The following is aimed to be a very general but, in most cases, a realistic guide for improving overall health and wellbeing.
Drinking enough water
Aim to drink 8 glasses a day (approx. 4 pints/2 litres). Water helps the body to absorb nutrients from our food, and remove waste and toxins. It also increases our metabolic rate. Water makes up over 80% of your blood and over 70% of your muscles, so make sure you’re drinking enough.
Eat a plant based diet
With careful meal planning, a plant based diet can provide the body with all the nutrients it needs to be healthy, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Consider the following to avoid nutrient deficiencies –
Whilst it’s easy to get enough protein from plants, most plants don’t contain all 9 essential amino acids, unlike meat. It’s important, therefore, to eat a wide variety of plants to ensure you’re covered.
There are two types of iron, haem, which is found in animal products, and non-haem, which is mainly found in plant sources like lentils, beans, pumpkin seeds, spinach and dried fruit. Non-haem iron sources are poorly absorbed by the body so vegans may need a higher RNI (Recommended Nutrient Intake) than meat eaters to compensate for this. Phytates (cereals, oats, bran) and phenolic compounds (tea, coffee, most herbs) inhibit iron absorption, whereas vitamin C helps absorb it. Eat citrus fruits, dark leafy greens or bell peppers with an iron rich meal and avoid drinking tea and coffee a few hours before you eat.
Vitamin B12 helps to keep the body’s blood and nerve cells healthy. Vegans need to eat foods fortified with B12 (marmite, nutritional yeast flakes) or take a B12 supplement to avoid vitamin B12 deficiency.
The RNI for calcium is 700mg a day. Plant based sources of calcium include fortified leafy green veg, almonds, sesame seeds, tahini, and dried fruit.
It’s also worth noting that not all plant based diets are healthy. They need to be made up of unprocessed real whole foods to provide the benefits. Think JERF (Just Eat Real Food!)
Aim to do 5 x 30 minutes of moderate exercise a week. This could include exercise classes, power walking or running, swimming, and even vigorous housework. Taking part in regular Pilates classes can have many benefits, including:
• Improved flexibility
• Increased muscle strength
• Greater awareness of posture
• Improved physical coordination and balance
• Safe rehabilitation of joint and spinal injuries
• Helps prevent musculoskeletal injuries
• Improved mental wellbeing
Get enough good quality sleep
The NHS advises that “most of us need around 8 hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly – but some need more and some less. What matters is that you find out how much sleep you need and then try to achieve it.” As well as boosting our mood and immune system, getting the right amount of sleep can also reduce our risk of diabetes and heart disease.