There is so much talk of eating right to live longer and to look better for longer that it is easy to feel we should all be doing something more profound than getting a well-balanced diet.
But it seems that the right food may be all that it takes to give our bodies the best chance at fending off heart disease, some cancers, cataracts, osteoporosis and perhaps even some age-related memory drains.
Research is turning up that day-to-day choices like wholegrain cereals and fruit at breakfast time, and say, a leafy green salad with lunch or dinner can make quite a contribution to slowing down the body's natural aging process.
The irony here is that these simple dietary additions are all too often the things we skip from our busy and sometimes convenience-orientated lifestyles.
Just how certain foods and eating habits help fight off aging and age-related diseases is still speculative, yet evidence continues to mount that a number do — especially a wide assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The latest theory expounded in the US is the discovery that frequent salad and vegetable eating in childhood is associated with a reduced risk of developing cancer later in life — a theory guaranteed to have mothers pushing spinach and broccoli down the throats of little ones again.
Many studies are examining the cancer-resisting potential of vitamin E — which can be found in leafy greens, whole grains, nuts and salad oils — and beta carotene, found in abundance in apricots, carrots and other yellow-orange produce, which the body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin E seems to boost more than one aging defense mechanism. Work at the University of Missouri-Columbia suggests that diets low in green leafy vegetables and vitamin E may contribute to later-life sight loss.
Another theory is that the brain needs more vitamin E with age and that lower levels may contribute to weakened brain function.
On another front, some new and rather intriguing research on vitamin K — found in dark leafy greens, cabbage-family vegetables and strawberries — suggests that it may be a safeguard against osteoporosis.
What this points to is that it just might not be enough to pop a calcium tablet a day in the hope that you are doing all you can for your bones. The evidence from the latest research states that vitamin K helps to keep the calcium deposit on the bones.
Right, now you have absorbed all the facts, it is simply not appropriate to rush out and stock up on all manner of vitamin and mineral supplements and sit back smugly thinking you have your health in control.
You have to be careful. Vitamins in large doses are no longer vitamins, they're drugs. Just because something is good for you, there is nothing to say that even more is going to be even better. The best advice is to take the middle ground.
And the best thing to do is eat properly and obtain the vital nutrients in your food.
This might sound silly, but just increasing your consumption of fruit and vegetables to three half-cup servings per day will increase your daily intake without over dosing.
The next thing to do is to cut down on fats and increase fiber. A high-fat diet (more than 30 percent of total daily calories from fat) can set you up for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Breast-cancer and colon cancer are also fat-linked.
It is also worth remembering that you should limit your intake of fried foods, fatty meats, bacon, full-fat dairy products and cream. You should also keep salad dressings, oil, butter and margarine down to one or two tablespoons per day.
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