Food & Fitness After 50: Scary Foods

1200px-The_ScreamNo, this isn’t about Halloween. It’s about all of the crazy headlines that pop up every time I’m online.  Whether it is the stories that appear on my web browser or that populate my Facebook or Instagram feeds, they all have the same theme. “Don’t eat this food because it will: (a) kill you, (b) cause belly fat, (c) clog your arteries, or (d) all of the above.

In the last few days, here are the headlines I’ve seen:

  • Why you should never eat bananas for breakfast
  • The 5 worst foods for weight loss
  • The 3 unhealthiest foods you can eat
  • Seven foods you had no idea were sugar bombs
  • The 11 foods nutritionists would never, ever eat!

Arghhh….it is maddening.  We all know these headlines are clickbate that generate revenue for all involved, except you, the reader. It gives you anxiety about your food choices and can lead extremes of eating; either you limit your food choices from fear or you throw up your hands and say, “I’ll just eat anything I want because it’s all going to kill me!” I can tell you I NEVER click on these stories so I can’t tell you why you should never eat bananas for breakfast (which is just plain silly) and the “nutritionists” I know might eat less of some foods, but unless they have a health condition, like Celiac disease or diabetes, they don’t go to extremes in their food choices.

The other thing I dislike about these headlines is that the focus is on a single food. I can guarantee that no single food found in the U.S. food supply will kill you (unless contaminated by a virus or bacteria that shouldn’t be there), travel to your belly to be stored as fat, or clog your arteries. What is important is dietary patterns; what you eat over the course of a week, a month, a year, a lifetime, is much more important than consumption of a single food. Last year during the holidays everyone was complaining about the “bad” food choices they made between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. My young niece Aku, wisely said, “It’s not what you eat between Thanksgiving and New Year’s that is the problem; it’s what you eat between New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving that is!”

SAM_3396What dietary patterns are best? There are many that are healthy, such as the DASH Eating Plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean Diet. But, many people know the terms without knowing that the “diets” are all about the combination of foods that contribute to their health benefits. Many know about the Mediterranean diet, but they think eating at the local Olive Garden is the same as eating Italian food. Real Italian food is made with fresh, simple ingredients and doesn’t come with unlimited bread sticks and salad. Here’s a photo of a real Italian pizza; fresh tomato sauce, and small amounts of fresh mozzarella cheese. It is not a cheese-stuffed crust with 5 meat toppings.

So, don’t fear your food; if you like ribs, enjoy them at the tailgate party,  just don’t eat them every day.

Balance and vary your diet, too. If you know that the family dinner will be heavy and high in calories, eat light that day or the next day.

Eat more veggies: roasted, steamed, grilled, stir-fried, or oven-baked. Just don’t fry them all of the time.

Snack on fresh fruit in season. It is the original fast food. Fall is the time for crisp apples and juicy citrus fruit, so enjoy.

And one more thought. If you choose to be vegan, gluten-free and eat only organic foods, that is your right and your choice, but please don’t lecture others that what they choose to eat is inferior. I loved this exchange between a dietitian and and her friend. When offered a slice of cake the friend said that she couldn’t eat it because it wasn’t “clean” and would harm her. The dietitian replied, “It’s banana bread; not heroin!”

For more tips on dietary patterns that are recommended for adults 50+, see Food & Fitness After 50.

 

 

Why this dietitian promotes healthful eating and exercise for those over 50

When talking about food and fitness for those over 50, it is the best of times, and sometimes the worst of times. Everyone want to know the ”best” exercise or food to eat to prevent aging. A quick Google search will provide you with many answers, unfortunately most of them are less than science-based and are usually trying to separate you from your money. Let’s be clear: there is no one superfood or exercise that will prevent aging.

