I find myself increasingly interested in many aspects of healthy ageing. If you look at my twitter posts you will see that this issue features quite regularly. Without even realising it I find myself drawn to reading all sorts of articles on the subject - I guess I have hit that age where these things start to matter.
When many of us think about ageing we just think about how we look from the outside, the passage of time shown through wrinkles or more bags and sags. Whilst I would love to avoid this, it really isn’t my main focus. I am not interested in simply increasing the number of years that I have left on this planet (even wrinkle free). I am interested in ageing really well. What does it take to live a long, lively and engaged life?
I passionately believe that we all have to take personal responsibility to look after our health; this becomes even more important as we hit our middle age. We cannot passively allow ourselves to slide into inactivity and poor health or rely on medication to hold us together.
Diet can play an enormous role in the prevention of many chronic diseases, but you have to work at it. So what diet works well for healthy ageing?
There was an interesting article published in 2013 (1) which discussed a blend of the Mediterranean and Asian diets as a promising dietary strategy to ensure health and healthy ageing – the MediterrAsian diet. There are several important components of these diets that provided healthy ageing benefits:
- Both diets are rich in all types of fruit and vegetables, which are important sources of beneficial compounds such as polyphenols (types of antioxidants)
- Both diets include a high consumption of oily fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, trout, mackerel), which are rich in omega 3 fats (anti inflammatory)
- The Mediterranean diet gets specific health benefits from red wine (high in resveratrol which is another antioxidant), olives and olive oil (contains phenolic compounds - more antioxidants)
- The Asian diet includes regular amounts of soy isoflavones (note that this is mean including soy in the form found in Asian diets (miso, tofu, tempeh, etc) and not soya sausages, soya protein bars or large soya lattes), turmeric, green tea and seaweeds (which in essence without going into all the details contain different types of…..you guessed it antioxidants).
Antioxidants are compounds that help prevent damage in the body. The process of ageing is about being unable to repair the everyday deterioration and damage that occurs. So it makes sense to support this process by eating more antioxidant rich foods. So what can we all do to ensure that we age well:
- Max out on multi coloured fruit and vegetables. 5 portions is a rock bottom minimum, try to get 7-8 (ideally no more than 2 portions of fruit a day
- Use olive oil regularly to make salad dressings
- Swap out the crisps and eat olives instead
- Red wine in moderation
- Eat oily fish 3-4 times a week
- Add soy a few times a week in the form that you would find in Japanese or other Asian dishes.
- Swap the builders tea and coffee for a mug of matcha green tea
- Season with seaweeds and turmeric regularly
(1) Kathrin Pallauf, Katrin Giller, Patricia Huebbe, and Gerald Rimbach, “Nutrition and Healthy Ageing: Calorie Restriction or Polyphenol-Rich “MediterrAsian” Diet?,” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, vol. 2013, Article ID 707421, 14 pages, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/707421