This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight.
Establishing Your “Healthy Aging” Plan
Learn from the Okinawans & the People of the Mediterranean!
First and foremost — slow down. Relax a little. Definitely don’t stress about it!
Now, take a leisurely but long and honest look at your lifestyle. While you’re relaxing is a good time to ask yourself: Is the way I eat fostering “old age” or is it promoting Healthy Aging?
A sensible way to assess the contribution your nutritional practices are making to your ability to age healthfully is to compare them to the information in our healthy aging posts.
Then, in a stepwise fashion, think about making incremental changes to your habits that will lead you down the path of health and wellness. Think of the core elements that we’ve talked about time and again. These include the fundamentals of diet, lifestyle, and nutritional therapy. Now, thinking about each one, assess where you may be deficient and then give some thought to incorporating healthy principles into your daily living.
Taking it one step further, your therapeutic nutritional regimen should work as follows: the foundational nutrients should include a high-quality, complete multivitamin and multimineral formula that has sufficient levels of essential nutrients and includes additional antioxidants. Given the immense benefits of essential fatty acids from fish oil, these should be a part of the foundational plan. A high-potency, purified fish oil product is best. In addition to these supplements, a final one to include in this foundation is a probiotic bacterial supplement that contains multiple friendly strains and that is certified to contain what it states on the label.
Now reassess your dietary habits and your lifestyle, along with any specific areas of need or support you have, and build on your foundation based on your needs. For example, if you’re not getting adequate levels of antioxidants in your diet, you may need to add additional ones. This can be accomplished in many ways, including by adding a greens drink to your regimen. Furthermore, if you need to support your joints, cognitive function, or heart health, you would add nutrients specifically targeted to those areas. In this way, you start with the fundamental core of nutrients and then add based on your individual situation. This ensures you achieve the comprehensive support you are looking for in order to age healthfully. Lastly, if you need guidance, don’t hesitate to check with your naturopathic physician or nutritionally-informed healthcare practitioner. It could be the wisest investment you’ll ever make. So, if you need help, ask for it!
Tier I — Diet and Lifestyle
Most of the food you eat should consist of fruits and vegetables as well as some whole grains (but not too many grain-based foods; they pack a sizeable caloric wallop). Five servings of fruits and five servings of vegetables every day will go a long way toward keeping you healthy. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables — during the course of a week, your 35 servings of fruits should include at least 10 different kinds of fruit — go ahead and stretch your sense of adventure beyond apples, oranges and bananas. Eat some blueberries, fresh grapes, pineapple, papaya — you get the idea.
The same for vegetables — 35 servings a week, with 5 or fewer being any form of potatoes. Carrots, lettuce and tomatoes are great — but use your imagination. Replace a plate of fries with a bell pepper (green, red, yellow or orange) stuffed with mushrooms. Rotate different varieties of squash and zucchini. Cucumbers aren’t just for sandwiches. And olives — how can you go wrong? Don’t be afraid to actually try some of those “unusual” vegetables available in the stores. Eat a rainbow of colors, as those colors represent something healthy that your body has an essential need for.
Get adequate amounts of protein in your diet. Try to remember that the healthiest protein sources for human adults do not come from mammals. You’ve heard this before — fish every day, poultry several times a week and eggs as often as you like. View dairy foods (even the so-called “fat-free” ones) as beverages or sweet treats and not as components of a healthy diet. Eat very lean red meats on occasion to add some variety to meals, but don’t fall into the “meat and potatoes” trap. And don’t forget — beans and legumes are a great substitute for animal protein once in a while.
Snack on raw nuts and seeds as they are good sources of essential, healthy fats. Don’t overdo it, though. They are calorie-rich.
Forget salt and sugar — you’ll get all you need and then some from the fruits and vegetables that form the base of your relationship to food. Add spices to spice up your life — switch to some real taste enhancers — herbs, spices such as turmeric, ginger, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon, pepper — condiments that taste great, are less filling and are health-promoting.
