Staying fit and healthy today is a difficult task, especially when you are busy all the time. Professionals, especially working parents, rarely have the time to experiment and find the diet that suits them best. If you are strapped for time, take a look at these 12 hacks that will keep you fit and healthy, boosting your metabolism and your cognitive abilities in the process.

Remember: these are not your run-of-the-mill tips and tricks. They combine Ayurvedic best practices and data gleaned from years of researching so-called “Blue Zones,” areas in the world where people have the highest life expectancy, such as Sardinia, Japan, and Costa Rica. So, if you want to know how to stay healthy and live to be a centenarian, read on!

1. Limit your sugar intake.

Cut down on sugar starting tomorrow! If you are accustomed to refined white sugar and really can’t go without it, try replacing it with stevia. Don’t give up on desserts. That is not the point. The point is to get your body weaned off sweeteners that result in diabetes and a myriad of other health issues. Start by taking your coffee or tea without sugar, and avoid sugar-rich drinks.

2. Get your food from plants.

Stock up on apples, carrots, peaches, bananas—basically, all fruit and vegetables you can get your hands on. Aim to have plants make up 80 to 90 % of your daily diet. This can be tricky, but if you substitute all your unhealthy snacks with a piece of carrot or a stick of fruit, you’ll be halfway there. Top that with a rich salad instead of a steak during lunchtime, and you’re there!

3. Eat fish once a day.

Sardines and anchovies should be on your to-eat list every day. They are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, but low in mercury and other poisonous chemicals. The best way to introduce them into your diet is through salads; next time you’re making a tuna salad, don’t. Make it a sardine, anchovies, or cod salad instead.

4. Limit meat to twice a week.

Fit people avoid meat, and you should follow suit. Limit your meat to 10–15 ounces a month, so a piece of chicken breast twice a week will be quite enough. Evolutionary, humans ate meat when they were lucky to catch some game, which was not all that frequent. Also, make chicken, pork, or lamb your meat of choice. All the better if the meat is free-range, which means that you’ll avoid ingesting additives and chemicals associated with mass-produced meats.

5. Cut down on eggs and dairy.

The human body is bad at processing cow milk, and a lot of people are actually slightly lactose intolerant without even knowing it. Also, cow milk is full of sugar and fats. You can get your daily dose of calcium from certain vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, and spinach, so substitute milk with them. Goat and sheep products, on the other hand, are beneficial to your health, so try to work them into your diet. Limit eggs to three to four a week. If you need them in baked dishes, substitute them with mashed potatoes, bananas, or applesauce.

6. Sit down and eat.

Eating on the go is bad for your digestion. Snacking is OK, but gobbling up a full meal from a container while on the go is definitely not healthy. Sit down and concentrate on your food. Turn off the TV, put away your smartphone and just enjoy the food. You will end up eating less, but feeling fuller and more satisfied with your meal.

7. Schedule your main meals at the same time every day.

Small, healthy snacks throughout the day will keep you energized and on the ready, and you should indulge in them readily. However, when the time comes for a proper, hardy meal, make sure to take it at a roughly the same time every day. This will help you control cravings and train your metabolism to kick into the fifth gear at the right time.

8. Drink water at the right time.

If you want to limit how much you eat in a single sitting, make sure to drink two glasses of water around 10 minutes before your meal. Also, sip water between bites to soften the food and make it easier on your stomach to process it. However, once you’re done with your meal, refrain from drinking anything for 20 minutes. Give your stomach time to break down the food before flooding it with water that will weaken those digestive juices.

9. Stop before you’re full.

Always leave the table wanting a bite more! Eat until you’re about 85–90 % full, and then put your utensils down and don’t buckle! This is important because it will do wonders for your digestion. Also, it will make you more appreciative of food in general. A good rule of thumb is to stop after a particularly satisfying mouthful. Pack up the leftovers and put them in the fridge; there is no point in wasting food.

10. Make red wine your alcohol of choice.

One would think that alcohol is a no-no for people trying to stay fit and healthy. It turns out that you would be wrong. One to three glasses of red wine per day will help your body absorb those plant-based antioxidants that you are ingesting on a daily basis and reduce stress. Also, red wine is good for your blood and metabolism in general, so we can confidently recommend you treat yourself to a glass a day!

11. Eat nuts on a daily basis.

Nuts reduce the levels of the so-called “bad cholesterol” by nearly 20%! Studies show that people who eat two handfuls of nuts a day have a significantly lower mortality rate than people who avoid eating nuts. Also, nuts are proven to boost your cognitive abilities, keeping you mentally sharp and intellectually fit. An easy way to incorporate nuts into your daily diet is to add them to your breakfast cereal mix or to snack on them during the day.

12. Remember, coffee is great for mental health.

If your goal is to stay both physically and mentally fit, make sure you’re drinking two cups of coffee a day. Coffee is linked to lower instances of Parkinson’s disease and dementia. If you do not like coffee, substitute it with a strong blend of tea that is rich in caffeine.

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