Nutritionists Weigh In on the Health Habits That Actually Work
Whether you're approaching the big 3-0 or you're already there, entering another decade shouldn't call for drastic changes. But as we move through different stages of life it pays to make subtle shifts and develop simple routines along the way that will help us to lead longer, fuller, and healthier lives. Besides, that new jam-packed schedule you've developed in your 30s demands way more brain food to power you through the work day.
While the most crucial time to adopt a healthy routine is in your 20s, it's time to get serious about them in your 30s. This is where you turn those healthier choices into daily habits. Not only will it enrich your life, but it will also empower you to succeed and just make you feel really good too. To find out which of the many healthy habits we should adopt in our 30s, we asked nutritionists to weigh in on the ones that actually work.
Make Self-Care a Daily Habit
While our partying days certainly aren't behind us, there's definitely less of it as our days are prioritised around work, family, and relationships. But jam-packed schedules and full calendars can quickly increase stress levels and put our health on the back burner. Registered dietician Michelle Babb, MS, RD, CD and author of Anti-Inflammatory Eating for a Happy, Healthy Brain says the best way to handle our busy, over-scheduled lives is to make time for self-care. "It's one of the most worthwhile habits you can form in your 30s to preserve your health," she stressed. "Working and living at a frantic pace that requires constant multi-tasking puts your body in chronic fight-or-flight mode, which can lead to adrenal fatigue and exhaustion."
If you're unsure what adrenals are, they're small glands that sit on top of your kidneys and are responsible for regulating your stress response, metabolism and immune system function. "When those glands get overtaxed (e.g. pumping out too much cortisol) they can become sluggish and leave you feeling tired, irritable, and sick," she said. So how can we nurture our adrenals back to health? Babb says scheduling breaks in your daily routine to focus on your breath and relax your body is key. "Deep belly breathing stimulates the vagus nerve and takes you out of fight-or-flight mode," she said. "It's also helpful to receive some type of body or energy work like massage, acupuncture or Reiki on a regular basis (at least twice a month)."
Holistic nutritionist Meryl Pritchard and founder of Kore Kitchen concurs that now is the time to put yourself first. "Focus on treating yourself well inside and out," she said. "Self-care practices can include everything from speaking to yourself kindly, to nourishing yourself properly or getting regular exercise. Maybe it means journaling and checking in with yourself when you're feeling overwhelmed. Often times we forget to put ourselves first in order to receive the care and attention we need to help us get through our busy lives."
Keep Your Lymph Healthy
When was the last time you thought about your lymphatic system? If you're pulling a quizzical look right now reading this, don't stress, we hadn't either but according to Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of Real Nutrition NYC our lymphatic system is really important yet often overlooked. "Keeping it healthy can have huge benefits to one’s overall health," she urged. "Our lymphatic system helps our body remove toxins and thus promotes our immune health."
So how do we improve our lymphatic health? Through one of the oldest and time-measured beauty routines: dry brushing. "This ancient practice is becoming hip again," said Schaprio."It involves simply brushing your skin in a particular pattern with a dry brush before your shower or bath. The lymphatic system runs just below the skin, and it is said that the act of dry brushing can stimulate the lymph flow in the body and as a result enhance one’s immune system." But beyond keeping our lymph moving, Schaprio says dry brushing can also help exfoliate our skin, clean our pores, aid in circulation, break down fat deposits and can even give us a boost of energy. Now, where's that body brush?
Another way to keep it in prime health is via foam rolling. Just five minutes of this simple exercise at home or at the gym (most have foam rollers that clients can use) is all it takes. "Foam rolling can relieve muscle soreness, relax muscles, lengthen muscles, and improve our overall range of motion and performance," she said. "What you may not know is that foam rolling can also boost our immune system like dry rubbing by stimulating our lymph movement."
Eat With Purpose and Intention
When it comes to health in your 30s, mindfulness is priority number one, especially around eating. "Healthy eating doesn't happen by chance," says Babb. "It requires you to put time and energy toward meal planning, food prep, cooking, and mindful eating." If time is an issue, then Babb suggests establishing a weekly routine that includes some basic menu planning to help you generate a shopping list.
"After shopping, put aside an hour of your time to wash, chop and prep some food for the week," she said. "I make a deal with myself that I'm not going to put anything in the produce bin until I've done something with it to make it more edible. As for mindful eating, I encourage clients to treat eating like it's a sacred event. Avoid multi-tasking, sit, breathe, savor, and enjoy."
