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Wellness

13 simple ways to feel your absolute best this month

Learn to relax, lower your blood pressure, combat cancer and more with these easy-to-digest tips from our expert health team.
13 simple ways to feel your absolute best this month

Brand New Images/ Getty Images

October 13 ways to feel your best

Relax! (it could add years to your life)

Turns out taking a chill pill really can improve your health. In fact, a new study shows finding time to unwind can alter your genes for the better. Harvard researchers discovered that just 20 minutes of relaxation boosts genetic activity, which may strengthen immune function and improve the ways we metabolize energy and regulate blood sugar. And the genetic benefits were obvious in as little as eight weeks, even for newbies.

Try it today: If meditation isn’t something you do regularly, attend a class or workshop to get inspired (many yoga studios offer them). Once you’re comfortable, practise at home every night before bed.

13 simple ways to feel your absolute best this monthBrand New Images/ Getty Images

Boost happiness with probiotic yogurt

Talk about good gut feelings! A new study out of UCLA reveals that probiotics are more than just digestive dynamos, they’re also powerful mood boosters. Researchers asked a group of people to eat yogurt rich in live probiotic cultures twice a day for a month. They believe that the resulting increase in good gut bacteria sent positive molecular signals to the brain. Why should you care? Because participants reported an overall boost in happiness levels, leading researchers to believe probiotics could also relieve anxiety and stress. They want to look at the role good bacteria might play in easing symptoms of cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Try it today: Put yourself in a good mood by eating probiotics twice a day. Power up with a probiotic parfait (think yogurt, berries and granola) and blend a serving of yogurt into a smoothie for a tasty afternoon treat.

woman-eating-granola-and-yogurtPhoto, George Doyle/Getty Images.
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Iron out a bad temper

Do you suffer from an especially supreme case of the crankies at that time of the month? New research from the University of Massachusetts and Harvard shows you may be low in iron. A deficiency can interrupt the body’s production of serotonin (the happy hormone), priming you for an awful emotional roller-coaster ride each month. Good news: Researchers have discovered a potential “cure.” Just increase your iron! Upping your leafy green and lentil intake (or talking to your doctor about a supplement) can improve your mood.

Bonus: Women who get a majority of their iron from plant-based sources are up to 40 percent less likely to experience PMS-related pains than those who don’t get enough iron.

13 simple ways to feel your absolute best this monthIstockphoto

Hold on to more memories

Boosting your memory might be as simple as clenching your fists! Researchers from Montclair State University in New Jersey noted a new mind-hand link in 50 right-handed college students. When they clenched their right fi st before studying, and their left fist before relaying the information , they improved information recall. It seems that when the right hand is clenched, the leu0018 side of the brain (in charge of converting info) is activated, and when the left hand is clenched, the right side of the brain (responsible for recall) is switched on.

Bottom line: Next time you need to get a grip on a name or your to-do list, give your fists a squeeze.

13 simple ways to feel your absolute best this monthIstockphoto

Choose mushrooms over meat

Want to lose an inch the tasty way? Eat mushrooms. Researchers reveal the super-lean fungus is a secret ingredient for weight-loss success. There’s just one catch: You need to eat them in lieu of meat. That’s the gist of a new Johns Hopkins–based study, in which a group of people replaced meat in meals with one cup of white button mushrooms three times a week for a year. They lost an average of seven pounds more than those on reduced-calorie diets, and lowered their fat intake by nearly 5 g each day. So what makes mushrooms miracle slimmers? They’re a low-energy-density food, like whole grains and non-starchy veggies, that doesn’t spike blood sugar.

Bottom line: “These foods fill you up with fewer calories,” says lead researcher Lawrence Cheskin.

13 simple ways to feel your absolute best this monthBrett Stevens/ Getty Images
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Cut your risk of Parkinson's with peppers

Green or red, spicy or mild , it might be time to stock up on peppers! A new University of Washington study shows that eating these nightshade vegetables (or others like tomatoes and potatoes) twice a week may cut your risk of developing Parkinson’s by 30 percent.

13 simple ways to feel your absolute best this monthIstockphoto

Forget the crisper! keep your greens on the counter

Here’s something to chew on: New research shows vegetables are still alive when we bring them home from the market, and chucking them in a dark fridge messes with their internal clock, which controls when they produce certain chemicals. American researchers discovered that after vegetables are harvested (they studied mainly cruciferous ones, like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage), their cells are still sensitive to light. So sensitive, in fact, that when deprived of it, they don’t produce glucosinolates, a class of compounds with anti-cancer effects.

