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Posts Tagged ‘fruits and vegetables’

Want to Live Longer?—Eat Your Veggies

Few of us, if any, look forward to dying young. A Swedish study, conducted over a thirteen year period, found that the number of servings of fruits and vegetables affected longevity. Those who ate no fruits or veggies were more likely to die three years earlier than their counterparts who ate five or more fruits and vegetables daily. Eating more than that amount did not seem to influence length of life. Three servings increased the life span by thirty-two months. On average, those who ate at least one serving per day lived nineteen months longer than those who never ate any.

Nutritionists tout fruits and vegetables for their high content of antioxidants—substances that block chemicals that can damage cells. While antioxidant supplements don’t seem to directly influence prevention of heart disease or cancer—both often associated with a lower life span—eating fruits and vegetables may. The nutrients folate, magnesium, potassium, and dietary fiber plus vitamins A,C, and K in fruits and vegetables also play a significant role in cellular health and longer life.

High intakes of white fruits and vegetables may protect against stroke. White fruits include bananas, pears, and apples (regardless of outside skin color). Vegetables include cauliflower and cucumbers but not potatoes, which are a starch. Green, orange/yellow, and red/purple fruits and vegetables do not seem to have the same protective advantage.

However, other fruits and vegetables have their place. The amount of fruits and vegetables eaten correlates with certain disease entities—obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases—and mortality. In an eighteen year study of 71,346 female nurses, three servings per day of whole fruit lowered the risk for type 2 diabetes. Women who ate more green leafy vegetables and fruit (but not fruit juice) were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, while refined grains and white potatoes increased the risk.

The American Heart Association and other health organizations and professionals recommend at least four to five and preferably five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily. The nutrients they contain make a big difference when it comes to optimum health. Mom was right. Eat your veggies.

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When it comes to dying, most of us want to live as long as possible. However, one thing that bothers us as we grow older is memory loss. Aging diminishes cognitive skills in everyone. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease increase in the elderly. Many issues may impact brain function, but diet is a leading cause we can alter. The good news is, eating certain foods makes a difference in how well we will think and remember in old age.

The journal, Neurology, reported on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. In a study of 17,000 men and women with an average age of 64, those who followed the Mediterranean diet were less likely to develop thinking and memory problems. However, the same wasn’t true of those with diabetes.

Epidemiology published a review of twelve research studies. In nine studies, those who followed the Mediterranean diet had better mental function with lower rates of cognitive decline and reduced risks for Alzheimer’s disease.

What is the Mediterranean diet? Unlike other diets that tell you what to eat and what to avoid, the Mediterranean diet is a pattern for eating. Its name originated from the sixteen plus countries in the region of the Mediterranean Sea where certain foods are plentiful. Residents in the area seem less prone to many common diseases that plague Americans.

The Mediterranean plan is mostly a matter of switching certain types food for a different choice. The diet uses generous portions of fruits and vegetables as well as bread, cereals, beans, nuts and seeds. Olive oil is an important part of the diet with limited amounts of saturated fats and trans fats. Those who follow the Mediterranean plan eat very few red meats and consumed dairy products, fish and poultry  in low to moderate amounts.

While some studies found that the Ornish and Pritikin diets, both extremely low in fat, gave similar results, the Mediterranean diet has proven beneficial in improving or maintaining cognitive function.

One thing is certain. There are no definite treatments for dementia. Your best bet is prevention. To keep from losing your mind, reduce the onset of symptoms through adequate physical and mental exercise and eat more foods found in the Mediterranean dietary pattern.

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