Eating well is the key to aging with grace

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WASHINGTON (CNS) - Retirees with more time on their hands can use this time for their health by taking the extra time needed to prepare foods with anti-aging properties.

More than ever before, nutrient-rich but low-calorie foods are vital, says Eating Well magazine, which notes that as the body and mind age, certain nutrients become particularly important for nourishing the body and fighting signs of aging while caloric needs drop and the metabolism decreases.

Everyone's personal needs vary, so those beginning to see and feel the signs of aging should focus on the biggest challenges of their own body.

For starters, there are many power foods for bettering complexion and reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

A 2007 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said that vitamin C-rich foods - such as kale, bell peppers, papaya or peaches - have the ability to fight free radicals produced by ultraviolet rays. Vitamin C also helps produce collagen, which keeps skin firm.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon, olive oil, flax seeds and walnuts, have a double benefit for skin and brain health. The acids improve the skin's natural defense against damage from the sun's ultraviolet rays, according to "Eating Well" magazine, and the University of Maryland Medical Center notes these foods also play a crucial role in brain function. They are thought to be a key component in brain memory and performance.

Power foods can help ward off problems with blood pressure as well. Although blood pressure can be lowered with medication, most people find that is not needed if they adjust their diet. "Prevention" magazine reports that potassium-rich foods such as bananas, sweet potatoes, kidney beans, melon, tomatoes and orange juice, can lower blood pressure when 2,000 to 4,000 milligrams a day are consumed. Decreasing sodium intake can also help even out blood pressure levels.

If cholesterol is a concern, Harvard Medical School recommends adding foods that lower low-density lipoprotein, known as LDL or the "bad" cholesterol, which is a cholesterol-carrying particle that contributes to artery-clogging and hardening. Oats, barley, whole grains, beans and nuts get the gold star for lowering cholesterol.

Don't forget the liquids; coffee and red wine are proven to have multiple health benefits and are tasty indulgences. Coffee was found to be the No. 1 source of antioxidants for Americans in a 2005 study from the University of Scranton. Antioxidants are a source of disease prevention and possibly a method of disease treatment in some cases. Several Harvard Medical School studies discovered regular coffee drinkers are 50 percent less likely to suffer from breast, colon and prostate cancer.

Red wine is also packed with antioxidants, namely a type called flavonoids. Researchers from the University of California at Davis say Cabernet Sauvignon contains the most flavonoids, which reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

But all these tips won't make a difference if retirees don't actually have the energy to prepare a nutritious meals or snacks.

An online resource - helpguide.org - with tips on health issues, parenting and senior living recommends that a key step in healthy eating for seniors is making the effort whenever possible to eat with others - making dinner dates with family members, or attending programs that combine food and companionship or signing up for senior meal programs.

"Eating with company can be as important as vitamins," the site points out, noting that a social atmosphere stimulates the mind and helps people to enjoy meals and those who enjoy meals are likely to eat better.

"Eating with company will take some strategizing," it said, "but the effort will pay off."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970