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Living Well For Longer – Good Nutrition For Longevity and Good Health
In the United States, the average life expectancy is 78 years; worldwide life expectancy is slightly below 67 years. However, in Okinawa, life expectancy is 81 years and above. Research indicates that the reason for this is quite simple: they eat better diets. In another location, this time the San Blas Islands which are off the coast of Panama, high blood pressure and heart disease are very rare (9 per 100,000 compared to 83 per 100,000 in mainland Panama) (Source: Jaret ).
The difference between Okinawans and residents of the San Blas Islands isn’t genetics or some special medical treatment, it’s their diet that keeps them healthier and stronger for much longer than their peers. In the United States, the same benefit is seen in Seventh-day Adventists who typically eat a vegetarian diet and live, on average, four to seven years longer than those in the same community.
The diets most commonly eaten by those with longer lives are low in saturated fat and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Most of these diets are high in fruits and vegetables, getting most of their protein from vegetarian sources rather than meat. While there is some healthy, low-fat animal protein, the typical American diet places too much emphasis on red meat, which is high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories that can clog arteries, cause massive weight gain, and lead to a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
Some of the foods suggested by these so-called “longevity diets” might come as a shocker, while others are fairly obvious. Naturally fruit and vegetables of all kinds must be eaten; however, there are other suggestions as well. These include:
Whole grains, especially instead of processed and too easily digestible simple carbohydrates. According to studies, you can cut your risk of heart disease in half if you include plenty of whole grains in your diet. Whole foods also protect against type II diabetes, which also reduces the risk of heart disease. When choosing your whole foods, be sure to read the label carefully. The first ingredient listed should be whole wheat. If the first word is “enriched,” then it’s nothing but white flour with a little coloring or molasses for flavor and color. The fiber content of these foods should also be quite high. A word of warning about whole grains, especially bread: Some of them can be quite high in calories per serving, so again, reading labels carefully and knowing what your personal dietary needs are is key.
Nuts are a surprising thing to find on a list of foods you should eat, but they’re surprisingly beneficial for overall good health, especially the heart. However, they are high in calories, so the serving size you should consume is very small, but for every few nuts you eat, you get heart-healthy fats and additional fiber. They’re also surprisingly high in other nutrients, including Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, protein, fiber, potassium, plant sterols, vitamin B6, and arginine. There are several types of nuts that have been shown to be very beneficial, including walnuts (highest in overall antioxidants), almonds (best source of vitamin E and containing more protein than a large egg, long considered the perfect protein source) and pistachios (highest in dietary fiber per serving and most nuts per one-ounce serving) (Source: Pratt and Matthews, 2004).
If you think you can only have bland, bland foods when you eat healthy—no snacks or treats—you’re wrong. In fact, dark chocolate contains polyphenols that are thought to lower blood pressure and improve blood vessel flexibility. A study using dark chocolate and subjects who already had high blood pressure showed an improvement in blood pressure readings and insulin sensitivity after just fifteen days of daily consumption of dark chocolate.
While most fruits and vegetables are suggested by these healthy diets, blueberries may be king, according to a number of studies. They are rich in antioxidants and have been shown to protect against age-related changes in the brain that can lead to severe memory impairment and dementia. Blueberries are considered one of the “superfoods” and have been listed multiple times in diet books and plans as such. They’re so beneficial that in a book called Super Foods RX, the authors suggest trying to eat one to two cups of these and other members of the family, including grapes, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, currants, and other berries. on a daily basis. Blueberries and others in this category can be fresh or frozen. Another benefit of cranberries: They relieve both diarrhea and constipation because they are rich in pectin and are also good for urinary tract health (similarly to cranberries) (Source: Pratt and Matthews, 2004).
Everyone knows that the Okinawan diet, as well as other heart-healthy diets such as the Mediterranean diet, is high in fish, especially fish which is high in Omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats protect the heart, including from irregular heart rhythms that can potentially lead to heart failure. The fatty acids, including DHA and EPA, in fish oil may also protect against depression and age-related memory loss. ALA, another fatty acid, is found in flaxseed and may also have the same benefit. However, men should only get marine-based omega-3 fatty acids because other sources can increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
Some of the best seafood sources for these fatty acids are salmon, canned albacore, sardines, Alaskan halibut, herring, sea bass, trout, oysters and clams. The recommendation is to eat fish two to four times a week, however, there are some groups that may be limited in the amount of fish they are eating, especially particular varieties. The concern with some types of fish is the increased level of mercury, which can lead to mercury poisoning.
The coffee debate has gone back and forth a million times. Does it hurt; it makes you nervous, jittery or jittery. It’s good for you, especially before a workout. The latest information suggests that coffee may protect against both type 2 diabetes and age-associated mental decline.
Protein is also important in the diet, especially plant proteins such as soy and soy products. Still, Americans are busy people, and protein supplements are often how they get the bulk of their protein intake.
Peter Jaret. Eating for Longevity: Foods to Maintain a Healthy Heart, Brain, and Bones WebMD
Steven Pratt, MD & Kathy Matthews Super Foods RX: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life. Harper Collins Publishing, New York, New York 2004
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