That is why, I am excited to launch Food & Fitness After 50, with co-author, exercise book-front-pagephysiologist, Bob Murray. The book will be published later this year. While there might not be a “best” exercise or food, that doesn’t mean that food and fitness are unimportant as we age. You can be healthier at 65 than you were at 45 by eating well and starting (or increasing) your physical activity. This is important because so many of us are living longer. Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, began turning 65 in 2011 and by 2029 when all boomers will be 65, more than 20% of the population will be over 65. Why is 65 an important number? Because people reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of 19.3 years (20.5 years for women and 18 years for men). How do you want to spend those 20 years? Do you want to travel, enjoy your favorite physical activities, and be a vibrant person in the lives of your grandchildren and great grandchildren? I am sure that we all want that, so being active and eating healthfully are steps you can take right now to increase your odds of being healthy into your later years.

Just this week, The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published an article on nutrition controversies in preventing heart and blood vessel disease. The article can be found here  http://www.onlinejacc.org/content/69/9/1172?_ga=1.183783078.1620905078.1488293025 and here is an easy to guide to see their recommendations.

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While their article focused on heart disease, our book covers many healthful eating patterns to keep your heart, bones, joints, blood sugar, blood pressure, and brain healthy. Remember there isn’t one “best” eating plan. So, we feature four plans that we think most older adults will find fit their lifestyle and their enjoyment of foods:

  • The DASH eating plan (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
  • The Flexitarian plan
  • The Mediterranean Diet
  • The MIND diet (MIND stands for Mediterranean- ASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay)

We also dive into exercise for endurance, strength, agility, balance, and functional fitness. Keeping our heart and lungs strong, halting muscle loss, and keeping agile all contributes to functional fitness….the ability to do the things you did when you were younger without a second thought. I want to be able to lift my suitcase in the overhead bin when I travel and pick up a 50-pound bag of dog food, all examples of functional fitness. Age-related muscle loss usually starts at about age 40. We can lose 10-15% of muscle mass and muscle strength every decade if we don’t engage in progressive, resistance exercise.

We hope that our book can help those over 50 learn to separate usual aging from the disuse of a sedentary lifestyle and sort out the fact from fiction about foods. Please visit our webpage to learn more about the book and leave us a question that you might see featured in an upcoming blog post. Web page for Food & Fitness After 50

 

 

 

 

No Magic Foods but Maybe a Magic Diet for Longevity

People always ask me what is the “best” food to eat or supplement to take for healthy aging. Despite the hype surrounding the latest and greatest magical food or pill (acai, pomegranate juice, glucoasamine, etc.) the better question might be what is the best dietary pattern for long life? A recent research paper published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (January, 2011)looked at dietary patterns of over 2,500 adults over a ten-year period. The men and women were between the ages of 70 and 79 when the study was started.

Researchers identified dietary pattern clusters and labeled them as:
1) healthy food cluster
2) high fat dairy products cluster
3) meat, fried food and alcohol cluster
4) breakfast cereal cluster
5) refined grains cluster
6) sweets and desserts cluster

Researchers found that that the 374 people who were in the healthy food cluster had a significantly lower risk of mortality (death)than the other clusters. The healthy food cluster included low-fat dairy foods (low fat yogurt or frozen yogurt, skim or 1% milk) fruit (fresh, canned or frozen), vegetables (not French fries, though), whole grains, poultry (not fried chicken) and fish and seafood (again, not the fried variety). They also found that those in the healthy food cluster got more exercise and had more non-smokers.

Two other interesting findings in this study; one of them unexpected. The unexpected finding was that eating red meat was not associated with higher mortality. That is good news because many older adults shun red meat thinking that all red meat is high in bad fats. Choosing lean cuts of red meat and keeping portions in check is a good way to get needed nutrients (zinc, iron and vitamin B12) that may be lacking in an older person’s diet.

Another finding was that those who ate foods from the healthy cluster had higher blood levels of 2 B-vitamins (folate and B12) that help to lower a blood protein, homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine have been linked to poor cognitive function, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

So, this new year,take a look at your whole diet instead of focusing on a single food or nutrient for good health and long life. And, don’t forget to exercise like this older couple I spotted walking in Budapest.