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Blog: Life Fitness
The Menu for Staying Young!

One of the goals of healthy aging along with regular exercise, avoiding toxic substances and reducing stress should be clean, healthy eating.  Eating well has a powerful effect on how you age and the evidence to support this is mounting.

Two of the biggest devils of aging are oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.  The first is caused by free radicals which are metabolic waste products that damage the integrity of our cells.  Oxidative stress can outweigh our bodies' ability to defend against them, especially as we age.  Oxidative stress can activate the immune system which is good in the short term. However, inflammation, which is a result of this process can be harmful if it is prolonged.  It can lead to disease which explains, in part, why chronic illnesses like Alzheimer's and arthritis increase over the years. 

Defeating these disease causing devils is possible just by eating clean and healthy.  The antioxidants in foods combat oxidative stress and inflammation.  So pick up your fork and launch your own aging attack!

The Mediterranean peoples (countries in Europe that border the Mediterranean Sea) and the Okinawans of Japan provide a good example.  Their diets consist of generous amounts of fruits, vegetables, and legumes; they limit dairy and red meat and eat healthy fats.  They tend to live longer and have a lower risk of conditions like heart disease and dementia.  (Okinawans have an average life expectancy of 81 the highest on the planet!)

Interestingly, no particular ingredient stands out in these diets it is the pattern of eating that appears to make the difference.  Here are 5 eating habits that form the foundation for a healthy diet:

  1. Eat from the plant rainbow.  Fruits and vegetables contain a wide range of healthy antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that increase the chances you will age healthfully.  Evidence suggests that people with diets high in plants enjoy a lower risk or heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Eat a variety of colors approximately 5 to 9 daily servings of produce.
  2. Consume healthy fats.  Saturated and trans fats (found in processed foods and margarine) increase the chances of cardiovascular disease.  Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flaxseed, and walnuts protect the heart and brain.  This benefit may be associated with the anti-inflammatory effects of these fats.  Both the Okinawans and Mediterranean diets contain high levels of omega-3s. 
  3. Avoid sugar.  White carbohydrates (baked goods, white rice, potatoes and bread) score high on the Glycemic Index (GI), which is a rank of foods based on how quickly they make blood sugar rise.  High GI foods get quickly digested and converted to sugar by the body, which triggers insulin release which in turn ups the risk of diabetes and other age related conditions.  Sugars can also cause chemical reactions which promote inflammation. Avoid white flour, sugar, crackers, and pretzels and choose brown rice, oatmeal, barley and rye which have a lower GI score. 
  4. Go fresh.  Processed foods have no nutritional value and are often high in fat and calories.  Processed foods can also trigger inflammation.   Choose locally grown and in season foods which retain their nutrients.
  5. Eat mindfully.  When it comes to the menu for staying young, you need to remember how to eat as well as what to eat.  Take your time and enjoy your food.  Eating mindfully also means noticing when you feel full.  End your meal just slightly before that.  Traditionally, Okinawans end their meal according to hara hachi bu which means "at 80 percent full."

Start small, but start.  Putting healthy food choices on the menu will insure you keep your life in motion and age gracefully as well.

posted on: 2/27/2009 10:28:23 AM by Robin Stephens
category: Health

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Life Fitness

by Robin Stephens

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