There’s never been a better time to be health-conscious. Each year brings us new ways to be healthy and content, and 2015 was no different.
We teamed up with SmartyPants Vitamins to bring you 10 things that happened this year that will make the world in 2016 a better place. We can't wait to see what great things happen in wellness next year!
1. The FDA's new rules will make food safer for consumers.
There are so many great changes, it’s hard to know where to begin. Food companies will be tasked with preventing outbreaks before they start, the Produce Safety Rule will scrutinize farming methods, and there will be even more oversight on imported foods. All this adds up to consumers being able to shop with more confidence that their food is safe.
2. Fast-casual restaurants took big steps to make their food healthier.
We get it. Sometimes life’s chaos dictates that food prep takes a back seat to convenience. That’s why it’s great to see fast food restaurants and huge food companies make strides toward improving the reputations of their respective industries. Chipotle removed all GMOs, Panera took out 150 artificial additives, Kraft nixed artificial coloring in its iconic mac and cheese, and General Mills will be eliminating all artificial flavors and colors from its cereals.
3. SeaWorld is (partially) eliminating killer whale shows.
Anything that improves the life of a living creature is great in our book, so we stood and applauded when SeaWorld finally announced it would eliminate its killer whale shows at its San Diego location. While the park will still feature the majestic mammals, they’ll be part of a new “orca experience” by 2017. But the shows will continue at SeaWorld’s San Antonio and Orlando locations. Baby steps, we suppose.
4. The World Health Organization cracked down on carnivores.
Carnivores were worried in October when the WHO report on meat was released, telling the world that processed and red meats are linked to cancer. But after the initial furor died down, we all learned that there are safe levels of meat that can be consumed, provided it’s part of a balanced diet. Bottom line: Enjoy the occasional steak, but be sure you’ve got plenty of vegetables on the side.
5. NASA learned a little more about Pluto.
Everyone’s favorite dwarf/not-a-real planet was a media headliner in 2015. Nearly a decade after NASA launched New Horizons toward tiny Pluto (which is about 40 times farther from the sun than we are), it finally got within distance to begin gathering information. And this is an exciting development: We could learn more about our atmospheric structure, how Earth formed, where our water came from, and how life began.
6. The FDA is finally getting serious about sugar.
Sugar. Tastes so good! But not so good for you. That’s why the recommendation by the FDA back in July that no more than 10 percent of our caloric intake comes from the sweet stuff is a good guideline. The problem, of course, is that added sugar is everywhere: pasta sauce, crackers, cereal — it’s in almost all processed foods, not just the usual suspects (cake, pie, ice cream, etc.). But the good news is that “added” is the key word. Natural sugar in fruit isn’t part of the FDA’s guideline, so you can still enjoy a fruit salad when your sweet tooth beckons.
And if you do consume sugars, try to get them in foods that also deliver a good nutritional bang for your buck.
7. We're all figuring out how to get fit ... fast.
Often called HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts, these short, hard bursts of exercise have become the go-to training regimen of the busiest among us. Basically, HIIT involves short bursts of lung-burning exercise, followed by a short rest. You’ll burn 500 to 1,000 calories per hour, and because no movement is longer than 45 seconds or so, you’ll keep boredom at arm’s length.
8. We can measure our fitness — and see results.
Fitbit, Apple Watch, Jawbone — you’ve heard of them; maybe you own one. These little wonders are great for self-health monitoring, tracking everything from how many steps you take in a day to how much sleep you’re getting to round-the-clock heart-rate monitoring. If you see you’ve only taken 7,000 steps late in the day (10,000 is usually the goal for most folks), you’re more likely to take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk to dinner instead of driving.
9. It's OK to eat fat again.
For decades, we’d all been fed the mantra from medical experts that fat in food makes us fat and contributes to heart disease. But no more: Last year, the journal Annals of Internal Medicine published a lengthy analysis showing that there’s just no evidence that saturated fat contributes to heart problems, even going so far as to suggest that a lack of it might be damaging. All those low-fat foods are hyper-processed foods, so go back to the real stuff. You’ll also feel full more quickly, thus avoiding overeating.
10. Facebook created tools and resources for suicide prevention.
The social media megasite has partnered with Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Save.org, and Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention to assist Facebook users in helping friends who are hinting at suicide online. Users will now have the options of contacting the friend who made the post, contacting another friend for support, or calling a suicide helpline. Facebook will also read the post. If it deems the post concerning, it will automatically offer helpful, supportive pop-ups on the person’s screen.
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