5 nutritional tips to help maintain a healthy lifestyle

The old saying from Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” is still good advice today especially when it comes to nutrition for healthy aging. We know that good nutrition helps promote wellness and prevent disease. In general, health is affected by lifestyle, environment and genetics, so it would be irresponsible to suggest that a healthy diet alone will avoid all health problems. While genetics and, to some extent, our environment are fixed, we can take action to improve how we nourish our bodies as we age.

In fact, many common chronic diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and some types of cancer can be prevented with good nutrition. While medications come with an added cost and potential side effects, eating well is painless, relatively easy and can be taken on a budget. Here are some key nutritional considerations for a longer life and a healthier mind and body:

Choose whole foods rich in nutrients

The best way to ensure a nutrient-rich diet is to consume whole foods that have not been stripped of nutrients and fiber. Unfortunately, 77 percent of American grocery purchases are moderately or highly processed. Minimally processed foods like unsalted beans, dried herbs, and frozen vegetables aren’t the problem. Products with refined flour, sugar and oils as the main ingredients provide energy with little added nutritional value. Choose wholegrain products that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, and evaluate your snacking habits for refined and processed foods.

Limit or avoid alcohol consumption

Not surprisingly, drinking alcohol, especially in excess of it, can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, digestive problems, and some types of cancer. However, a portion of alcohol considered moderate may be surprising. Moderate drinking is defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. Recently, a federal health expert panel evaluating the latest data recommended reducing men’s daily alcohol intake from two to one. While some people can find non-alcoholic alternatives to help reduce alcohol consumption, others may need to seek support needed to change their drinking habits.

Stay away from unhealthy fats

There is a lot of misinformation about fats. When it comes to dietary fat, both quantity and quality matter. Processed foods such as commercial baked goods, coffee creamers, fried foods, and potato chips are often made with hydrogenated oils, which are known to increase inflammation and negatively impact heart health. Foods rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are known to have a beneficial effect on inflammation and cholesterol in addition to other health benefits. Sources of these healthy fats include walnuts, flaxseeds, fatty fish, olive oil, and avocados.

Consider your protein sources

Protein is a very important nutrient and its food sources vary widely. Lean protein sources that provide more protein per serving are ideal. These include skinless chicken breast, turkey breast, pork tenderloin and fish, as well as eggs, egg whites, beans, tofu and low-fat dairy products. Take advantage of low-fat cooking methods such as baking, grilling, steaming, and blanching, which require little or no fat to prepare.

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