Importance of A Balanced Diet
We have all been told if we eat healthy, we will live longer. For good reason. A Johns Hopkins-led Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis that tracked more than 6,000 people ages 44 to 84 for over seven years, found that those who made good-for-you lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet, extended their life expectancy.
Eating healthier can be a relatively simple process, such as substituting spices and herbs for salt to add flavor to foods, drinking water instead of sugary drinks, or avoiding unhealthy processed snacks in favor of sliced fresh fruits and vegetables.
Lifestyle modifications, including changes in your diet, are important at any age, but even more so as we get older. According to the AARP, the human body’s ability to absorb minerals and nutrients begins to decline after the age of 50, making it paramount to stick to a properly regimented nutrition plan.
Malnutrition alone poses the dangers of a weakened immune system, muscle fatigue, and decreased bone mass, leaving seniors more prone to falls and injuries. Good nutrition helps prevent these ailments, while increasing energy, building up resistance to stroke, improving mood and memory and even reducing certain cancer risks.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that of “702,308 adult deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, 318,656 (45%) were associated with inadequate consumption of certain foods and nutrients widely considered vital for healthy living, and overconsumption of other foods that are not.”
According to choosemyplate.gov, there are some simple changes you can make to your diet to start taking better control of your health and nutrition:
Use spinach and romaine as an alternative to iceberg lettuce and consume broccoli, sweet potatoes, or carrots with meals.
Drink three cups of fat free or low-fat milk throughout the day.
If you have trouble with milk, try yogurts, hard cheese or lactose-free foods.
Consume foods high in B-12, such as a fortified cereal. Eat lean meats for protein, as well as eggs, beans and nuts. Consume whole grains for fiber, such as quinoa, barley, oats and brown or black rice.
Review your dietary needs frequently with your primary care physician and take advantage of health screenings and blood tests for possible deficiencies in nutrients that are essential to a healthy and active lifestyle (including vitamins D and E, B-12, Omega 3’s, Zinc and Magnesium).
Your PCP can also help you find the right registered dietitian to help develop the right nutritional plan for you. Additionally, AARP has a great collection of recipes at recipes.aarp.org. After all, healthy meals should also be tasty ones. Bon appétit!