I met a married couple this week, and when they learned that I’m a nutritionist, they immediately started talking about how very little we are taught about how to eat properly to age well. Yes, Married Couple I Just Met, I agree with you 100%. Most information that folks get is generic, specific to babies and children, and may or may not be what you personally need to stay fit and strong and energetic past your 20s. We are all unique individuals, after all. That’s why your best friend can lose 25 pounds on her new diet, and all you lose on the same diet is your patience! (Losing weight is just one example that I know every will relate to.)
And while I can’t give you individual care in a blog post, I can share a few tips that will help you feel younger as you keep turning those calendar pages!
STEP ONE: Drink from the fountain of youth
And I mean, the water fountain. You may consume plenty of fluids in a day, but often they are caffeinated, carbonated or alcohol. When you drink enough water, your cells are lubricated so you look better, and you can help reduce cravings, muscle pain and headaches all while supporting healthy heart function. Yes, just from drinking enough water!
A good guideline for ‘enough water’ is to halve your body weight (in pounds), giving you the number of ounces to drink in a day. So, if you weigh 160 pounds, your calculation would look like this:
160 / 2 = 80 ounces (which then would equal 10 cups)
Now, 10 cups is the average amount to drink. If it’s really hot out or you’re doing intense physical activity, you might need more.
BONUS point: Have a glass of water 20 minutes prior to eating, but nothing to drink during meal-time. This helps boost digestion.
Speaking of which:
STEP TWO: Boost your digestion
Just like a car, as we get older, our systems can become less efficient, especially if you haven’t been providing regular tune-ups. And when your digestion isn’t working efficiently, you don’t get all the nutrients out of our food – meaning, you waste them. As a result, in the short-term you might over-eat (and gain weight as a result!), and feel tired or grumpy; in the long-term, you can develop nutrient deficiencies that can lead to trouble. As a popular example, a deficiency of calcium is associated with osteoporosis. Although you may be eating plenty of calcium foods, you may not be absorbing what you eat. Make sense?
So you want to amp up your digestion. There are lots of ways to do this, but one of the easiest – especially in warm weather when fresh fruits and veggies are plentiful – is to eat more easy-to-digest raw foods. Along with being easier to assimilate than their cooked counterparts, raw foods also supply enzymes that help to decrease inflammation (reduce painful joints and muscles) and boost energy levels.
Another easy breezy way to boost digestion is to take supplemental probiotics daily. Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria that occur naturally in your digestive tract. They’re important for helping you digest food and producing certain vitamins, including vitamin K and B vitamins. You can get them in traditional fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurt, but likely not in numbers high enough to undo the damage we inflict on our digestive bacteria daily. Stress, chlorinated water and antibiotics can reduce our beneficial bacteria, as well a diet that’s low in fructooligosaccharides, which are the fruit and vegetable fibres that feed the bacteria (and too many prepared, processed and fast foods.) Look for a brand that guarantees live bacteria.
BONUS points: If you’d like more tips on boosting digestion, check out this article.
STEP 3: Find balance
I’m talking about your blood sugar. Many people are under the impression that if you are not overweight you don’t have to worry about your blood sugar. Not true: plenty of very trim people – even athletes – can have the precursor to type 2 diabetes (metabolic syndrome) or be at risk for type 2 diabetes.
Here’s the background on type 2 diabetes. Your cells require glucose for fuel. The hormone insulin is like a key that unlocks the cell to let glucose in. When too much glucose is available, the cell is no longer interested, and refuses to open up. As a result, excess glucose stays in the bloodstream – no matter what size pants you wear. Eventually, if not addressed, type 2 diabetes will result.
To avoid glucose overload in your bloodstream, start your day with breakfast containing fat, fibre and protein. These foods take longer to digest and absorb into the bloodstream than do carbohydrates, and allows for more gradual energy release. Follow up every few hours with a snack also containing protein, fats and fibre.
You’ll know it’s working when you have more sustained even energy throughout the day, and no longer experience highs followed by lows that make you want to nap shortly after a meal.
BONUS points: For more info on Type 2 Diabetes, watch this short video.
STEP 4: Temper the fire
As you get older, you might notice a few more aches and pains, especially after physical activity – whether that’s running a marathon, painting a room or pulling weeds from the garden. The pain lets you know you’ve got some inflammation. What you may not know, however, is that your food choices can have a strong impact how much inflammation is in your body and how long it stays around.
Inflammatory foods include refined products, fast foods and deep fried foods, as well as food high in artificial ingredients and sugar – including alcohol. Healing foods are the ones that come, as I like to say, from the ground, from the tree, from the farm and from the sea. In other words, eat foods in their natural state, prepared simply at home. Shop the outer reaches at the grocery store, and avoid those middle aisles where you could be tempted by all those colourful boxes and bags!
Food allergies and sensitivities can also trigger inflammation (including eczema, psoriasis, acne, joint and muscle pain) so watch for connections between what you eat and how you feel. To help reduce inflammation, I recommend omega 3 essential fats EPA and DHA from fish and fish oil. Vegans can these fats from algae.
Aim for 1000 IU EPA and DHA daily.
(P.S. Your skin will simply glow, too!)
STEP 4: Get your beauty sleep
Yes, beauty sleep is a thing.
If I didn’t already give the title away to water, I would say that adequate, restful sleep is the fountain of youth. With all you are expected to do in a day, your body needs time for rest and repair. I’d love to have sleep classified as a vitamin or some other essential nutrient so folks stop belittling its importance.
When you skimp on sleep, you don’t look good, you don’t feel good, and frankly, you gain fat. Research links short sleep duration with weight gain in box sexes and in every age group. Aim for 7-9 hours of restorative sleep nightly.
If you find sleep is a challenge, enjoy some cherries: this delicious fruit contains melatonin, which is known as the sleep hormone. If stress keeps you up at night, keep reading…
STEP 5: Reduce the impact of stress
It would not be helpful for me to tell you to reduce your stress. You already know that’s a good idea, and it’s often easier said than done. So how about I give you some ideas to help your body deal with it?
Stress leads to elevated cortisol, which competes with testosterone for men. It eats away at muscle, and is a factor in fat gain – including the beer belly that doesn’t have to come from beer. For women, excess cortisol feeds fat cells in the abdomen, contributing to your muffin top. Cortisol is also a factor in low mood – and, let’s be honest, crankiness.
If you follow all the steps from 1-4 that I’ve laid out, you’ll do plenty to support the internal stress your body deals with 24/7. For added support, use supplemental adaptogens, which help your body adapt to stress. Herbal ashwaghanda and Siberian ginseng are some good options. You also want to be sure to have plenty of antioxidant vitamins B and C to support your nervous system and adrenal glands (where adrenaline and cortisol are manufactured.)
Exercise is also good for burning up stress, building muscle (crucial for men, as muscle supplies testosterone!) and distracting your brain from your troubles.
Oh, and remember to breathe.
SO, there you go. These 5 steps will help you get on the track of aging proactively, no matter how old you are now.
If you are ready to get more specific guidance based on your individual health and nutrition profile, please click through this link for more details about my programs. Be sure to join our community here on this page at the top right. When you register, you’ll receive a free copy of the e-book Feed Your Soul: A Guide to Nourishing Body + Spirit. The e-book goes into much more detail about how to positively impact the way you look and feel.
Until next time,
I wish you vibrant health and a beautiful day!