While getting older is unavoidable, many of the side effects like wrinkling of the skin, elevated risks for heart disease and stroke, high cholesterol, osteoporosis and memory loss can be forestalled with healthy lifestyle choices including good nutrition. Take a look at these five tips for nutrition and anti-aging.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Diets packed with fresh fruits and vegetables help boost energy, maintain a healthy weight, and lower chances for disease. With the exception of a few, most fresh fruits and veggies are full of fiber, low in calories and free of fat, cholesterol and sodium. This helps lower risks for heart disease, cancer, diabetes and hypertension.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with minerals like calcium, iron and magnesium and vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and folic acid. Fruits and veggies also contain antioxidants which fight free radicals that attack and damage cells. Antioxidants also help boost the immune system and protect the brain from oxidative stress.
- Consume healthy fats with omega-3 fatty acids. Foods like salmon and halibut contain omega-3 fatty acids. According to research, these may help lower risks for heart disease and cancer, boost immunity and improve mood for a younger, healthier body. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that regular consumers of fish have significantly less incidences of colorectal, esophageal, stomach and pancreatic cancers. Even those who consumed small amounts of fish were found to have reduced risks for cancers of the digestive tract.
- Drink enough water. The body depends upon water for survival. In addition to ensuring adequate moisture in the eyes, ears, nose and throat, water helps the skin stay healthy by hydrating skin cells, removing toxins and delivering nutrients to cells. Also, proper hydration ensures more efficient perspiration which helps keep skin clean and clear. Drink at least 64 ounces of pure water each day.
- Cut unneeded calories. Studies have shown that a reduction in calories increases lifespan in small mammals and lowers incidences of age-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and memory loss. Ask your health-care provider about the appropriate daily calorie level for your height and weight, and make sure your calories come from healthy sources: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean meats.
Consider supplementation of certain vitamins and minerals. Aging individuals absorb nutrients with less efficiency, resulting in the need for better nutrition. The body makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, but with aging the amount is progressively reduced. Vitamin D is important for the prevention of osteoporosis because it helps the body process calcium. It also aids in the prevention of cancer, and it may have therapeutic effects on autoimmune diseases and protective effects on cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Most experts recommend 600 to 1000 IU of vitamin D daily for aging individuals.
The need for B vitamins also increases with age. Three in particular - folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 - are essential for the maintenance of homocysteine levels in the blood. Research suggests that high homocysteine levels may contribute to heart disease and stroke. A review of several studies found that consumption of folic acid reduced homocysteine levels by about 25 percent, according to a 2002 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. When folic acid was paired with vitamin B12, homocysteine levels were reduced by an additional seven percent. A daily vitamin B-complex supplement or a multivitamin that contains the recommended daily amounts of folic acid, B6 and B12 will ensure adequate intake of these important nutrients.
Women in particular should boost their calcium intake as they age to keep bones young and guard against osteoporosis. The National Institutes of Health recommends 1,000 mg per day during middle age. After menopause, 1,200 mg is recommended if on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and 1,500 mg is recommended after menopause if not on HRT.