Aging Gracefully: Eat and Move Your Way to Healthy

Last updated: 07-11-2020

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Aging Gracefully: Eat and Move Your Way to Healthy

Healthy heart. Strong mind. And enough strength and stamina to enjoy life.

You need some healthy eating tips for these terrific healthy aging goals! If you haven’t already, it’s time to fully embrace healthy living. Here’s how you can start – whether you’re in your 20s, 60s or any age.

I was in Daytona Beach a few weeks ago speaking at a fund raiser luncheon for the local chapter of the American Association of University Women. My topic was aging gracefully with diet and exercise. I covered heart and brain health and strategies to maintain or improve fitness. Your 5-4-3-2-1 Plan is a summary of that talk.

5: Aim to eat at least 5 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables daily.

Fruits and vegetables provide a variety of fibers, nutrients and phytonutrients. For example, green leafy vegetables, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and others give us lutein and zeathanthin to protect the brain and the eyes. These cousins to beta-carotene are the only carotenoids to make their way to the macula of the eye where they act as antioxidants and a light filter. Eating foods with these compounds is related to a decrease in age-related macular degeneration. Higher levels in the brain are associated with less cognitive decline in aging. Every vegetable and fruit offers something unique. Eat a variety!

Here are 6 easy ways to eat more vegetables.

And here’s some info about fruit and diabetes.

PS: 5 servings is the recommended minimum. More is better.

5: Take 5 minutes daily to plan your meals.

This one strategy will help you with all of your healthy eating tips! Scan your day to look for obstacles to healthy eating. If you’re planning to be out during lunchtime, for example, what’s your plan to eat a health-boosting lunch? Will you take food with you? Eat before you go? Stop at a restaurant? Take 5 minutes to make a plan.

Beans, peas and lentils are known as longevity foods. They’re good for the heart, blood sugar, cholesterol levels and more. They give us fibers that are important to our gut microbiome too. Those 3 pounds of gut bacteria lunch on these and other fibers in order to thrive and do their magic.

Here’s how to throw a dinner party for your gut bacteria.

In general, various colors indicate different types of health-shielding phytonutrients. Besides variety is always a good thing when it comes to fruits and veggies. Don’t forget that white and brown are colors too. Cauliflower, apples, mushrooms, onions, figs and others are loaded with nutrition even though they don’t fit so nicely on the rainbow.

3: Include moderate amounts of protein in each of your 3 meals daily.

Instead of skimping on protein at breakfast and lunch and piling it on at dinner, spread your protein out over the day. Protein stimulates muscle synthesis, and it takes about 30 grams of protein for maximal stimulation. As we age, we tend to lose muscle mass – about 3 – 8% per decade after age 30. By eating enough protein at each of your three meals, you’ll have the stimulation of muscle synthesis more often. For some meal ideas from my colleague Christine Rosenbloom, check out Healthy Aging Tips: Food & Fitness After Fifty.

3: Include a small serving of whole grains or legumes in each of your 3 meals daily.

Here’s more fiber for those gut microbes, to help in the bathroom, to protect you from heart disease and colon cancer and a whole lot more. And fiber isn’t the only thing here. These foods are nutrient treasure troves.

I know you need this: 12 delicious ways to eat more beans.

Find out if you’re getting the variety of fibers you need.

Plus, don’t freak out over refined grains. Just ask yourself if you’re eating them in a health-boosting way. No, refined grains in the way of toaster pastries (a major pet peeve of mine), donuts and cheesy crackers aren’t so wholesome. But bread smeared with avocado and diced tomato is. So is a small serving of pasta loaded with veggies and some shrimp. A study in Advances in Nutrition suggests that refined grains as a group isn’t associated with chronic disease, so you should feel okay about including some in your healthy diet. Again, that’s staple products like bread and pasta – not indulgent products like cakes and brownies. And share them with your family. Because white bread and pasta are fortified with the B vitamin folic acid, they help to prevent serious birth defects.Researchers found that since mandatory folic acid fortification, about 1,300 babies are born each year without neural tube defects who would have likely been affected otherwise.

Research suggests that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish help decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats, slow the progression of plaque in the arteries, improve triglyceride levels, and prevent or slow the progression of cognitive decline during aging. Good choices include salmon, trout, bluefish, herring, sardines, halibut and tuna.

2: Break up prolonged sitting with 2 brief movement breaks per hour.

Too much sitting is tied to early death in 14 diseases including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. To prevent diabetes or to manage it, the American Diabetes Association recommends breaking up long periods of sitting with 3-minute breaks every half hour. Get creative: do push ups against the wall, lunge, squat, walk, do anything!

Don’t be an active couch potato – or a regular couch potato either.Get out of that chair!

Short sleeping makes us cranky, less focused on healthy eating, and less energized for food prep and exercise. Plus, it has a more direct link to poor health. Sleeping too little makes the body less sensitive to the effects of insulin. And it’s linked to higher risks for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and weight gain.

1: Engage in at least one bout of planned exercise daily.

Strength training is important to help you stay independent during aging, and by maintaining your muscle mass, you can minimize the typical drop in metabolic rate that occurs with each birthday. Both strength training and cardiovascular exercise are critical for fitness and for the prevention of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, many types of cancer and more.

Here’s what you need to know about exercise and weight loss.

A lot more could be added here, but this is a good start. For more regular posts about aging healthfully, visit Christine Rosenbloom’s blog. And remember, these basic healthy eating tips aren’t age-specific. They’re good for all of us!

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