Food choices promote a long and healthy lifespan

Nancy Teeter, RDN

Few people want to live their final years incapacitated, requiring increasingly more medical care, drugs, and support. Instead, they prefer to live life like most centenarians: independent, vibrant, and grateful for each new day. The personal choices you make have a significant impact on the quality of the remainder of your life. The behaviors common to people who live to 100 are inexpensive and can help protect against disability. Increase your chances of enjoying a long health-span by making these six food choices.

Eat more vegetables every day. Eating plenty of veggies may help reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type two diabetes, osteopenia, and some cancers. A plant-forward diet is rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and trace elements. Fill half your plate with vegetables most meals.

Eat two cups of fruit daily. A whole piece of fruit such as a banana or an apple count as one cup. Cantaloupes and other melons are currently at their peak, and in-season fruit is especially delicious. Enjoy some this week.

Pump up the Pulses. Because of their health benefits, pulses — dried vegetables which include beans and lentils — deserve recognition as superfoods. They are rich in protein, iron, fiber, potassium, folate, and antioxidants; and they are naturally low in sodium and cholesterol-free. Strive to consume at least one serving each day.

Consume Alcohol in Moderation. For a man, that means no more than two servings a day; for a woman, moderation is one serving. What is a serving? Five ounces of wine, eight ounces of beer, or an ounce and a half of hard liquor.

Replace Saturated Fat with Healthy Fats. Saturated fat from coconut oil, butter, cream cheese, and fatty animal products is associated with heart disease. Healthy fats from avocado, nuts, and seeds with ward off disease.

Minimize Ultra-Processed Food-like Products. There are lots of exceptionally healthy processed foods, including frozen vegetables, yogurt, and canned beans. However, when processing strips foods of their natural goodness, they are to be avoided. Examine the ingredient lists of the food you buy. If you can find all the ingredients in the store, and the product doesn’t contain an excessive amount of added sugar, then it may be right for you.

Non-Food Choices to Make. If you smoke, stop. The years of life expectancy a typical smoker loses is 25. Move more. Regular exercise is proving to be the fountain of youth. Exercise helps prevent blood sugar spikes, heart disease, stroke, and it can help with regularity.

Note: Nancy Teeter, RDN, is a SaddleBrooke resident and an expert in the anti-inflammatory diet and gut health.