Foods for Healthy Aging

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

While the phrase “super foods” may create buzz around fad foods, it’s true that eating a healthful diet can help support healthy aging. Area experts share their advice for eating right.

Here’s what they say:

• “What you’re looking for is a plant-based diet, not necessarily vegetarian, but lots of fruits and vegetable, whole grains, and that should make up the bulk of your diet.

• “If you’re looking at the plate, it should be half vegetables or more, and with lean protein. The exception to that rule is fatty fish. Eat lean poultry and lean red meat once in a while, lean pork, fish, and a vegetarian meal or two in there with beans, nuts and seeds.

• “Fatty fish is important for ometa-3 fatty acids. They’re anti-inflammatory and offer a lot of benefits. A diet that’s heavy on anti-inflammatory food will keep you healthy.

• “The MIND diet may help. A study was done that looked at dementia, Alzheimer’s and brain function as you age. The MIND diet is a combination of the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean and DASH diets are very similar and the primary fat that is in that diet is monounsaturated, like olive oil. Some is from nuts and avocados and fatty fish. Having a diet that’s 25% to 30% from healthy fat rather than low fat may be a better way to eat to sustain youth and promote longevity. Eat lots of fiber from fruits and vegetables and whole grains. These diets are all plant-based. Some produce we focus on more than others, like greens, berries and some of the herbs and spices like rosemary and pepper, and Indian spices like cumin, turmeric, oregano and basil. It would be those and legumes like dried beans and peas as protein sources and healthy carbohydrates. They’re good sources of fiber and phytonutrients. These diets basically emphasize more of the produce and the plant-based stuff. You’re eating meat more like a condiment as one-quarter of the plate. One-quarter of the plate should have a whole grain. That in a nutshell is the healthiest way to eat as you age.

• “ The MIND diet recommends a glass of red wine, but it comes with a caveat. If someone’s predisposed to some kinds of breast cancer, that’s a no. Or predisposed to alcoholism or if they have predisposition to addictive behaviors, that may not be a great idea. Some research states that stout beer has some benefits, but all of that is in moderation: one for women and no more than two for men daily. Plus, you can get all of these benefits elsewhere in the diet.  If someone’s overweight, that’s pro-inflammatory and alcohol is contraindicated.  People like to pick and choose from diets for things they like, like they say the French are healthy and they drink wine, but they don’t eat the portions the French do, or get the exercise they get.

• “Get enough sources of vitamin D.

• “A lot of people don’t eat as much as they get older, so they need to make sure they get calories that count and don’t rely on packaged foods.

• “Packaged and processed foods will age you quickly. Saturated fat, tropical oils and animal fats will do so, too.

• “As we age, blood pressure goes up, so does weight. Look at not having a lot of empty calories and excessive sodium.

• “Work on bone health. Yogurt is one of my favorites for calcium and its probiotics. A lot of them are like candy now. Go with single digits on the label per serving and keep in mind that some sugars are naturally occurring in milk.”

Mary Jo Parker, registered dietitian offering nutrition and counseling services in Williamsville.

• “Everyone talks about organic, but it’s not the only thing you need to do. Look at meals low in cholesterol. If you’re eating chicken, remove the skin. Eat less red meat. Your sugar content should be within range.

• “The Mediterranean diet has a lot of benefits. It’s higher in olive oil and things like that that help your whole system.

• “Don’t go into stores and buy supplement pills to take. They can create a lot of problems. I like to keep it simple with patients. “

Raul Vazquez, MD, founder Greater Buffalo United Accountable Healthcare Network (GBUAHN).