Aches and pains, high blood pressure and cholesterol, osteoporosis, and being overweight don’t have to be things that you just accept as part and parcel of getting older. A healthy diet and lifestyle can play a huge role in preventing common age-related diseases like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression and obesity.
A well-serviced superannuation plan over your working life ensures that your financial needs are sustained in retirement. Similarly, a healthy lifestyle before retirement puts you ahead of the game in maintaining the peak version of yourself in your post working years.
Here are five simple but effective dietary tips to boost your health and wellbeing. Eating a healthy well-balanced diet, rich in antioxidants and other important disease preventing nutrients, is fundamental to good health and the key to living a long and healthy life, free from the constraints of illness.
Written by Lisa Guy.
(1) Fresh and natural is best
The majority of your diet should be made up of fresh, unprocessed foods that are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and fibre. Processed foods are generally devoid of much of their original goodness and are high in saturated or trans fats, salt, added sugars, and artificial additives. A diet rich in processed food is associated with increased risk of becoming overweight or obese, and developing heart disease or type-2 diabetes.
Eating a well-balanced, wholesome diet will provide your body with all the essential nutrients you need to keep you healthy and illness-free so you can enjoy the second half of your life to the fullest.
Stock up on a variety of lots of lovely fresh fruits and vegetables of different colours, legumes, nuts, seeds, wholegrain breads and cereals, and some oily fish, eggs, yoghurt and lean red meat or poultry.
Don’t be fooled by trick marketing. Processed foods commonly have words such as ‘healthy’, ‘nutritious’, ‘low GI’, and ‘low-fat’ splashed across their packaging, in hope of distracting you from what makesup the majority of the product – usually sugar, saturated fats and salt. Make sure you read food labels carefully for hidden ingredients.
(2) Up your antioxidant intake
Include plenty of antioxidant rich foods in your daily diet. Antioxidants help to fight free radical damage in the body and reduce the risk of heart disease, cancers and other chronic diseases. Antioxidants are also beneficial for slowing down the ageing process and help protect you from Alzheimer’s disease and age-related degenerative eye diseases. Our best sources of antioxidants are found in fruit and vegetables, especially red, blue and purple varieties, including blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, red grapes and red capsicums. Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits, and green leafy vegetables are also rich in health-promoting antioxidants.
Drinking a couple of cups of green tea a day will also provide you with a good dose of antioxidants. Super berries such as acai, camu camu and maqui, and spirulina are abundant in antioxidants and can easily be added to smoothies and fresh juices to help boost your daily antioxidant intake.
(3) Spice up your life
Ginger is a super healthy spice that is packed with antioxidants and also possesses anti-inflammatory properties to help relieve inflammation and pain associated with arthritis and osteoarthritis. Several phytochemicals found in ginger have demonstrated strong anticancer activities, helping reduce the risk of certain cancers. Ginger has been shown to lower high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while raising beneficial HDLs. Ginger has the ability to reduce platelet stickiness, which helps improve circulation and reduce the risk of heart attacks and thrombotic strokes. Ginger also works wonders for anyone who has poor circulation who suffers from cold hands and feet. Try adding fresh ginger to meals, or make yourself a fresh ginger tea, delicious with a slice of lemon.
Turmeric contains a highly effective antioxidant called curcumin, that has anti-ageing actions. Including more turmeric in your diet will help keep your brain young and healthy, as it helps preserve your memory and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin will also protect you from heart disease and cancer. Turmeric is the main ingredient in curry powder, so eating curries more often will help promote a healthier, younger you.
Garlic has been consumed in many Asian and European countries for years, not only for its powerful immune boosting powers but also for its heart protective properties. Many studies show that garlic as part of a healthy low-fat diet can help reduce high cholesterol levels – lowering ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and raising ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, as well as reducing triglyceride levels. Garlic also helps to thin the blood which helps reduce the risk of heart attacks. Studies have also shown that countries that eat more garlic have less incidence of heart disease. Give yourself a good dose of garlic each day, try adding it to curries, stir-fries, pasta sauces, pesto, hummus, bruschetta and salad dressings.