Start Taking Vitamin D
If you're feeling sluggish, experiencing mood swings, and generally feeling irritable or depressed, then it might be time to have your vitamin D levels checked. Holistic nutritionist, health coach, and founder of Frolic and Flow, Carly Brawner says sufficient Vitamin D levels are important as they are essential to calcium absorption and bone health as well as immune function.
"Vitamin D deficiency is common and has been linked to many health problems including increased risk of heart disease, depression, cancer, autoimmunity, the seasonal flu, and more," she said. "If your levels are low, consider increased (sensible) direct sun exposure or supplementation, and use a product containing vitamin D3, preferable in drop form (I take this one)." Head to the Vitamin D Council for more information.
Find an Activity You Enjoy
While we all know about the importance of exercise, that doesn't mean it happens. The aim is two to three times a week, but if a meeting runs over or our child gets sick, that can quickly turn into one or none. But the important thing to remember here is stressing about it defeats the purpose. Babb says you just need to find something you love to do and then it won't feel like another thing on your to-do list.
"If I had a nickel for every client who has a gym membership they never use, I would be a millionaire," she said. "Instead of expecting yourself to get motivated to do some form of exercise that feels forced in an environment you don't enjoy, find meaningful ways to be active. Make no apologies if you're not a gym person."
If you hate lifting weights, don't do it. Swap the cardio for a walk outside in nature or a weekly hike. "Maybe you're drawn to the water and swimming is your thing," said Babb. "Or maybe you've always loved music and dancing makes you feel alive. Move your body in a way that feels good and helps you feel strong and confident. You don't have to engage in ultra-intense, punishing forms of exercise to see results."
Introduce Adaptogens Into Your Diet
If you're feeling stressed, then say hello to your new superfood friend: adaptogens. It's one of the buzziest health and wellness trends that's set to blow up in 2017 but there's so much more to this Ayurvedic herb than hype. According to Schaprio, Adaptogens are a class of herbs that are known to decrease stress-activating enzymes and an essential herb as we enter this new era of our lives.
"Your 30s are an exciting decade; your career is ramping up, you may be recently married and ready to start a family, and you're finally feeling confident in your own skin but it can also be a stressful decade," she said. "Balancing work, life, and the many changes that are thrown your way is challenging. Adaptogens can naturally help your body adapt to stress because they regulate our stress response by balancing our adrenal system and overcoming adrenal fatigue."
You can buy it as a supplement or add it as an ingredient to your meals. "There are many different types of adaptogens (Asian ginseng, licorice root, astragalus), and most of which can be taken as supplements, but luckily our food industry is starting to take notice of these herbs and incorporating them into easily found products," said Schapiro. "A few great products we love are by Sun Potion and Moon Juice."
Even on a good day, our minds can wander into negative territory. And while being positive all the time seems like an impossible task, Pritchard says setting some simple intentions will help make powerful changes in your life. "Intentions help you make your dreams come true," she said. "It's like plugging a destination into Google Maps. You need to know where you're going in order to get there. I like to set my intentions in alignment with the moon cycle. My astrologer Ambi Sitham reminds us that new moons are a potent time for manifesting, an ideal time to set new intentions for yourself. Using a crystal or two to give that intention some extra energy doesn't hurt either."
Upgrade Your Vitamins
While the classic Flinstone vitamins served you well as a child, Pritchard says it's officially time for an upgrade. "Switch to high-quality vitamins and supplements to boost your health," she said. "As we get older, we need supplements that will help give us more support where we need it. It's hard to get essential nutrients like vitamin D solely from food. I love Ritual vitamins for women (the story behind it is amazing too). They're vegan, pure, and you only have to take two gel capsules a day which includes everything you need."
Create Your Own Routine
By now you've most likely read a ton of articles about other successful women's routines from the morning to the evening (and even what they never do), but now that you're in your 30s it's time to create one of your own. "We are what we repeatedly do and by this age, we've pretty much figured out that quick fixes aren't sustainable, and nothing happens overnight," said Pritchard. "We can't just go to the gym once and have a six pack. It requires a little bit of dedication consistently, over time to make a difference."
And on top of that, rituals also provide a sense of stability in our lives amidst the chaos. "My morning ritual involves lighting some sage or palo santo in my bathroom, looking into the mirror to greet myself, and using positive affirmations to start the day such as, I deserve the best and I accept the best now (I highly recommend Louise Hay's book of positive affirmations called You Can Heal Your Life). Maybe sometimes you just need to wink at yourself or blow yourself a kiss. This ritual always sets the tone for the day and helps me get energised in the morning. My evening routine involves making a warm tonic or tea and using calming essential oils like lavender on my skin to help me relax and wind down."