Mind & Spirit

Your health: 10 things to do in July

By: Kat Tancock

Author: Canadian Living

Mind & Spirit

Your health: 10 things to do in July

By: Kat Tancock

July is here and summer is in full swing. Don't forget to take care of your health this month -- here are 10 suggestions to keep you and your family in top form.

1. Feast on tomatoes
Forget the mealy, flavourless specimens you saw in the winter -- now's the time for including deliciously juicy in-season tomatoes in every meal. Slice them into salads and sandwiches, puree them into soups or cook them up in sauces -- no matter how you prepare them, you'll be adding the taste of summer and tons of nutrition to your meals. For the best colour and flavour (other than those out of your own garden), search for local varieties that have been picked when ripe -- farmer's markets are a great place to start.

2. Work out in the water
If the heat of summer makes you too lethargic for your regular fitness routine, take it to the water for a refreshing change. Laps in your local pool are a good place to start, or try signing up for a water-based fitness class -- water aerobics is a great low-impact cardio workout for everyone, young or old.

3. Start a Food Journal
While some people have mastered the skill of eating in moderation and skipping unhealthy snacks, for most of us, resisting the temptation to eat all the food in front of us is a challenge -- and remembering how much we've eaten can be near impossible. Use our handy online Food Journal and use the information as a tool to help you spot your weaknesses and improve your eating habits.

4. Season with salsa
Cutting back on salt, fat or sugar can be a challenge when you're used to eating them regularly -- food can taste flavourless when it's lacking your normal seasonings. To keep your taste buds excited, add spice with hot sauce or salsa. Soup, sandwiches, baked potatoes and grilled chicken or fish will all taste better -- and hot sauce and salsa deliver loads of flavour for minimal calories.

5. Try tai chi
If you need a new way to stay fit and have fun, tai chi may be just what you're looking for. "Studies have concluded that practising tai chi for 30 minutes, three times a week, for at least three months can slow bone loss in osteoporosis, lower blood pressure, lessen anxiety, improve sleep, increase functional mobility and balance, enhance circulation and improve one's cholesterol profile," notes Dr. Maoshing Ni, author of Secrets of Longevity (Chronicle Books, 2006). The International Taoist Tai Chi Society offers a listing of centres across Canada that will help you get started.

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6. Make these spinach recipes
Eating spinach regularly is a top recommendation from nutritionists, and for good reason: it's high in fibre, antioxidants and a number of vitamins and minerals, including folic acid and vitamin K. It's best when freshly picked, so now's the time of year to get optimal nutrition out of this leafy green. Try the following recipes to get more spinach in your diet:

Polenta with Sautéed Spinach and Red Peppers
Apple and Spinach Salad with Cheddar
Sesame Fish on Spinach

7. Take a mini vacation
Need a break, but don't have the time or cash to really get away? You can still give yourself some time off without leaving town -- just book an afternoon or day to take a mini vacation. Whether it's by yourself, as a couple or with the whole family, some planned time off will help you cut stress and get happier. Try going for a hike or bike ride, visiting your favourite local museum or sitting in a local park with a good book -- just make sure to promise to ignore your mile-long to-do list while you're away, and if you can, leave the cellphone at home.

8. Volunteer
When you give a little, you get a lot, research says: a 1999 study from the University of Michigan showed that seniors who volunteered had increased longevity over those who didn't. Find a cause you care about and give a little time -- even an hour a week can make a big difference. Busy with the kids? Consider volunteering as a family -- you'll reap the benefits while bonding with your children at the same time.

9. Eat more broccoli
Broccoli really is a wonder vegetable -- not only have it and its cruciferous cousins like kale and cabbage been shown to fight cancer, but "a broccoli-rich diet may also lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, protect brain and eye health, and kill the type of bacteria that causes stomach ulcers," note Liz Pearson and Mairlyn Smith, authors of Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health (Whitecap Books, 2007). Pearson and Smith recommend eating broccoli raw or lightly steamed for the best health benefits, and note that there's nothing wrong with a bit of cheese sauce on top, especially if it makes kids eat more of the good green stuff.

10. Stay cool
July can be hot -- make sure not to overheat while you're enjoying the first full month of summer. If you have air-conditioning, take special care to keep bedrooms at a comfortable temperature at night so everyone can sleep well and give their bodies a break from the heat. No A/C? Click here to read about easy ways to cool down in the summer.

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Mind & Spirit

Your health: 10 things to do in July