We all know the things we should be doing to stay in shape, feel healthy and hold back the years. But unless you, like Gwyneth P, go weak at the knees for quinoa, there’s a case to be made for having a little fun, eating a little of what you want and cracking on with that bottle of red.
A healthy body is important, but good health is more than just a physical state and striking a balance between indulging in what you love and doing what’s good for you is key to a happy life.
Unfortunately, if we’re to believe the scaremongering, the things we love are detrimental to us physically. Chocolate makes us fat, wine is a scourge on our livers, skin and waistlines and what’s good for our souls seems to be bad for our bodies. So how do we resolve the conflict between being well versus wellbeing?
According to Yvonne Bishop-Weston, a nutritional therapist at clinics in London and the New Forest, if we adhere to a few golden dietary rules, we can still enjoy our favourite things.
1. "Stick as closely as you can to unprocessed foods. Choose stoneground wholemeal bread and flour, and brown rice and pasta. If you need to eat in a hurry, go for prepared ingredients, such as stir-fried vegetables, instead of ready meals. "
2. “Have some vegetables every time you eat and a couple of portions of fruit in between meals. The goal for proven health benefits is not just five a day, but nine[!]. But it is fine to include frozen food and veg, as some frozen foods retain their nutrients better than when sitting ‘fresh' in transit and on supermarket shelves.”
3. Exercise is also imperative to good health. For those not naturally energetic, it can be a tedious affair, especially if you’re slogging it out in the gym with little visual stimulation.
Try to get outdoors and find something you enjoy; it could be a team sport such as rugby, football or hockey. If you’ve got the moves like Jagger, sign up to a weekly dance class or for something relaxing, try yoga or tai chi.
There’s an activity to suit everyone (honest) and, with its proven physical benefits and happiness-boosting effects, exercise is the ultimate way to reconcile bodily health and wellbeing. Aim for around 20-30 minutes of gentle activity five days a week or alternatively, three bouts of vigorous exercise.
Once you’ve covered these basics, you can afford the occasional dietary splurge. Here are our three top tips for staying healthy and happy.
• Eat chocolate every day, but stick to two squares of the dark stuff (at least 70 per cent cocoa solids). Its bitter taste means you’re not as likely to eat more than you should, plus it’s much more satisfying than a fat-laden, sugary milk chocolate bar, which will leave you with bad skin and a sluggish digestive system.
It gets even better – due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, dark chocolate can help prevent heart disease and reduce the risk of cancer. Suddenly it seems chocs are superfoods.
• “Give yourself a sensible weekly alcohol limit and stick to it. Setting the rule of having water between each alcoholic drink can help slow you down,” advises Yvonne.
Several studies have shown that drinking red wine in moderation can lower the likelihood of developing heart disease, with the findings of one study published in the International Journal of Cancer indicating that a daily glass can halve a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer.
Where possible, drink with food for the healthiest results (and to increase wellbeing levels; there are few things more satisfying in life than a nice glass of Chianti with your spag bol.)
• You can still enjoy steak, just make sure it’s in moderation and the right sort. “If you eat meat at home, opt for free-range and organic food – if it hasn't been running around and eating plants, it’s not likely to have the nutrition you need. When eating out, you can relax this rule as it’s nigh-on impossible to keep to,” says Yvonne.
So crack open that bottle of Merlot and get stuck in, folks, though perhaps squeeze in a run beforehand.
Life’s too short not to enjoy it and when you’re in good shape, you’ll appreciate its little pleasures all the more.
Top 10 healthy juices for a vitamin burst: