SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – You may already know that a healthy diet can help you prevent and treat lifestyle diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
But there are other surprising ways that food can feed your health and actually remedy conditions common with aging. Our health expert, Karen Owoc, is here with some healthy, anti-aging food fixes.
1. Hearing Loss
Food fix: Eat more high-quality plant-based foods.
• Foods that are unhealthy for your heart, such as animal-based foods, refined grains, added sugars, and unhealthy fats can also affect your ears.
• Adequate blood flow is important for a healthy brain and body — and that includes proper ear function.
A plant-based diet can help:
• Enhance blood flow by improving cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure.
• Help to protect against oxidative damage and to reduce inflammation due to the antioxidants in plants.
• If it’s good for your heart, it’s good for your ears as well.
More than specific foods, though, what seems to be most significant is following a healthy eating plan.
• In one 2018 study involving more than 81,000 women, those whose diets most closely matched one of three heart-healthy eating patterns had a 30% lower risk of developing hearing loss over the 22-year study period:
2) Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)
3) 2010 Alternative Healthy Eating Index
What to Do
Make it easy and proportion your plate like this: [DEMO]
• 1/2 your plate with non-starchy vegetables
• 1/4 with starchy vegetables or whole grains
• 1/4 with plant-based protein (e.g., tofu, lentils, nuts on omega-rich fish 1-2 times per week)
2. Poor Balance
Food fix: Eat enough healthy protein.
One common cause of poor balance and the loss of functional independence is sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss).
• Muscles cannot stay strong without an adequate intake of protein.
• Cells MAKE proteins and the cells in your muscles constantly BREAK THEM DOWN.
• When you break down more protein than you make, you end up with a loss of muscle mass.
• Without strong muscles to support your joints, you can’t balance and hold your body erect leaving you at greater risk of having a serious and even life-threatening fall.
Eat Enough Protein
• On average, older adults should aim for at least 0.6 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. (A 150-lb person would need about 90 grams of protein.)
• Many older adults skip protein in the morning, but it’s important to deliver protein to your muscles throughout the day. Include protein at every meal.
Reduce Inflammation with Plant Foods
Increases in inflammatory compounds can have potent effects on muscle loss.
• Plant foods contain antioxidants and polyphenols that can help reduce inflammation.
• In a vitamin C study published in The Journal of Nutrition, older men and women with adequate blood levels of vitamin C (an antioxidant) had an average of 1.6% to 3.4% more muscle mass, respectively, than those with lower levels of the vitamin.
Food fix: Eat more fiber-rich foods.
Fiber is a carbohydrate found in plant foods: beans, fruit, grains, nuts, and vege-tables.
• If fiber can reduce inflammation, it stands to reason that it may help reduce the risk of arthritis.
A recent study, published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases evaluated two groups of people and found the following:
• Group 1: Eating 20 grams of fiber per day had a 30% lower risk of knee osteoarthritis than those who ate about 8 grams.
• Group 2: Eating 25 grams of fiber per day had a 61% lower risk than those who consumed about 14 grams.
The Fix: Replace refined carbs with whole grains, and increase vitamin D intake.
Depression is more than feeling down or sad, studies show it may also physically change your brain — that is, parts of the brain SHRINK in people who suffer from depression.
• Experts aren’t sure what causes these brain changes, but suspect genetics, inflammation, and stress.
• Brain volume loss seems to be higher in people who have regular or ongoing depression with serious symptoms.
• Studies show depression affects areas of the brain resulting:
• Memory loss
• Trouble thinking clearly
• Guilt or hopelessness
• No motivation
• Sleep or appetite problems
Comfort vs Discomfort Foods
• When depressed, people often turn to their “comfort foods” soothe their emotions.
• The Problem: Most comfort foods consist of refined carbohydrates, sugar, and fat.
• Eating simple, refined carbs, give you a quick increase of energy for about 20 or 30 minutes, but that increase turns into a steep dive.
• Spikes and dips in energy can cause your mood to crash too.
Whole Grains [DEMO]
• Whole grains, such as brown rice and quinoa (where you can actually see the grain), release energy gradually over the course of 3 to 4 hours.
• Vitamin D may also be helpful for boosting your mood.
• Older adults may be prone to a deficiency, in part because the ability to pro-duce D from sunlight declines with age.
• A 2018 Ireland study of almost 4,000 adults (age 50+) found that those with vitamin D deficiency — defined in this study as blood levels lower than 30 nmol/L (nanomoles per liter) — were more likely to develop depression.
• Consume more fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring), mushrooms*, fortified milk and breakfast cereals.
*Mushrooms can produce vitamin D when exposed to UV light. Some commercial mushrooms are treated with UV light. Mushrooms grown in the dark contain very little D.
The Takeaway: A plant-centered lifestyle is beneficial to preventing disease as well as resisting the negative effects of aging. Focus on eating whole foods (minimally processed) and following the “healthy plate” style of eating to keep meals simple and balanced.