We all know how it goes: Ask a busy woman to take on just one more thing and she'll sooner slug you then submit to your suggestions.
We're the same way, which is why we went looking for the simplest and quickest science-backed ways to boost your health. And we set the bar high. We wanted tricks that dramatically improve your health and wellbeing with very little effort on your part—and we found them.
Here, ways to reduce your diabetes risk, calm your rattled nerves, and even help you lose weight—all of which you can do quicker than you can say, "I can't."
Call on Your Inner Child to Calm Nerves
"Feelings of having too much to do and not enough time to do it can exact a toll on health and wellbeing," says Melanie Rudd, PhD candidate at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. Her solution? Look at something that inspires awe. Her findings, which will appear in the journal Psychological Science, reveal that people who viewed 60-second videos that included awe-inspiring views (astronauts in space, whales breaching and gorgeous waterfalls) felt less time-crunched and less impatient afterward. Why? "Experiencing feelings of awe can alter people's perceptions of time," says Rudd.
It works best if you feel you've encountered something vast—perhaps in number, size, complexity, or scope. Our suggestions? Corny as they are, you can't go wrong with a clip of a flash mob. If that's not your thing, try some videos of birds in migration, your favorite natural setting, or something—anything!—to do with outer space.
Change the Channel to Lose Weight
If you enjoy watching chefs whip up filet mignon with scalloped potatoes in your spare time, you might want to reconsider. Watching cooking shows may take a toll on your waistline, according to a study from the University of Southern California (USC).
"Our study showed that when people saw pictures of highly appetizing foods, the areas of the brain that regulate appetite and cravings lit up. In addition, the participants' hunger ratings also increased," says Dr. Kathleen Page, assistant professor of medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine's division of endocrinology.
If you're a fan of the Food Network (and who isn't, frankly), Dr. Page recommends not watching on an empty stomach. If you're tempted to nosh, turn off the tube and pick something healthy.
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Think About Wine to Relax
The relaxed feeling you expect from a glass of wine may have as much to do with the power of suggestion as the alcohol itself, say researchers at the Victoria University of Wellington and Harvard Medical School. This works similarly to the placebo effect, say researchers Maryanne Garry and Robert Michael, who found that suggestion has a powerful and pervasive effect on our lives. Once you anticipate a specific outcome will occur, your subsequent thoughts and behaviors will actually help to make that outcome occur, their research suggests.
The next time you're in a stressful situation, picture yourself kicking back with a chilled glass of pinot blanc. (Of course, if you go home after work and make it a reality, that works, too.)
Use Simple Seasonings to Boost Iron
Why it works: Adding a vitamin-C rich food or juice with an iron-containing food boosts the amount of iron your body absorbs, says Dr. Amy Goodson, board certified specialist in sport dietetics and the Dallas Cowboys Sports Dietitian. "Vitamin C binds to iron, increasing the stability and thus solubility of iron in your [digestive tract] when eaten together at the same meal."
Citrus aside, try these: Add bell peppers and spinach to an omelet; eat peanut butter on toast with strawberry slices; stir lean ground beef into tomato sauce; and season lean beef dishes with fresh thyme and parsley.
Try Easy Swaps to Speed Fat Loss
Chili with beans, grapefruit and long-grain brown rice may help you keep off weight better than a low-carb diet, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Low-glycemic foods are digested slowly and, therefore, do not create a surge of blood sugar after a meal. They're also more effective at burning calories after weight loss, according to the study.
"A very low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet may be helpful in facilitating weight loss [in the short term], but it is stressful to the body, is pro-inflammatory, and hence may speed aging," says Dr. Dan Nadeau, endocrinologist and author of The Color Code, A Revolutionary Eating Plan for Optimum Health.
For weight loss choose a diet rich in whole foods, especially those with a lower glycemic index, says Nadeau. Low glycemic foods include peanuts, grapefruit, skim milk, beans and raw apples.
Go for Natural Beauty to Cut Your Diabetes Risk
Your hairspray may be putting you at a higher risk for diabetes, says a new study out of Brigham and Women's Hospital's Division of Women's Health.
The study links a chemical found in beauty products to an increased risk of diabetes. Exposure to phthalates, found in products including nail polish, hair spray, soap, shampoo, and some fragrances was associated with blood sugar and insulin resistance.
"The study results add to a growing body of evidence that environmental chemicals can affect fat metabolism and insulin resistance, which may contribute to obesity and type 2 diabetes," says Johanna Congleton, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit health watchdog. Chemicals such as these can act as "obesogens," which may contribute to obesity by affecting fat metabolism and body weight, says Congleton.
The next time you're reloading on beauty products, steer clear of phthalates by looking for cosmetics and beauty products labeled phthalate free.
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Snack on an Apple to Burn More Fat
Dr. Mom was right: An apple a day is a health trick that works. A new study found that a chemical called ursolic acid in apple peel may protect against obesity. Mice fed a high-fat diet that included ursolic acid developed more muscle mass and more calorie-burning brown fat than mice eating the same diet without ursolic acid.
People often focus on high-protein foods to build muscle and avoid foods with carbohydrates to stay lean, says Nadeau. "It turns out this approach may be counterproductive. Ursolic acid at doses equivalent to that found in one or two apples per day protects against diet-induced obesity, pre-diabetes and fatty liver disease." It works by stimulating a protein that blocks muscle breakdown and stimulates muscle growth, explains Nadeau.
In addition to apples, you'll also find ursolic acid in basil, cranberries, peppermint, rosemary, lavender, oregano, thyme, and prunes.
Stock White Veggies to Slash Heart Risk
Eating fruits and vegetables with white flesh, such as pears, apples, bananas, cauliflower and cucumber (potatoes were classified differently) may protect against stroke, according to a new Dutch study published in the journal Stroke.
The color of a fruit or vegetable's edible portion consists of pigmented compounds containing flavonoids and other antioxidants that link to health benefits. The researchers found a nine percent reduced stroke risk associated with an increased intake of white-fleshed fruit and vegetables.
Choose white fleshed produce such as cauliflower, pears, apples and bananas. These fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and also contain quercetin, an antioxidant that helps decrease inflammation, says Goodson.
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