Aging gracefully is a healthy goal for everyone: accepting and embracing what time and experience brings us, while actively working to prevent and minimize the health concerns that naturally come with aging. In addition to regular low-impact exercise and proper supplementation, your diet is a good place to start your graceful aging endeavors. Add these foods to your plate for health – no matter what your age!
1. Vegetables. Antioxidants help counter oxidative stress, a process which can damage cells and may accelerate aging. Vegetables are an excellent source of antioxidants – plus most are low in calories, high in nutrients and fiber, versatile and relatively cost-effective… so there’s no reason not to add more vegetables to your diet! Choose an array of vegetables covering all the colors, making sure to include dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, which help promote eye health.
2. Berries. Blueberries in particular are a good choice: The active components in blueberries are the anthocyanin pigments – the protective compounds that make the berries blue and are responsible for their antioxidant potency. Studies have shown that blueberries may improve motor skills and reverse age-related short-term memory loss, and may also protect the brain from stroke damage. Opt for organic berries, and add them to your cereal or salads, or eat as a snack.
3. Soy. Studies of the Japanese culture indicate that women who eat soy regularly don’t suffer from hot flashes the way many western women do. While dietary soy may not be entirely responsible (other diet and lifestyle elements may play a role), the isoflavones in soy foods do help balance hormone levels and have some mild estrogenic activity. I recommend two servings of whole soy foods daily. Choose from tofu, soy milk, roasted soy nuts, tempeh, edamame or miso.
4. Salmon. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon and canned sockeye salmon are among my favorite foods. Not only is wild salmon available fresh, frozen and canned, making it a versatile choice, salmon has plenty of health benefits: it is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, the anti-inflammatory, essential fats our bodies need for optimum health (omega-3s from eating salmon and other oily fish offer protection against heart attack, stroke, cancer, inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, and mental and emotional problems), and it is also a high-quality source of protein.
5. Whole Grains. Whole grains are minimally processed grains that are closer to their natural form than processed grains, and therefore have a low glycemic index (GI), a ranking of carbohydrate foods on the basis of how rapidly they affect blood sugar (glucose). This is important because eating a lot of foods that are high on the GI will produce spikes in blood sugar that can lead, over time, to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is associated with obesity, high blood pressure, elevated blood fats, an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Barley, quinoa, millet, wheat berries and kasha are good choices, as they provide important nutrients, including protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and, especially, carbohydrates that are low on the GI.
6. Spices. Turmeric and ginger are two winners for brain health as you age: Research suggests that turmeric, the major ingredient in American mustard and Indian curry, can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This may help explain the unusually low incidence of Alzheimer’s in India, where people consume significant amounts of turmeric every day. Use this culinary spice to give a healthy sharp flavor to your favorite eastern cuisine. Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory agent that has also been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. You can add ginger to your diet by eating crystallized ginger or the pickled ginger that comes with sushi, and use ginger when cooking.
7. Dark Chocolate. Chocolate provides polyphenols with high antioxidant activity, and the fat it contains is mostly stearic acid, which doesn’t raise cholesterol levels. And a recent study indicates that compounds called flavonoids in dark chocolate are good for the heart: they reduce the stickiness of platelets, inhibiting blood clotting and reducing the danger of coronary artery blockages. When buying, choose products with 70 percent or higher pure cocoa solids.