Invest with Nutrition Now to Age Better Later

 

Avoid accelerated aging with diet. Photo Credit: Stone Soup

Avoid accelerated aging with diet. Photo Credit: Stone Soup

You can also view this article on the Food & Nutrition Magazine blog, Stone Soup.

From the moment of conception, the human body is aging. And while it cannot be stopped, it’s possible to influence how quickly the body ages. One of the most significant ways is through diet. Think of every bite as a deposit into the bank of health, with nutrient-rich foods being valuable currency. And remember: It’s never too late to make contributions. Here are some tips for each decade of life that promote healthy aging.

Twenties

With the “need it now” mentality fueled by social media and technology, 20-somethings are accustomed to quick and convenient, especially when it comes to food. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean healthy. Convenience foods can be high in calories, fat, sugar and salt. Few provide the right amount of quality protein — an important nutrient for this age group since muscle mass peaks in this decade. A Journal of Gerontology study showed that lean mass, and the muscle that comes with it, could decrease by up to 40 percent from age 20 to 70. Eating a high-protein diet together with exercise can counteract this loss. Include protein-rich foods like lean meats, dairy, fish and lentils with each meal.

Thirties

Many in their 30s enjoy good health and are untouched by the visible signs of aging. Unfortunately, many also are preoccupied with work and family and neglect their health and take for granted their body’s resilience — a resilience quickly chipped away by poor diet. Enter multivitamins. A survey from the market research company NPD Group suggests that the average American adult meets dietary guidelines just seven days out of the year. Almost all fall short of the estimated average requirement for vitamin E, and more than half don’t meet needs for magnesium, folate and vitamin D. Taking a multivitamin helps supply the nutrients needed to support healthy aging.

Forties

In this decade, the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese sharply rises, and with it comes health risks, mostly notably type 2 diabetes. The Obesity Society reports that almost 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Weight gain is largely preventable by following a healthy diet. For those in their 40s, it’s important to avoid foods high in refined sugar like soda, candy and pastries. Instead, eating balanced meals with complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber can help manage blood sugar and weight.

Fifties

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women, trumping cancer, stroke and diabetes. Being over the age of 50 increases the risk. Add other factors — African-American ethnicity, a family history of heart disease — and the risk increases even more. While some factors cannot be mitigated, diet and exercise are effective tools for preventing heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times per week (or taking a daily supplement) to increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

Sixties and older

The greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age, and most individuals with Alzheimer’s are 65 or older. The likelihood of developing the disease doubles every five years after age 65. While there is no cure, research has focused on delaying, slowing and preventing symptoms, and nutritional interventions show promise. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests 2,000 IU of vitamin E as part of a comprehensive care plan that helps slow dementia. More research is needed, but there’s no denying the benefit of a healthy diet and lifestyle to support brain health.

No matter the decade of life, the goal should always be to invest wisely with nutrition.

5 Foods To Fight PMS

Instead of binging on chocolate, try these five foods to help manage PMS symptoms. Credit: Verily Magazine

Instead of binging on chocolate, try these five foods to help manage PMS symptoms. Credit: Verily Magazine

Getting your period may be a natural part of being a woman, but it’s still a total pain. Bloating, headaches, moodiness, cravings, and fatigue are just some premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms that can make the pre-period week uncomfortable and unpleasant for you—and for anyone who stands between you and the last doughnut hole.

Before the late 1980s, PMS was thought to be a psychological disorder rather than a physiological response to hormonal fluctuations necessary to have children—which surely irritated women beyond normal PMS levels. It’s now commonly considered a medical condition. And with evidence about effective dietary treatment options slowly unfolding, it’s apparent that certain nutrients can actually help reduce PMS symptoms.

Read my latest article in Verily Magazine to find out which five foods you should include in your diet when PMS symptoms start acting up.

Comprehensive Care for Anxiety: The Role of Diet

anxiety

What you eat can influence anxiety symptoms. Credit: Food and Nutrition Magazine

Reaching into the mailbox to find the latest Food and Nutrition magazine at my fingertips is always a special treat. I can’t wait to cuddle up on the couch and dive into the fascinating articles on hot nutrition topics or salivate over delectable recipes. That’s why I am over-the-moon thrilled to share with you my first contribution to the Food and Nutrition blog, Stone Soup, on a topic that affects many people, myself included: anxiety.