Lastly, don’t forget the importance of establishing a routine regimen of physical activity and exercise. Alternate this with a spiritual practice or some form of meditation, such as yoga. These routines will help you cope with daily stress.
Tier II — Your Nutrition Insurance Policy
Of course, day-to-day life has its ups and downs, and it’s not realistic to plan on always being able to keep up with your dietary ideals, no matter how motivated and well-intentioned you may be. Besides, there’s no way you can maximize your nutritional health through foods alone — you just can’t eat a dozen oranges, snack on a bushel of wild berries or wolf down 5 pounds of even the tastiest broiled salmon every day. Or even every other day. Also realize that the nutritional value of our foods has decreased over the years due to irregularities in soil nutrient content, over-planting and over-harvesting.
In the real world, everyone needs a nutritional insurance policy — and individualized, carefully selected and targeted high-quality dietary supplements are the answer.
As we discussed above, the “basic” policy is provided by a superior multivitamin, multimineral supplement. Daily use will smooth out the fluctuations in your needs and food choices and can fill in any temporary gaps that might occur on any particular day.
In general, a superior vitamin and mineral supplement for an adult should provide:
- Vitamin A
- Folic Acid
- Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
In addition to a superior multivitamin and multimineral supplement, you should add supplemental fish oil and a probiotic supplement. Quality products are essential to ensure you’re getting all of the good they offer and none of the bad – in terms of contamination, rancidity, certified strains, etc.
Beyond that, give consideration to adding a “whole foods” dietary supplement containing fruit and vegetable extracts or powders, if your dietary habits haven’t reached the healthy plateau yet. A fun and refreshing alternative is a “whole foods” liquid beverage packed with all of these nutrients plus a broad spectrum of phytochemicals, the dietary fiber of fruits and vegetables, and the other, so far unidentified, healthy food factors that nicely complement the purified vitamins and minerals in your basic supplement. A couple of these drinks a day can make up for any servings of fruits or vegetables you might happen to miss.
Tier III — Individualize and Target Your Coverage
The judicious selection and then faithful consumption of other dietary supplementation will allow you to focus on your greatest personal concerns. Want extra immune support? A concentrated bioflavonoid mix may be helpful. Joint support? Think glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, etc. If heart health concerns you, you may want to include CoQ10 and alphalipoic acid, among others in your daily “Tier III” supplemental nutrition plan for Healthy Aging. Looking for an edge in mental performance, memory, mental clarity, quick thinking? Consider folic acid, the omega-3 fish oils EPA and DHA, dark green leafy vegetables, blueberries, phosphatidylserine, N-acetylcysteine, vinpocetine and other brain-friendly phytonutrients.
Need help deciding? Consult a naturopathic physician or nutritionally-oriented health care practitioner.
Despite what you may want to think, it is impossible to take every supplement that could help improve your health. That’s why the basis of your nutrition plan for Healthy Aging is healthy food choices. Your dietary habits are of the utmost importance. Nonetheless, everyone can benefit from first identifying their own most urgent needs and then targeting their personalized nutrition plan for Healthy Aging accordingly.
Healthy Aging — Go For It!
Although Mark Twain said, “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d druther not,” when you embrace a positive lifestyle — eating healthfully, exercising moderately and joyfully filled with a sense of purpose, passion and social engagement — you will find that Healthy Aging is a journey well worth pursuing.
A Blueprint for Healthy Aging
- A healthy diet is the foundation of healthy aging.
- Fill in the gaps with individualized and targeted dietary supplementation.
- Build on that core with daily physical activity and exercise.
- Never use tobacco products and drink red wine at dinner and in moderation.
- Embrace your life as it is, and let a desire to improve — not ambition — guide you.
- Become inspired by whatever makes you truly happy and fulfilled
- Turn your back on stress and learn to relax.
- Turn toward the meaningful people in your life and allow their love and friendship to restore your energy.
- Rekindle your trust in others.
- Exercise your mind and challenge it to retain a positive outlook and attitude.
- Laugh once in a while and smile often.
- Maintain balance in all things.