It’s easy to get confused when it comes to health and nutrition. Even qualified experts often seem to hold opposing opinions, which can make it difficult to figure out what you should actually be doing to optimize your health.
Yet, despite all the disagreements, a number of wellness tips are well supported by research.
Here are 27 health and nutrition tips that are based on scientific evidence.
Guille Faingold/Stocksy United
- Limit sugary drinks
Sugary drinks like sodas, fruit juices, and sweetened teas are the primary source of added sugar in the American diet (1).
Unfortunately, findings from several studies point to sugar-sweetened beverages increasing risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, even in people who are not carrying excess body fat (2).
Sugar-sweetened beverages are also uniquely harmful for children, as they can contribute not only to obesity in children but also to conditions that usually do not develop until adulthood, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (3, 4, 5).
Healthier alternatives include:
- Eat nuts and seeds
Some people avoid nuts because they are high in fat. However, nuts and seeds are incredibly nutritious. They are packed with protein, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals (6, 7).
Nuts may help you lose weight and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease (8).
Additionally, one large observational study noted that a low intake of nuts and seeds was potentially linked to an increased risk of death from heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes (9).
- Avoid ultra-processed foods
Ultra-processed foods are foods containing ingredients that are significantly modified from their original form. They often contain additives like added sugar, highly refined oil, salt, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors as well (10).
Ultra-processed foods are highly palatable, meaning they are easily overeaten, and activate reward-related regions in the brain, which can lead to excess calorie consumption and weight gain. Studies show that diets high in ultra-processed food can contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions (11, 12, 13, 14, 15).
In addition to low quality ingredients like inflammatory fats, added sugar, and refined grains, they’re usually low in fiber, protein, and micronutrients. Thus, they provide mostly empty calories.
- Don’t fear coffee
Despite some controversy over it, coffee is loaded with health benefits.
It’s rich in antioxidants, and some studies have linked coffee intake to longevity and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and numerous other illnesses (16, 17, 18, 19).
The most beneficial intake amount appears to be 3–4 cups per day, although pregnant people should limit or avoid it completely because it has been linked to low birth weight (18).
However, it’s best to consume coffee and any caffeine-based items in moderation. Excessive caffeine intake may lead to health issues like insomnia and heart palpitations. To enjoy coffee in a safe and healthy way, keep your intake to less than 4 cups per day and avoid high-calorie, high-sugar additives like sweetened creamer.
- Eat fatty fish
Fish is a great source of high-quality protein and healthy fat. This is particularly true of fatty fish, such as salmon, which is loaded with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and various other nutrients (20, 21).
Studies show that people who eat fish regularly have a lower risk for several conditions, including heart disease, dementia, and inflammatory bowel disease (22, 23, 24).
- Get enough sleep
The importance of getting enough quality sleep cannot be overstated.
Poor sleep can drive insulin resistance, can disrupt your appetite hormones, and reduce your physical and mental performance (25, 26, 27).
What’s more, poor sleep is one of the strongest individual risk factors for weight gain and obesity. People who do not get enough sleep tend to make food choices that are higher in fat, sugar, and calories, potentially leading to unwanted weight gain (28, 29).
- Feed your gut bacteria
The bacteria in your gut, collectively called the gut microbiota, are incredibly important for overall health.
A disruption in gut bacteria is linked to some chronic diseases, including obesity and a myriad of digestive problems (30, 31).
Good ways to improve gut health include eating probiotic foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, taking probiotic supplements — when indicated — and eating plenty of fiber. Notably, fiber serves as a prebiotic, or a food source for your gut bacteria (32, 33).
- Stay hydrated
Hydration is an important and often overlooked marker of health. Staying hydrated helps ensure that your body is functioning optimally and that your blood volume is sufficient (34).
Drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated, as it’s free of calories, sugar, and additives.
Although there’s no set amount that everyone needs per day, aim to drink enough so that your thirst is adequately quenched (35).
- Don’t eat heavily charred meats
Meat can be a nutritious and healthy part of your diet. It’s very high in protein and a rich source of nutrients (36).
However, problems occur when meat is charred or burnt. This charring can lead to the formation of harmful compounds that may increase your risk for certain cancers (37).
When you cook meat, try not to char or burn it. Additionally limit your consumption of red and processed meats like lunch meats and bacon as these are linked to overall cancer risk and colon cancer risk (38, 39, 40, 41).
- Avoid bright lights before sleep
When you’re exposed to bright lights — which contain blue light wavelengths — in the evening, it may disrupt your production of the sleep hormone melatonin (42).
Some ways to help reduce your blue light exposure is to wear blue light blocking glasses — especially if you use a computer or other digital screen for long periods of time — and to avoid digital screens for 30 minutes to an hour before going to bed (43).
This can help your body better produce melatonin naturally as evening progresses, helping you sleep better.
- Take vitamin D if you’re deficient
Most people do not get enough vitamin D. While these widespread vitamin D inadequacies are not imminently harmful, maintaining adequate vitamin D levels can help to optimize your health by improving bone strength, reducing symptoms of depression, strengthening your immune system, and lowering your risk for cancer (44, 45, 46, 47).
If you do not spend a lot of time in the sunlight, your vitamin D levels may be low.
If you have access, it’s a great idea to have your levels tested, so that you can correct your levels through vitamin D supplementation if necessary.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Vegetables and fruits are loaded with prebiotic fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, many of which have potent health effects.
Studies show that people who eat more vegetables and fruits tend to live longer and have a lower risk for heart disease, obesity, and other illnesses (48, 49).