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Ten healthy food & lifestyle swaps you'll hardly notice

Jane Murphy / 15 May 2015

A few simple diet and lifestyle swaps can make a real difference to your health and wellbeing – and some of them may well surprise you.

Pot of tea
Swap soft drinks for unsweetened tea or coffee to cut he risk of diabetes

1. Swap tinned tuna for fresh

The reason? Unlike fresh tuna, tinned tuna doesn't count as oily fish because most of the health-boosting long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are removed by the canning process. So opt for fresh tuna instead. Or if you want to stock up your storecupboard, choose canned sardines, salmon or pilchards – all of which do contain a high level of omega-3s.

Fin dining ten reasons to eat more fish

2. Swap a soft drink for a nice cuppa

The reason? Drinking unsweetened tea or coffee – or a glass of water – in place of a sugary soft drink or sweetened milk drink each day can cut risk of type two diabetes by up to 25 per cent, according to a new UK study published in the journal Diabetologia.

3. Swap your curved glass for a straight one

The reason? The speed at which we drink can be heavily influenced by the shape of the glass, says new research from the University of Bristol. 'It seems it's more difficult to tell how much you're drinking from a curved glass,' explains the study's co-author David Troy. Volume markings also play a key role in slowing drinkers down: people who drank from a marked curved glass took an average 1.2 minutes longer to down 285ml beer than those who drank from an unmarked glass.

Are you drinking more alcohol than you think? Find out with our guide

4. Swap your afternoon biscuit for berries

The reason? Yes, of course a handful of vitamin-packed berries is better for you than a sugary snack. But that's not the only reason to make the substitute: it can also ensure you don't overeat later. Eating strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries with the same energy content as your usual afternoon snack can reduce the amount of calories consumed at the next meal by up to 20 per cent, says a study at Loughborough University.

Eat the rainbow: how colourful foods benefit our health

5. Swap fresh tomatoes for tinned

The reason? Tinned tomatoes are a much better source of lycopene than fresh varieties. This is because the canning process breaks down the tough cell walls, making it easier to absorb. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that's been found to protect against certain cancers and heart disease. It may also boost brain function and delay signs of skin-ageing.

Read our guide to understanding antioxidants

6. Swap your large plate for a smaller one

The reason? Larger plates can make a serving of food appear smaller than it really is – which means we're more likely to consume it all, even when we're full-up. That's according to researchers at Cornell University in the US, who have since instigated the 'Small Plate Movement' to encourage people to downsize their dinner plates to nine to 10 inches.

7. Swap sitting down for standing up

The reason? We all know about the importance of regular exercise. But even when you're on the phone at home, standing instead of sitting can make a big difference to your health. When you sit, the enzymes that help break down fat drop by 90 per cent. Standing also prevents the repetitive stress and muscle degeneration caused by long periods of sitting.

8. Replace your lie-in with a productive morning

The reason? Regularly sleeping for more than eight hours may significantly increase risk of stroke, according to a recent study from Cambridge University. The link was found to be particularly strong for people over the age of 63. An out-of-the-ordinary lie-in can also be enough to trigger a headache – so get up and get going instead!

9. Swap orange juice for an orange

The reason? Fruit juice contains a lot less fibre than a whole fruit. The crushing process also releases the fruit sugars, which can damage your teeth. And remember, orange juice only counts as one of your five-a-day – no matter how much of it you drink.

10. Saying 'yes' for saying 'no'

The reason? We're not suggesting you never agree to anything again, obviously. But feeling obliged to say 'yes' to every request or invitation that comes your way can send your stress levels sky-high. So why do it? One explanation is that we all tend to think we have more time available to us than we actually do, particularly when we're committing to something that's a little way off, say US researchers. We forget about the everyday annoyances and delays that are just as likely to hinder us tomorrow as they are today.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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