These days, we’re all about learning how to DIY just about everything. The allure of finding and trying new methods for widely accepted practices in hopes of getting better or faster results is real. So, it’s no wonder we’re totally into biohacking, which basically refers to the practice of studying our diet and lifestyle and making changes to achieve optimal health and overall well-being.
What is Biohacking?
While some biohacking methods are very simple and might sound quite familiar—like meditation, intermittent fasting, and light therapy—some are extreme and meant to alter the biology of the body in order to enhance its productivity and performance level.
Some people will even use expensive and unproven technology to alter their body chemistry, with goals like living forever (or, perhaps to 150!), adding enhancements like night vision or the ability to pay for coffee with a flick of their wrist.
For most of us, though, we just want simple and low-cost ways to improve our biology for better quality of life and health, right? Here are a few biohacks you can try without breaking the bank or implanting technology under your skin.
5 Low-Budget Biohacks to Try
1. Eliminate refined sugar.
You may already be aware that sugar is a leading cause of inflammation, which is the root cause of almost every condition and disease. Yet, the typical American adult consumes about 60 pounds of added sugar each year, or 77 grams of supplemental sugar (nearly ½ cup!) each day, according to the American Heart Association. That’s not doing our hearts—or our waistlines or brains—any favors.
Human studies confirm the link between added sugar and higher inflammatory markers. Excess sugar consumption has been associated with heart disease, obesity, dementia, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and many more wellness woes.
Knowing all of the above, cutting out refined sugar seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? So, why are we still eating this stuff, knowing it’s not so great for our health?
While scientists and nutrition experts have argued about this for some time, there’s evidence that eating sugar may cause symptoms similar to addiction. This explains why it’s so difficult for many people to stop.
While not the easiest biohack on the list, it’s sure to have a positive impact on your health. Plus, it’s definitely not going to cost you any more to eliminate this sweet ingredient. It may even save you money in the long run.
2. Eat veggies multiple times a day.
Eating lots of vegetables isn’t a new recommendation for improving your health. This has always been on the list of top things to do to get the nutrients your body needs to thrive. Veggies contain multiple antioxidants that fight inflammation in your body. So, the more vegetables you can add to your plate at every meal, the better.
But for some reason, there is this misconception that making healthier food choices is more expensive than eating quick and less nutritious meals. Sure, you can spend a lot of money on fresh, organic vegetables that go to waste after sitting in your fridge for too long, but you don’t always have to buy fresh produce. Organic frozen veggies can be even more nutritious than fresh ones.
So, next time you’re at the grocery store, why not add a mix of your favorite fresh and frozen veggies to your cart, and start plotting how to incorporate them into your meals for the week? Challenge yourself and see how many different recipes you can come up with using the same vegetables. You may be surprised by how many fun and healthy recipes there are out there.
3. Eat grass-fed beef (and butter) and low-mercury, high in omega-3 fish.
So, what’s the deal with grass-fed and finished beef, anyway? What’s the difference between it and standard beef? Well, for starters, did you know that grass-fed beef contains up to five times as much omega-3 as grain-fed beef? Plus, it contains about twice as much CLA (conjugated linoleic acid)—a fatty acid associated with several health benefits—as its grain-fed bovine brethren.
It shouldn’t be surprising then that grass-fed butter offers some added health benefits, too. It contains higher amounts of beta carotene—a potent antioxidant that’s been linked to a reduced risk of several chronic diseases—than regular butter.
Again, some people automatically assume that eating grass-fed beef and grass-fed butter is going to be way more expensive. If you eat a lot of meat, then it might be, but one way to cut down on the expense of grass-fed meat is to eat less meat in general (but better quality). Then replace half of your typical meat intake with plant protein (like mushrooms and legumes).
When it comes to fish, there’s actually no need to buy fresh wild salmon—unless you want to, on occasion—as canned versions are much less expensive. You can also replace wild salmon with canned sardines, which are high in omega-3s, low in mercury, and highly affordable.
4. Eat pastured eggs.
All eggs are packed with important nutrients like protein, vitamin D, and choline, a compound essential for brain health. Eggs are affordable and their nutritional value can easily be taken up a notch by buying pasture-raised.
In addition to being lower in calories and total fat, pasture-raised foods have higher levels of vitamins and a healthier balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats than conventional meat and dairy products. Specifically, eggs from poultry raised on pasture have 10% less fat, 40% more vitamin A, and 400% more omega-3s.
In an ideal scenario, you’d buy your eggs straight from a local farmer whom you’ve verified is organic (either certified or simply doesn’t use pesticides on their land) and raises chickens outside, rotating them to graze on pasture, with indoor access when they need it. These happy chickens will lay the most nutritious eggs. (If you’ve ever seen the deep, orangey yolks, you get it.)
If you don’t have access to pasture-raised eggs at the supermarket, your best bet is to buy eggs that are stamped with both USDA Organic and a seal related to animal welfare—either Animal Welfare Approved or Certified Humane.
5. Try intermittent fasting.
Like any approach to making dietary changes, intermittent fasting has its pros and cons and works better for some than for others. However, there is much research that suggests it helps with weight loss, reducing inflammation in the body, and may even increase lifespan.
There are a couple of popular approaches to intermittent fasting. One approach is where you eat during an eight-hour window and then fast for 16 hours. The second is where you eat as you normally would for five days of the week and restrict your calories significantly (500-600) for the other two days. In either case, it’s important to ensure that you’re eating enough food and eating the right foods while following this diet pattern to avoid potential risks like nutrient deficiencies, disordered eating and prolonged stress.