The 40 Biggest Strides
Photography by: Jonathan Skow
11 Vegging out is widely accepted Once dismissed as a diet only hippies living on communes would embrace, vegetarianism has gained much greater acceptance since Francis Moore Lappe endorsed meatless eating in Diet for a Small Planet in 1971. World-class meat-free restaurants, such as Greens in San Francisco and Candle 79 in New York City, have proved that going veg doesn’t mean forgoing gourmet cuisine. And thanks to vegetarians’ lower rates of heart disease, type II diabetes and cancer, the diet is now endorsed as a healthful one by the American Dietetic Association.
12 Muckraking makes waves For the first time, documentaries about our health, environment and the questionable policies and habits that put them at risk are reaching a broad audience—and changing the way we think, eat and live. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth brought the issue of global warming to the forefront of national concern. Films like Super Size Me, Forks Over Knives and Food Inc. exposed the food we eat for what it really is. These documentaries aren’t just out there—they’re collecting Oscar nominations. We want this information and we’re using it to live better, so keep ’em coming, Hollywood.
13 Natural beauty becomes big business We’re becoming increasingly better-informed consumers as we learn about the toxins we’re exposed to through the air we breathe, the food we eat and the products we slather on our bodies. And when we want more (or less) of something in a product, personal care companies are often quick to comply, says Siobhan O’Connor, author of No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics (Da Capo). That’s why big guns like Redken, Garnier, L’Oreal and Estée Lauder have all launched new, eco-friendlier products (and packaging!). And the little companies whose nontoxic personal care items used to be our only options are thriving.
14 The USDA (finally) jumps on the organic bandwagon The debut of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) “organic” label in 1990 drastically changed the way food is perceived and produced. “The introduction of this label lifted the veil off our food supply,” says Beth Reardon, M.S., R.D., director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C. “This was one of the first steps in making the public more accountable for its health, while making food manufacturers more accountable for the products they sell.” The result? A more informed consumer who demands quality products that are better for everyone.
15 Antioxidants are all the rage We keep hearing about these free-radical fighters for good reason: They’ve been proven to reduce your risk for cancer and heart disease and to slow the aging process. What’s more, science has made it easier than ever to choose the foods that will give you the most antioxidant bang for your buck. The top picks on the Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) list may surprise you:
BEANS Red beans are No. 1 on the ORAC list, with kidney, pinto and black beans not far behind. All are loaded with phenols, which help lower cholesterol and reduce your risk for breast cancer. BERRIES Wild blueberries are in second place on the list, with blackberries, cranberries and strawberries all in the top 15.
ARTICHOKES Coming in at No. 7, artichokes have more antioxidants than any other vegetable.
APPLES Red delicious, granny smith and gala make the top 20. Tip: Don’t peel ’em! Polyphenol levels are five times higher in the skin.
RUSSET POTATOES: At No. 17 on the ORAC list, white potatoes beat out their seemingly more nutritious sister, the sweet potato.
16 Carnivores get a conscience If we started to get the message about the importance of organically grown food in the 1990s, the new millennium has taught us about the plight of conventionally raised animals—and the negative impact raising and eating them has on the environment and our health. This awareness has motivated us to demand grassfed beef, free-range chicken, sustainable seafood and meat from humanely raised animals. As a result, they’re becoming more widely available.
17 We get back to the core Rather than crunch our way toward washboard abs, we now know that whittling a toned middle means targeting our back, pelvis and hips in addition to those obliques and rectus abdominus muscles. And we’re doing more activities, like Pilates and yoga, that target all of the muscles of the core.
18 Biking is cool again Everywhere you look, signs of bike culture are evident. Bike racks abound, hipsters show off tricks on their single speeds, and music legend David Byrne has written a great book, Bicycle Diaries, touting the importance of a bike-friendly world. Finally, urban planners are getting wise to the trend; even Los Angeles, land of a trillion cars, is scheduled to create more than 1,500 miles of interconnected bikeways. Feeling inspired to ride? See if there’s a bicycle kitchen in your area: These nonprofit shops encourage local cycling through workshops and classes on riding and mechanics. Or if you’re a little more diehard, check out New Belgium Brewing Company’s Tour de Fat, a beer and bike festival that challenges people to trade in their cars for bikes—for good!
19 It’s easier than ever to get your om on There was a time when yoga conjured images of gurus twisting into pretzel positions. Then, Swami Satchidananda taught the crowd to chant “om” at Woodstock in 1969, Lilias Folan (the “Julia Child of Yoga”) took to the PBS airwaves in 1972 and a new popular movement was born. Now, it’s estimated that 15 million Americans practice yoga, and various types of classes—from Iyengar to Bikram to Ashtanga—are available in everyone’s neighborhood. The reason for the escalation, say yoga teachers, is beautifully simple: This ancient practice works. Yoga has been proven to ease back pain, induce deep relaxation and get your butt in shape, among many other health and happiness boosters.
20 Green architecture grows More buildings, both residential and commercial, are being constructed with Mother Nature in mind. Eco-friendly materials are in high demand, and LEED certification provides a clear set of metrics for “green” architects to follow. What’s more, netzero communities—complete with geothermal climate control and plug-in stations for electric cars—are popping up at a record pace.