You want me to stop drinking sweet tea! What? While old dogs can learn new tricks, it’s not always easy. Habits and tastes are hard to change. There is strong scientific evidence, however, that little tweaks to your lifestyle can lead to a healthier lifestyle. Reducing sugar intake while increasing fiber and moving more can go a long way to preventing health troubles like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer. If you have young children, why not take this opportunity during their early years to cultivate a love for nutritious foods and active living? Setting that standard will be good motivation for you to live well too.

To borrow and adapt a well-known phrase, your body is a temple. Honor it by moving more and enjoying foods like beans, whole grains, whole vegetables and whole fruits. These foods help prevent a steep decline into old age. By the way, vegetable and fruit juices including smoothies don’t count as healthy because they are stripped of their fibrous quality. Also, many juices contain as much sugar as soft drinks. It’s better to create your own flavored water with fresh fruit. Watch out for cereals and flavored yogurt, too. Mark special occasions with natural sweets–clementines, grapes, watermelon, and freshly popped, not microwaved, popcorn.

Be especially aware that sugar, an addictive and cheap preservative, has sixty-one different names and is hidden in a lot of the processed foods we eat. When possible, compare labels and opt for little to no added sugar.

The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that one-third of the most common cancers in the US could be prevented if we ate better foods and moved more. Why not start forming good habits today? It’s not too late or too early to do the right thing.

For more information, visit VCU Massey Cancer Research & Resource Center’s Facebook page and to see a schedule of Living Well programs in Danville.

Photo caption of different labels from beans: Notice the different ingredients in these three labels from canned beans. The fewer ingredients usually indicates the healthier option and, in this case, the one without added sugar.

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