You don’t need to make big changes to your daily habits to boost health. These tiny tweaks lead to major improvements!
Boost brain-power: Add blueberries.
Tossing a handful of blueberries into your morning cereal or fruit salad acts as a mental boost to power you through the whole day. A new study in the European Journal of Nutrition found that blueberries improve memory, thinking speed and problem-solving for at least eight hours. Even better: Additional research shows that enjoying these juicy gems daily creates long-lasting improvements in recall and may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s. Credit the berries’ polyphenols, which boost communication between brain cells.
OR PLAY A GAME! If you’re feeling foggy after lunch, grab your phone. Playing video games that immerse you in another world stimulates your brain to rapidly perk you up. Plus, 30 minutes of gaming daily sharpens memory within a month, according to a new University of California study. after lunch, grab your phone. Playing video games that immerse you in a new University of California study.
Lower cholesterol: Swap oregano for basil.
Reaching for oregano or parsley to flavor your favorite pizza or pasta? Try sweet basil leaves instead. Not only will they add a delicious peppery flavor, they’ll protect your heart! A study in the journal Phytotherapy Research suggests savoring basil daily may lower “bad” LDL cholesterol by 68 percent, triglycerides by 63 percent and total cholesterol by 56 percent. Compounds in the herb are all-stars when it comes to reducing the amount of heart-harming fats formed in the body.
Speed slimming: Swap dark roast for light.
When switching on the coffee maker, swap your usual dark roast brew for one made with light roasted beans. Doing so turns your joe into a powerful slimmer. Less processed lighter roast beans brim with chlorogenic acid, a compound that stimulates the energy engines inside the body’s cells to speed fat burn. Norwegian researchers say women who sipped coffee varieties highest in chlorogenic acid lost three times more weight than those who drank less of the compound. Bonus: A separate study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that java’s caffeine spikes metabolism, helping torch an extra 150 calories a day.
OR USE SMALL PLATES! When U.K. researchers secretly shrank breakfast for some study volunteers and served their meals on a smaller appetizer-size plate, folks felt no hungrier and ate no more the rest of the day than those given bigger meals. Large dishes make it easier to overeat before realizing you’re full.
Boost immunity: Swap solo for social.
Invite a friend to join you on your next stroll, and you’ll boost your body’s natural defenses. Whether you walk together in person or simply chat over the phone, spending more time connecting with others makes it easier for your body to fend off colds, flus and other viruses, according to research at the UCLA School of Medicine. That’s because socializing tamps down harmful inflammation, which helps your immune system function more robustly.
AND TAKE YOUR TIME! Pick up grocery bags and laundry baskets s-l-o-w-l-y. You’ll build more muscle tissue, which is important since that’s where new infection-fighting T cells grow until they’re needed to fend off viral invaders, suggests a new German study.
Lift mood: Swap oldies for pop.
Rather than listening to your favorite songs on repeat, change the radio station or use a streaming service to play songs recommended to you based on your preferences. New music boosts good feelings more than songs you’ve heard before, a study in Science found. Unexpected surprises in melodies release feel-good dopamine.
OR STEP WITH PEP! An upbeat gait tells your brain you’re in a happy mood, German scientists say, for instant joy.
Sleep deep: Swap meds for Tylenol.
Aches keeping you up at night? The real culprit could be your OTC meds. Scientists at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University say nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil impair slumber by blocking your body’s release of the sleep hormone melatonin. But long-acting acetaminophen, like Tylenol 8HR, doesn’t affect melatonin, allowing for an ache-free snooze.
OR CHANGE THE CHANNEL! For a good night’s sleep, try switching from NCIS to Young Sheldon. Chinese scientists say laughter eases anxiety, so you sleep more soundly.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.