By Mary Purdy, MS, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
You can still be fabulously fit after fifty, but there are some physiological realities that take place in our golden years which are important to consider. Things do slow down somewhat. This means our digestion isn’t quite as snappy, our immune system is not as zippy and our brains aren’t always quite as speedy. But, fear not! Nutrition can play a significant role in all of these processes. There is huge amount we can do to support our bodies and even thrive as we age. Here are 5 ways to get started:
- Bolster your immune system with herbs and spices. As we age, we can often become more susceptible to infection. You likely already know that herbs and spices help to flavor foods, tickle your taste buds, and add life to bland dishes. But they offer a great deal more. Many herbs are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that actually help prevent damage to our cells. These include things like basil, cilantro and parsley, which you can easily throw in any salad, soup or sauce. Additionally, many herbs and spices offer antibacterial properties like rosemary, oregano, garlic and onions which can be added to roasted veggies or tossed into stews. Lastly, more and more studies are coming out demonstrating the anti-inflammatory effects of things like ginger, turmeric, and spicy peppers helping to reduce risk for chronic diseases like cancer. Sprinkle on a new spice today!
- Boost your brain and muscle with the power of protein. If you are currently active and engaging in workouts that have you doing weight bearing exercise, sufficient protein is integral to your health and your muscle recovery. These can be vegetarian or animal based (I always advocate for organic as much as possible) but are important especially the hour after a workout when your muscles need the building blocks for repair. Whether it’s eggs, bean salad, lentil soup, a protein smoothie, or a piece of fish, be sure you are getting about .8-1 gram of protein per Kg of body weight per day (Your weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = your weight in kgs). Needs do vary from person to person. Consulting a dietitian can be helpful. Protein is also used to create the neurotransmitters that help your brain to think clearly and your mood to stabilize. A little protein at each meal is helpful for keeping you balanced.
- Stimulate digestion with fermented foods. You may have noticed a resurgence in the sauerkraut on the shelves of your supermarket. This is because we are learning more and more about the benefits of fermented foods for our health. These foods (miso, sauerkraut, kim chee, tempeh, kombucha, a beverage) provide the body with beneficial bacteria that take up residence in our gut and support digestive function and immunity. This can be supremely helpful for anyone dealing with sluggish digestion or indigestion. Try a miso soup, some sauerkraut with your fried eggs, or sautee some slices of tempeh (fermented soy bean patty) in your next stir fry.
- Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate! Speaking of sluggish digestion, fluids are essential to keeping things “moving”. Our thirst mechanism slows down somewhat in our later years, so we often need to be reminded to keep up our intake of water and other beverages. This is especially true if we are sweating as the water loss can often be substantial. Water is always a wonderful way to rehydrate, but I often recommend trying out some other nutritive beverages like herbal teas, green teas, and coconut water which offer additional nutrients that can help to nourish our systems.
- Open yourself to Omega 3’s. You’ve likely heard some information about these essential fatty acids. We know that they support heart, skin and brain health among other things. Including them in your diet is a terrific way to maintain healthy cognitive function and memory. Whether you take a fish oil supplement (I recommend about 1000mgs-2000mgs/day) or eat fish a couple times a week, it’s important that your body gets a daily if not weekly dosage of these important fats. Other sources include walnuts, flax, chia and hemp seeds. You also might find it surprising that animals that are grass fed or chickens that are pasture raised have a much higher level of omega 3‘s in their meat and eggs respectively that those fed a grain based diet. Greens and sea vegetables provide a small amount as well. Another grand excuse to get more greens in!
No matter what, keeping a diet that is varied and bursting with many different colors and flavors, is a great way to support your body and health as you become your fittest and most fabulous self.
Mary Purdy, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition from Bastyr University. She provides medical nutrition therapy and nutritional counseling at her Private Practice at the Seattle Healing Arts Center and is a Clinical Supervisor at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health. She also offers an online detox program and regular corporate wellness presentations. She has been featured on KUOW and KIRO News, is on the board of Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine and is the Past President of the Greater Seattle Dietetic Association. Her website is www.NourishingBalance.com Her Group detox begins January 29th. ‘Like’ Mary Purdy’s page on Facebook!