(4) Choose the right type of fats
Fat is an extremely important part of a nutritious well-balanced diet, and essential for good health and prevention of disease. However it needs to be the right type of fat, and from natural sources. Eating a healthy well-balanced diet including moderate amounts of mono and poly unsaturated fats, along with some saturated fats from natural sources, is the best way to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Beneficial unsaturated fats, especially omega-3 essential fatty acids, are an essential part of everyone’s diet. They are needed for the health of every cell in the body and are important for reducing cholesterol levels and keeping a healthy heart, as well supporting healthy immune function. Omega-3s are particularly beneficial for boosting brain function, helping improve memory, and for reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and depression. Adding omega-3s to your diet is one of the best ways to nourish your skin to prevent dryness and premature ageing, and they are needed to help support healthy weight loss too. Some simple ways you can incorporate these healthy fats into your diet is by eating oily fish around three times a week such as salmon, trout, mackerel or sardines. Add a tablespoon of chia seeds to your breakfast cereal, or snack on raw nuts and seeds, add avocado to salads, or drizzle flaxseed oil over your salads or toast. The best oils to cook with are cold pressed virgin olive oil (for medium temperatures) and coconut oils (for higher temperatures) as these oils won’t turn into harmful trans-fats when heated. Tahini (sesame seed paste) and almond butter are healthy spreads for toast or great to use when making healthy muffins, cookies, and protein balls.
The worst type of fat, on the other hand, you need to watch out for and avoid were you can, are trans-fats. These damaging fats are one of the main causes of heart disease as they raise ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and lower our ‘good’ HDLs. Trans-fats are also associated with the increased risk of cancer.
You will find trans-fats in highly processed foods that contain vegetable oils or hydrogenated oils, including commercially baked goods like biscuits, cakes and pastries, some margarines, and greasy take away foods. Cooking with vegetable oil is not recommended as it can easily form trans-fat when heated. Saturated fats are another type of fat that is usually considered a ‘bad fat’ and linked to weight gain and heart disease. Saturated fats, from natural sources, like virgin coconut oil, organic full-fat yoghurt, cashew nuts and real butter, however do play an important role in our health, as we need some saturated fats for healthy brain and nervous system function, hormone production and to transport calcium to our bones. It’s the saturated fats that are found in heavily processed and junk foods that are the ones you should be steering clear of.
(5) Boost your daily fibre intake
Include plenty of fibre-rich foods in your diet. Dietary fibre is essential for promoting good bowel health, it helps prevent constipation and reduces the risk of bowel cancer. We also need adequate fibre in our diets to help keep healthy cholesterol levels and to support the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria, which in turn will help boost your digestive and immune function. Fibre-rich foods take longer to digest and their sugars are absorbed more slowly, which means they help keep your blood sugar levels more balanced and prevent a rapid rise in insulin levels, which is linked to weight gain and the development of type-2 diabetes. Foods high in fibre also keep you full for longer so you’re not hungry soon after eating.
Foods high in fibre include fruits and vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Some easy ways to up your daily fibre intake include making sure you have a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables each day. Enjoy oat porridge for breakfast, oats are rich in beta-glucan, which is a type of fibre that has been proven to help lower cholesterol levels. Swap fibre-lacking ‘white’ carbs like white breads, pasta and rice for fibre-rich options like grainy breads, wholemeal pasta, and brown and wild rice. Quinoa makes a lovely grain alternative to serve with curries, stir-fries and salads. Sprinkle some chia seeds over your breakfast cereal, and snack on wholegrain crackers with hummus, or a trail mix of mixed raw nuts and dried fruit. Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, beans, and peas are a particularly good source of fibre and a lovely addition to curries, dahls, salads and soups. Psyllium husks are also a simple way to increase your fibre intake, all you do is sprinkle a tablespoon over your breakfast cereal, or add it to a smoothie.
Whenever you increase your fibre intake it is also important to drink more water. You should be aiming to drink at least eight glasses or two litres of water daily. Water is essential for good health, not only to prevent constipation, but also to flush toxins from the body, to prevent kidney stones, to keep the skin moist and hydrated and for proper brain function.
Lisa Guy is an experienced Sydney-based naturopath and author, and passionate foodie, with 10 years of clinical experience. Lisa runs a busy naturopathic clinic in Double Bay called ‘Art of Healing’. Lisa is passionate about helping people achieve optimal health and wellbeing, through good wholesome foods, nutritional supplementation, healing herbs and homeopathic remedies. The Art of Healing www.artofhealing.com.au