Aug 252011

Anti-aging is really about aging well. The inevitable is, we all age. But it’s how we age, or even how fast, that makes all the difference. The FDA recently put out a new version of the old Food Pyramid, except it’s in the shape of a dinner plate. It’s called My Plate. What’s great about My Plate is that half of the plate icon, which represents a typical meal recommendation, is made up of vegetables and fruits. The other half of the plate is made up of one quarter protein and one quarter carbohydrates. Dairy is represented by a cup of milk, or a serving of yogurt.

These recommendations are a step in the right direction, but let’s take a closer look at what a healthy diet looks like. Starting with fruits and vegetables, at least 5 servings each day is optimal. If that sounds like a lot, it is. That’s why half the My Plate icon is filled with these healthy foods. Green leafy and cruciferous vegetables are some of the most nutrient rich (and cancer-preventive) choices. Fruits and vegetables contain a plethora of phytonutrients–plant nutrients that have anti-oxidant (read: anti-aging) and health promoting properties. Further, fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which promotes regularity and supports a healthy heart. Experts recommend 25-35 grams of fiber, but most Americans only get 10-15 grams each day.

Now let’s talk grains. Whole grains should be the choice, and refined grains should be a last resort. Choose grains like brown rice and quinoa over white rice or semolina pasta. Refined grains are over-processed and lack fiber and nutrients. And remember, corn and potatoes are grains, not vegetables. Eat them accordingly.

Protein should come in the form of legumes and lean proteins like chicken or fish. Fish is particularly healthy, especially those fish high in omega-3s like salmon, tuna and sardines, especially when it comes from Earth-friendly sources. Educate yourself on which fish are least toxic and which  sources least deplete the Earth’s supply. If you’re a red meat fan, eat it sparingly. High red meat consumption may put you at high risk for certain cancers. Dairy can also be a good source of protein for people who are not lactose intolerant or sensitive to dairy.

Though it seems the term is a paradox, healthy fats are a necessary part of an anti-aging diet. The beneficial omega-3s mentioned above are one type of healthy fat. Olive oil is another, rich in omega-9, thought to be responsible for the good heart health enjoyed by those in Mediterranean regions of the world. And coconut oil is another source of good fat. Though coconut oil is a saturated fat, it contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) known to be better digested and used for energy more efficiently than most other fats, which are made of long chain triglycerides. Keep saturated fats to a minimum, and avoid completely trans fats, which come from partially hydrogenated oils. Packaged foods are now required to list trans fats, so be sure to choose foods without them.

To build a foundation of health, you must start with a healthy diet. Truly, you are what you eat. Your body uses the nutrients you ingest to build new cells, and to support thousands of metabolic processes each day. Choosing the best possible foods will help ensure you age gracefully.

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