Eating a healthy diet along with exercise can help reduce problems as we age
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
No food represents an edible fountain of youth. However, eating a variety of healthful foods, along with exercise, adequate sleep, stress mitigation and eschewing unhealthful habits like tobacco use and drug abuse, can support healthy aging.
The key areas that promote overall wellness while aging include the gut, brain, skin and joints.
In addition to what to eat, Jimmy Scaringi, nutrition response testing practitioner and owner of Synergy Nutrition and Wellness, is concerned about what not to eat. His business operates in North Tonawanda, Williamsville and Clarence.
“The greatest enemy to gut, brain, skin and joints is white, refined processed flour and sugar,” he said. “They are in things like bread, pasta and cookies. Those things cause you to be mineral and vitamin deficient. It’s a key point that we want to limit these as they will negate vitamins and minerals in the body.”
Gut health is important as it is viewed as a vital part of the immune system and as the body’s means of absorbing nutrients. Scaringi advises eating foods containing probiotics—the good bacteria—such as plain yogurt from grass fed animals’ milk, kefir, kimchi, okra, cinnamon, garlic and, unless inflammation is a problem, kombucha.
Supplementation may also help.
To feed the good bacteria, eat plenty of fiber sourced from produce or naturally occurring whole grains like oatmeal, spelt, kamut pasta or Ezekiel bread.
“These are grains the way God intended, not bleached and processed,” Scaringi said. “They haven’t lost their mineral content. Good carbs offer energy, but you want non-adulterated carbohydrates.”
Brain health while aging is a big concern for many adults. Since the brain is mainly comprised of fat, Mary Jo Parker, registered and certified dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Williamsville, recommends consuming fat. However, it must be the right kind.
“Fish has long been talked about as ‘brain food’ and the omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish, as well as in flax and walnuts, are found in high concentrations in the brain,” she said.
Other examples of healthful oils are plant-based oils such as olive oil.
Since a high level of inflammation ages the brain, consuming anti-inflammatory, such as in fruits and vegetables—especially leafy greens and berries–can help mitigate the effects. Parker also recommends legumes, nuts, seeds and minimally processed whole grains to reduce inflammation.
“In addition, don’t forget added ingredients, like herbs and spices like turmeric or cumin, garlic, onion, rosemary, oregano, pepper and more,” she said.
Physical activity supports good health at any age; however as one grows older, painful joints can make it harder to keep moving. Anti-inflammatory foods benefit joints in supporting good health.
Adequate protein intake is also vital for promoting healthy joints, according to Debi Bryk, board certified holistic nutritionist and certified health educator. She is president of Holistic Nutrition 4 Health, LLC, in Orchard Park.
“Older adults do not utilize protein as efficiently as younger people,” she said.
She added that insufficient protein also effects muscle tone, skin integrity and wound healing. She encourages those who lack protein to choose meat and eggs from pastured animals, and nuts, seeds and beans.
Hydration also improves skin quality, among its many benefits to the rest of the body. Bryk said to stick with unsweetened beverages and to control caffeine consumption.
“If you’re not a big fan of water, try herbal iced tea,” she said. “Kombucha can help you get off soda or seltzer water with some lemon or lime. Infuse with strawberries or cucumber. It’s a great way to make it more palatable. Get a pretty water bottle that holds 24 to 32 ounces and aim to drink two of those a day.
“There is no one magic food, but it’s a matter of consuming whole foods 80% of the time. Save the 20% for special occasions or eating out.”
“If you live a lifestyle conducive to health, your body will repair itself,” Scaringi said. “God designed your body to heal. Don’t eat those things that take away from health. The more we can get removed from a standard American diet the healthier you will be as you age.”