Environmental Nutrition Newsletter
If you want to keep a sharp mind and able body as you age, it takes a bit of effort. Here are our five key dietary strategies:
1. Consume EPA and DHA omega-3s. These fish oils support heart health, brain function and memory during aging. That’s not all. A July 2015 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that healthy, relatively sedentary older adults given omega-3 fish oil (2 grams twice a day) for six months improved muscle strength 6 percent compared to those given a placebo.
Take action: Eat omega-3-rich fish, such as sardines, herring and wild-caught salmon, at least twice a week. Consult your doctor before taking fish oil pills.
2. Build a healthy microbiome. As we age, the microbiome — bacteria and other microbes that live in your gut — tends to decrease in diversity and shift towards more harmful species. That may weaken the immune system and raise risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and constipation. Besides supporting your microbiome with probiotic supplements and yogurt, eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits to provide material to nourish good bacteria. It may be one reason why eating more produce has been linked to longevity.
Take action: Grow heirloom tomatoes in patio pots, seek out new-to-you produce in stores or join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group.
3. Bone up to maintain mobility. Your bones need many nutrients beyond calcium, including vitamins D3 and K2, magnesium, strontium and DHA. According to a 2012 study in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, a supplement with these nutrients taken for one year (and calcium provided only from food) by 77 Canadian adults with declining bone strength was as effective as osteoporosis medication (bisphosphonates) in raising bone mineral density in the hip and spine. Daily exercise was also encouraged.
Take action: Choose a well-rounded bone health supplement, and get calcium in dairy products, canned seafood with edible bones and kale.
4. Skip soda; drink water. Sugary sodas cause inflammation and damage that may shorten telomeres — the protective caps on the ends of DNA. The shorter our telomeres, the faster we age and the greater our risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. A December 2014 American Journal of Public Health study of 5,300 healthy adults found that drinking 20 ounces of sugary soda daily sped up biological aging by 4.6 years, which is comparable to the effects of smoking.
Take action: Learn to love water. To improve taste and purity of water, filter it. A reverse osmosis filter, for example, removes impurities from tap water.
5. Optimize protein intake. As you lose muscle mass with aging, you also lose strength and mobility. Fight back by spreading your protein intake evenly throughout the day (20 to 30 grams of protein per meal), advise scientists in the June 2015 supplement to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This tactic may rev up the body’s synthesis of muscle protein, especially when you exercise regularly.
Take action: Increase protein at breakfast, which is often low in protein. Try Greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, milk-based smoothies, eggs and organic tofu.
(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384. www.EnvironmentalNutrition.com.)