Diet is the first line of treatment for many physical health conditions, and with good reason. There exists an extensive body of scientific literature supporting the connection between what we eat and our physical health. But can diet affect mental health?

Mental health disorders or diseases, including anxiety disorders, come in a variety of forms and are thought of mainly as biochemically based or emotionally rooted conditions that can’t be affected by diet. Although this may be true in most cases, these can manifest debilitating physical symptoms — increased heart rate, stomach discomfort, stiff jaw, and muscle tension — exemplifying the undeniable link between mind and body.

Forty million Americans are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. For many, the care plan is limited to psychotherapy, medication or both. However, advances in nutritional neuroscience suggest that what we eat (and what we don’t eat) can influence the onset, occurrence and severity of anxiety symptoms in meaningfully significant ways.

While a majority of the population suffers from nutritional inadequacies, those with mental health conditions are often exceptionally deficient, bringing into question whether or not specific nutrients may contribute to an effective treatment plan for those with anxiety disorders.

To find out which nutrients you should include in your diet to decrease occurrence of anxiety symptoms, continue reading this article on the Food and Nutrition blog, Stone Soup.

Stop Mindless Eating

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Don’t let mindless eating derail your diet.

Do you ever find yourself licking your plate clean when you could have been happily satisfied with half of your meal? Portions at restaurants can make you nauseous before you even take your first bite. Just step into a Claim Jumper and look at one slice of their Chocolate Motherload Cake. That is enough dessert for a small birthday party!

There has been some interesting research investigating how external cues can cause us to overeat. Brian Wansink is a professor specializing in Marketing in the Applied Economics and Management Department at Cornell University, and he has found that being mindful while eating can prevent overindulgence. A part of being mindful is being aware of your surroundings and how it may trigger overeating. So what are these cues??

Emotions. We are more likely to overeat when we are bored, tired, or upset. Hence, the classic ice-cream and chocolate indulgence in movies after a breakup.

Serving size. The more there’s on your plate, the more you eat.

Food Name. Studies have shown that the name of a food product can trigger overeating. Wansink found that there was a 27 percent increase in food consumption when names of items were changed to more extravagant terminology. For example, when “chocolate cake” was changed to “Belgian Black Forest Cake,” people ate more of it. 

Location. Wansink describes this as the “halo effect.” If a restaurant is perceived as being a healthier option (say Subway vs. Burger King), we are more likely to underestimate the calorie counts of items, and thus, over-consume food.

Who you’re sitting with. If we are eating with a heavier person, we may think that we can “afford” to eat more.

Here are some tips to combat these external cues and prevent eating more than is necessary:

  • Use smaller plates and bowls.
  • Organize your pantry and refrigerator so that healthier options catch your eye first. Have a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter instead of a candy dish.
  • Use 100-calorie snack packs.
  • Never eat straight from a big bag… If you want some chips, put a few in a bowl. This will cut back on mindless eating.
  • Avoid eating in front of a TV.

If you would like to read the article this information was adapted from, click here.

Is your house making you FAT?

images-4When planning to starting eating healthy, you probably are thinking about the color of your kitchen walls or the size of your dinner plates. However, the environment plays a key role in what and how much you eat.

Follow these tips to make sure your household environment is aiding in your weight loss goals rather than hindering them.

  • Paint the kitchen walls blue: Studies have shown that emotions linked with different colors can make you salivate (red and yellow) or suppress your cravings (blue). Just take a look at the logos and signs for fast food restaurants. If painting the walls is out of the question, opt for a blue tablecloth or plates.
  • Turn up the lights: People generally eat more in a dark environment. Keep your kitchen open and bright to avoid urges to binge.
  • Move out of the kitchen: When it is not mealtime, don’t allow yourself to linger around the fridge or pantry. Don’t sit at the table to do work or walk around the kitchen on your phone.  Easy access to food will tempt you to sneak a snack even when you’re not hungry.
  • Use smaller plates and cups: Eating off a smaller plate (think salad plate) tricks your mind into thinking your portion sizes are greater than they actually are. The same theory can be applied to using a smaller drinking glass.
  • Keep workout equipment around the house: Even if you hide 10-pound dumbbells in a cabinet, keep workout equipment accessible so you can do sets while you watch TV or while you’re waiting for the oven timer to go off.
  • Clean your closet: It’s time to throw your “fat pants” out. They are a security blanket that holds you back from losing the pounds.

Reference: NBC’s Today Show (8/19/2010)