January is the perfect time for a mind-body reboot.  Dietitian Laura Tilt talks five healthy habits for the New Year - starvation diets and spiralising not required.

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Detoxing the hype

Despite a lack of scientific evidence, there’s something a little bit tempting about the word detox; probably because it conjures up images of glowing skin, lean limbs and relentless energy - and who doesn’t want some of that?

The unfortunate truth is that no amount of special supplements or lemon cayenne drinks has ever been proven to detox your body (that’s the job of your liver and kidneys) but there are some simple habits you can adopt that will help you look and feel better in a short space of time.

Start with H2O

If you commit to one thing this January, make it drinking more water. Not only will this hydrate your skin (improving plumpness and reducing fine lines), it can knock fatigue on the head – the number one complaint that UK adults report to GPs. In one study from the University of California, upping water intake from 1 to 2.5 litres a day reduced fatigue and sleepiness in healthy adults. Researchers have also found a link between dehydration and being overweight – and that’s a good enough reason to drink up.

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Make half your plate vegetables

Forget costly superfoods powders, fruit and vegetables are your best defence against environmental skin damage, because the antioxidants they contain help to neutralise free radicals – compounds that cause cell damage. Green leafy vegetables also contain nutrients that support the liver’s job of detoxification. Last year researchers found berries, apples, pears, cauliflower and cruciferous and green leafy vegetables were the most likely to prevent weight gain because they contain lots of filling fibre, and few calories.

Go dry – at least for 28 days

Yes alcohol is enjoyable, but the effects on your health are less pleasant. Happily, you can see improvements in as little as a month of abstinence. Last year, a small study led by a team at New Scientist followed 10 staff members (who considered themselves normal drinkers) as they stopped drinking alcohol for a month. After 28 days, every person had measurement improvements in their liver fat, cholesterol levels and blood sugar. Sleep quality rose by 10 per cent and concentration levels by around 20% - and they each lost an average of 1.5 kilos.

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Ditch the white stuff

First things first – carbs aren’t inherently bad, but your choice of carbs matters. Refined carbohydrates like white bread, biscuits, sugar, instant rice and noodles and pancakes have their fibre stripped out – so they are quickly absorbed and digested, which can send energy levels on a roller coaster. They’re also less filling, which means you’re more likely to over consume them.

Workout first thing in the AM

This isn’t about your diet, but the knock on effects can actually benefit the way your eat – and sleep. Researchers have found that exercising in the morning improves circadian rhythms (which control our sleep wake cycles), helping improve sleep patterns. Studies also show that morning workouts can reduce cravings for junk food, making healthy intentions easier.

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Laura Tilt MSc, RD, is an experienced dietitian and health writer who believes in the power of food to improve health.

She’s seriously passionate about helping people understand the science between the food they eat, and their physical and mental well being.
www.tiltnutrition.co.uk @nutritilty