Connecting longevity to a green lifestyle

You skip the soda. Scientists in Boston found that drinking one or more regular or diet colas every day doubles your risk of metabolic syndrome--a cluster of conditions, including high blood pressure, elevated insulin levels, and excess fat around the waist, that increase your chance of heart disease and diabetes. Not to hammer this point too hard, but America is in the midst of an obesity epidemic and soda is nothing but empty calories, or in the case of diet soda, chemically flavored fake stuff.

Green It: Drinking soda is bad for you and the planet. Not only is soda bad for you, it's bad for the planet considering that cans and plastic bottles are hugely wasteful. Even though they can be recycled, it takes energy to recycle them. It's best not to use something that you do not need in the first place. Try filtered tap water in a reusable bottle and save the calories for local, organic food.

You eat purple foods. Concord grapes, blueberries, and red wine all have polyphenols--compounds that reduce heart disease risk and may also protect against Alzheimer's disease, according to new research. "What's good for your coronary arteries is also good for your brain's blood vessels," says Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., director of the Cognitive Disorders Center at the University of Cincinnati.

Green It: Choosing seasonal and organic. Blueberries come into season depending on where you live in the late summer. If you want to enjoy all those polyphenols make sure that you're buying the fruit locally. Blueberries can lose much of their nutrients when they travel the average 1,500 miles to get to your table not to mention the fact that they waste tons of fossil fuels to get from A to B.

You were a healthy-weight teen. Swedish researchers found that among 612 men ages 18 to 20, those whose body mass index (BMI) increased the most during adolescence tended to have the greatest amounts of visceral fat -- deep "hidden" fat that surrounds the abdominal organs and is particularly linked to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Green It: Raising a healthy green teen

You can't control your weight as a teenager (unless you still are one) but you can help your teenager control their weight. The best way to raise a healthy, green adult is to start early. Try to make dinner at home every evening using seasonal, local ingredients and keep the processed junk out of the cabinets. If your teens want junk food to snack on, offer up healthy alternatives like homemade granola bars and homemade organic cookies. This way your teens will know the importance of the ingredients in their foods. Also get your teens in the garden so that they have an understanding about where their food comes from. Kids that grow up picking fresh produce from their garden every night for dinner won't settle for produce that travels across the country because they know that garden fresh is so much tastier.

You skip the red meat. A few palm-size servings (about 2 1/2 ounces) of beef, pork, or lamb now and then is no big deal, but eating more than 18 ounces of red meat per week ups your risk of colorectal cancer--the third most common type, according to a major report by the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Green It: Understanding red meat's huge impact on the planet

What a coincidence, eating red meat is also bad news for the planet. Hitting the drive through a few times a week does have a huge impact. On the other hand, were the average American household to avoid red meat and dairy and, instead, consume a vegetarian diet or a diet including some chicken, fish, and eggs, the decline in greenhouse gas emissions would be equal to driving 8,000 fewer miles each. That's like driving from Miami to Seattle and back. When and if you do eat red meat, opt for grass-fed varieties.

You love your friends (who are also healthy). If your closest friends gain weight, your chance of doing the same could increase by 57 percent, according to a study in the New England of Journal of Medicine. "To maintain a healthy lifestyle, it's important to associate with people who have similar goals," says Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., the study's lead researcher.

Green It: Surrounding yourself with eco-lovin' friends

If you're living a healthy, green life, spread the word. Tell your friends how you like to walk everywhere to stay healthy so that it can become a trend. If your friends are healthy and green it's a great influence on you as well.

You don't have a housekeeper. Just by vacuuming, mopping floors, or washing windows for a little more than an hour, the average person can burn about 285 calories, lowering risk of death by 30 percent, according to a study of 302 adults in their 70s and 80s.

Green It: Doing things the green way. This is another built in workout that means you don't have to waste energy going to a gym. What's more, you can do things your way. That is using green cleaning supplies instead of toxic chemicals in your house.

Green and health do go together for a longer and better life.

Since 1996 my company, It’s Our Nature has had a vision of connecting our wellness to the health of the earth. Recently, Prevention Magazine provided a list of Surprising Signs That You’ll Probably Live Longer that correlate to a green lifestyle.

Here are some of the connections from Planet Green:

You walk to stay fit. Fit people—defined as those who walk for about 30 minutes a day—are more likely to live longer than those who walk less, regardless of how much body fat they have, according to a recent study of 2,603 men and women.

Green It: Walking for a purpose- The best way to stay fit is to include walking in your everyday life as a way to get from A to B. Park the car and instead choose to walk to the store or if you use public transportation, walk to the bus or train station. That's why Europeans are so enviously thin; they walk to get somewhere not just to stay fit. Save fossil fuels and win the battle of the bulge by hitting the pavement.

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