein which we need. Moderate amount of beef can provide vitamin B12. Eggs are healthy and consists of all the nutrients needed to support a chick. Salmon, sardines, and shrimps provides us with healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

A healthy meal should consists of these four components:

  • vegetables and fruits (with more vegetables than fruit since they contain less sugar)
  • whole grains
  • protein
  • good fats

Good fats usually come from plants such as avocado and olives and nuts. Animal fat often contain cholesterol and saturated fat (which we should eat in moderation).

Avoid sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (otherwise known as trans fats). Learn why sugar is so bad for health.

Dr. Walter Willett says in a FrontLine program interview that ...

"studies have shown that we could prevent about 82 percent of heart attacks, about 70 percent of strokes, over 90 percent of type 2 diabetes, and over 70 percent of colon cancer, with the right dietary choices as part of a health lifestyle." [reference]

2. Exercise

"What's the Single Best Thing You Can Do for Your Health?" This was the question that Dr. Mike Evans has answered in his YouTube video on the right.

His answer is exercise. The type of exercise that he was talking about consisted of mostly walking. And all it takes is 30 minutes a day (maybe an hour).

Exercise releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins which boosts mood and reduces pain. Regular exercise decreases risk of depression and reduces stress.

Both regular aerobic and resistance training exercise reduces inflammation as measured by the C-Reactive Protein marker for inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a cause of many degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease and dementia.

Exercise triggers the body to produce more antioxidants such as catalase, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and glutathione peroxidase. Antioxidants mops up dangerous free radical molecules that are the by-products of metabolism.

3. Sleep

Get enough sleep, as much as your body need. Do not wake it using an alarm.

Dr. Mark Hyman says in his video ...

"Besides eating whole foods and moving your body, getting enough sleep is the most important thing you can do for your health."

Insufficient sleep can lead to weight gain and type 2 diabetes because hormones for appetite and blood glucose levels goes out of balance. Insufficient sleep is also associated with increased sensitivity to pain, which decreases the quality of life for those with chronic pain conditions such as arthritis.

Lack of sleep disrupt our normal cyclic production of healing and repair hormones such as melatonin and growth hormones. For example, sleep deprived rats showed lowers the level of glutathione in certain areas of the brain. Glutathinone is one of our body's main antioxidants.

Most people need at least 8 hours of sleep. Shift and night work leads to increased mortality.

Read more about how sleep is important to health.

What about Tobacco And Smoking?

The above three items of exercise, healthy diet, and enough sleep for health is based on the general population of non-smoker and people who do not use tobacco. If you are taking tobacco or smoking, then quitting them may then become more important than those three items mentioned. In fact, quitting may be the number one thing for improving health.

In the TEDx talk video on the right, Dr. David Katz says that the top three leading causes of pre-mature death is tobacco use, dietary pattern, and inactivity. It made references to the paper "Actual Causes of Death in the United States" published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which makes the conclusion ...

"These analyses show that smoking remains the leading cause of mortality. However, poor diet and physical inactivity may soon overtake tobacco as the leading cause of death."

"Sleep: The Forgotten Key to Health and Wellness"

Top Causes of Death

From the paper, top causes of death in 2000 in the United States are ....

  • tobacco use
  • poor diet and physical inactivity
  • alcohol consumption
  • microbial agents
  • toxic agents
  • motor vehicle crashes
  • firearm incidents
  • sexual behaviors
  • use of illicit drugs

Based on the way they phrased the conclusion, it appears that the paper lumped "smoking" as "tobacco use".

It may be true that sleep is not listed in this list. Perhaps it was not teased out in the analysis. Or perhaps sleep is the "forgotten key to health and wellness" as the YouTube video title by Dr. Ellen Hughes mentions.


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