By Janice Walper
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Greek physician and philosopher, Hippocrates’ advice is timeless and perhaps more important in these days of an overabundant food supply and conflicting nutrition information. There is little doubt that what you choose to eat has an impact on how you feel today and how your health will be in the future. Many chronic illnesses such as diabetes, digestive disorders and heart disease are affected by lifestyle and eating habits.
First of all, it is important to like what you eat and have relaxed and enjoyable meals. There are many things in life that we have no control over; however, we can make choices about what enters our mouths.
Plant food sources including vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes provide the most nutrients and are minimally processed. These have a high concentration of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants which are important to help nourish the heart, eyes, digestive tract and entire body without contributing to excess body weight. Fresh, dried, frozen and canned (as long as there is no added sugar and salt) are all options according to your preferences and skills in the kitchen. These foods are the foundation for great nutrition.
Often people find themselves relying on foods that are quick and comforting such as toast, muffins, pastries, cookies and crackers as their daily platform. Sometimes referred to as the “tea and toast” syndrome, these items are lacking in key nutrients. As we age our energy needs decline and it becomes important to obtain nutrient dense foods and limit those with “empty calories”.
In the grocery store the outer perimeter is where you will find most of the fresh and less processed foods. Most of the center aisles are full of snack foods, candy, soda and other processed foods. The more a food is processed or changed from the original state, the greater the nutrient loss. Sometimes this leads to vitamins and minerals being added back, in the case of many breads and cereals.
Fat has been demonized for some time now but is finally returning to a more favorable light. A certain amount of fat is essential to good health. Olive oil, nuts, nut butters and avocado are among healthy sources. Even the whole egg can be included in this group as it offers beneficial nutrients such as vitamin D and vitamin B12. Eating sources of fat does not necessarily create body fat.
So should you take vitamin and mineral supplements? Some routine blood work can show deficiencies such as iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. A supplement is usually necessary to replenish low blood levels. There are numerous nutrition supplements and the benefit depends on your lifestyle, health concerns and the contribution from your diet.
A diet full of healthy foods leaves little room for those “junk foods” that lack nutrition to support good health. Those unhealthy foods were not available when Hippocrates made his statement.
The better the quality of food, the more energy you will have. Eat well, be well!
Janice Walper is a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian/nutritionist for PACE at Element Care. For more information call 877-803-5564 or visit www.elementcare.org. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.