Falling leaves and changing your diet for healthy aging

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What you eat and drink can help you live healthier and longer.

Like leaves you should pick them up now so you don’t slip and fall when winter comes. The same idea comes to almost all of our eating.

Let the healthy habits lift you up now and hold you up all winter. Thoughtful, careful eating has rewards in good health and longevity. Read this dietary information and hopefully make the healthy food choices. 

Eating right can help protect your health. Studies show that even later in life, if you make changes for healthy eating it can still make a difference.

The study participants who improved the quality of their diets over time by eating more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and fish and consuming fewer red and processed meats and sugary beverages significantly reduced their risk of premature death.

Mediterranean-style diet and the DASH diet pull these habits forward. 

Your entire diet, including what you eat and drink and how much you eat and drink, is important for achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight, obtaining adequate nutrients, and reducing the risk of chronic disease. A healthy eating pattern includes: 

• A variety of vegetables 

• Fruits, especially whole fruits 

• Grains, at least half of which are whole grains 

• Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages 

• High quality protein foods, including seafood, poultry, legumes (beans, lentils, and peas), eggs, lean meat, nuts, seeds, and soy products 

• Oils, including olive, canola, corn, peanut, soybean, and sunflower oils 

A healthy eating pattern also limits saturated fats and Trans fats, added sugars, and sodium. 

In recent years, opinions regulating dietary fat have changed.

The emphasis has been placed on different fats effecting health in different ways and the total amount of fat you consume is not as important as the types of fat you consume.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommend limiting saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your total calorie intake each day.

Foods high in saturated fat include butter, cream, whole milk, meats not labeled as lean and tropical oils such as palm oil and coconut oil.

The DGA suggests avoiding trans fats in processed foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Healthier mono- and polyunsaturated fats are found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, avocados, and fatty fish.

For cholesterol, the DGA suggests consuming as little as possible. Many foods that are high in saturated fat also are high in cholesterol. 

In a 2000 calorie daily diet, that means no more than 200 calories from added sugars, which is roughly equivalent to 12 teaspoons or 52 grams of sugar – about the amount in one regular 16-ounce soft drink.

Naturally – occurring sugars such as those in milk and fruit don’t count toward this limit.

Identifying added sugars in foods and beverages can be tricky, since current Nutrition Facts labels are required to list only “total sugars,” so be on the lookout for the many names of sugar: 

• Agave nectar

• Glucose

• Barley malt syrup.

• High-fructose corn
syrup 

• Brown sugar

• Honey 

• Cane syrup

• Invert sugar 

• Coconut sugar

• Lactose 

• Corn sweetener

• Maltose 

• Corn syrup

• Maple syrup 

• Demerara sugar

• Molasses

• Dextrose

• Raw sugar 

• Evaporated cane juice

• Sucrose 

• Fructose

• Syrup

• Fruit juice concentrate

• Table sugar 

If the food product you’re considering doesn’t list added sugars on the Nutrition Facts Label, check the ingredients list for sugar, of which there are many types, including evaporated cane juice, barley malt syrup, agave nectar, and fruit juice concentrate. 

Don’t overdo meat. It is recommended that people consume less red and processed meats. Protein rich foods, including seafood and plant foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products, processed meats, such as cold cuts, also are sources of sodium and saturated fat. 

Reduce refined grains and starches. Make half your grains whole. Snack foods, often are high in other undesirable ingredients including saturated fat, added sugars, and/or sodium. 

Avoid excess sodium. The DGA advises limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams daily. 

Older adults who ate more fruits, vegetables, and fish were less likely to die during a nine-year follow up. Fruits, vegetables, and fish are key components of the Mediterranean-style diet.

The chief difference between a Mediterranean-style diet and other healthy eating plans (such as DASH) is the emphasis on unsaturated fats found in plant foods, especially monounsaturated fat in the form of olive oil. All healthy diets recommend limiting foods high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats and full-fat dairy, minimizing added sugar, and avoiding processed foods. 

Steps to more Mediterranean Eating: 

Eat lots of vegetables. Load up on salads, roast veggies in the oven, and add diced vegetables to soups, stews, pastas, and pilafs. 

Change your thinking about meat. Serve smaller amounts – small strips of sirloin in a vegetable sauté, for example – or substitute skinless chicken breast or fish for red meat in a few meals each week. 

Eat seafood twice a week. Instead of meat, think seafood. Fish such as tuna, herring, salmon, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and shellfish, including shrimp, scallops, mussels, oysters, and clams, are good sources or protein that are low in saturated fat. 

Consume dairy products in moderation. Choose low-fat or fat-free plain yogurt, and include small amounts of cheese in your meal plans occasionally. Many types of cheese are high in saturated fat, and they’re also high in sodium. 

Cook a vegetarian meal at least one night a week. Build meals around beans, whole grains, and vegetables, and heighten the flavor with herbs and spices. 

Choose unsaturated fats. Include sources of healthy fats in daily meals, especially extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados. 

Switch to whole grains. Whole grains are naturally rich in many important nutrients, as well as fiber that helps keep you satisfied longer. Cook traditional Mediterranean grains such as bulgur, barley, Faroe, and brown, black, or red rice. When buying pre-made grain products, such as breads, rolls, and pasta, choose products made with whole-grain flour. 

For dessert, eat fresh fruit. Save other, high-calorie sweets for a special treat or celebration.  

Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, and low-fat dairy. Eat less red and processed meats, sweetened beverages, and sodium. 

The Mediterranean or “MIND” diet emphasizes natural, plant-based foods and limited intakes of animal and high saturated-fat foods, but uniquely specifies the consumption of berries and green leafy vegetables.

The MIND diet includes at least three servings of whole grains, a serving of leafy green vegetables, and one other vegetable every day. The MIND diet recommends using olive oil as your main cooking oil. The MIND diet also identifies these five unhealthy food groups to limit: 

• Red meat (no more than three servings a week) 

• Butter and stick margarine (less than one tablespoon daily) 

• Cheese (less than once per week) 

• Pastries and sweets (no more than four times a week) 

• Fried or fast food (less than once per week) 

Take fall on and make these healthy changes to last through the winter. A healthy lifestyle has many benefits for aging and everyday life.

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