Make it a habit: Keep greens on a sunlit counter during the day and transfer to the fridge only at night.

13 simple ways to feel your absolute best this monthIstockphoto

Make vegetable oil you new kitchen BFF

Linoleic acid (LA), found in oils from plants like canola or soy, was once thought to trigger disease-related inflammation. However, new U.S. research shows that LA can reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. Best of all, it’s an essential omega-6 fatty acid that your body can’t produce on its own. So don’t hesitate to cook with it anymore!

13 simple ways to feel your absolute best this monthMaria Bacarella/ Getty Images
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Extend energy with chocolate milk

We already know that chocolate milk is a good source of calcium, protein and carbs, but brand new research reveals it’s also one of the best post-workout drinks. The study from Southern Connecticut State University had people run for 45 minutes at a moderate pace, then down either a 500-mL glass of chocolate milk or a sugary energy drink. The results? Those who drank the milk (moustache optional!) restored their energy levels and muscle strength more quickly and even lasted longer on their next run — up to three hours later! The outcome surprised researchers. “Who knew chocolate milk could be such a great whole food option for an after-workout drink,” says lead researcher William Lunn.

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Combat the big C with cardio

A recent study says doing cardio can reduce your chances of breast cancer — in as little as 30 minutes a day! University of Minnesota researchers discovered that aerobic exercise changes the way your body breaks down estrogen, which could lower your risk of the disease. They asked a group of healthy but inactive women to work out for 30 minutes five times a week for 16 weeks. After a few sweat sessions, the women successfully raised their levels of the good metabolites associated with lower breast-cancer risk.

Try it today: Every weeknight after dinner, skip dessert and go for a 3o-minute walk. Make it a standing date with your man or best buddy.

13 simple ways to feel your absolute best this monthMasterfile

Accessorize to drop a dress size

If you look down at the wrists of some people at your local gym or park, you may notice some new arm candy: fitness-tracking wristbands. Often camouflaged as bracelets, these handy gadgets log everything from steps taken to calories burned. But get this: They also make perfect weight-loss coaches! New research from Indiana University reveals that wearing a pedometer or personal tracking device helps make you more active, making it easier to slim down. In fact, you can lose about 2.5 pounds for each week you wear one — at least that’s what happened when the researchers followed a group for 12 weeks. It’s all about the visual feedback and the helpful reminder on your sleeve, says lead researcher Jeanne Johnston.

Bonus: Once you become aware of the minutes you clock, you’ll start seeking out more ways to get active. Plus, you’ll look cool while doing it. Win-win!

FuelBand, Jan 13, p98The Nike FuelBand
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Protect your heart with a little puppy love

Taking care of a four-legged friend takes care of your heart too, says the American Heart Association, in its journal Circulation. It found data to support a link between owning a pet and lower cholesterol and triglycerides (bad fatty acids): proof that you are more likely to survive heart attacks and achieve lower blood pressure by spending time with Fido. It gets better: Simply cuddling with your furry friend lowers stress and has the same relaxing effect as quietly reading.

Bottom line: When you show your pet some love, you do the same for your heart.

13 simple ways to feel your absolute best this monthIstockphoto

Kick cold sores to the curb

Tired of cold sores cropping up at the worst time? Try our top tips to beat these bothersome blisters.

Love lysine. Most people get enough of this essential amino acid through diet (sardines, beans, quinoa and pumpkin seeds), but it’s worth taking a little extra if you’re prone to cold sores. Studies show that oral lysine, available in tablets, capsules and liquids, can prevent outbreaks.

Opt for olive leaves. An Iranian lab study found that, when applied topically, the active antiviral properties in olive-leaf extract can help paralyze the cold-sore virus in cells to prevent one from popping up.

Restrain with resveratrol. This antioxidant helps block the virus from latching onto healthy cells (meaning it can’t multiply and cause a sore). If you’ve already got a sore, 1,000 mg three times a day can help heal it faster.

Try tropicals. It seems counterintuitive, but the moisture in lip balms, especially lemon ones, can speed up the healing process, and you can shorten the lifespans of repeat offenders with creams like Abreva or prescriptions like Zovirax.

13 simple ways to feel your absolute best this monthCorbis

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