Nutrition Expert Lena Rakijian was kind enough to give us the low down on a few secrets to aging well. It’s a beautiful thing to do the best we can for our mind, body, and soul. And it’s far more beautiful, when our best can inspire others.
1. SIT LESS
ADULTS SPEND MORE THAN 7 HOURS SITTING OR LYING DOWN.
As we age, this increases to 10 hours or more. Prolonged sitting has been linked with being overweight and obese, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and premature death. When compared to individuals who sit less, people who sit more have a significantly higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular events, death from a cardiovascular event, and death from any cause.
SECRET TO AGING WELL: Break up long periods of sitting with movement. Even just one to two minutes of activity can make a difference if sitting for a long period of time.
If it’s an option, occasionally stand at work, take a quick walk around the block every so often, sit on a stability ball to increase core balance and proprioception, or convince your supervisor to re- design the workspace to incorporate functional standing desks!
2. CHOOSE FISH
THERE’S A LINK BETWEEN EATING FISH AND HEART HEALTH.
Research has shown a link between eating fish and heart health due to the cardio-protective benefits associated with EPA + DHA (the long chain omega-3 fatty acids rich in fish and shellfish). Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with better memory, brain function, and vision with age. A diet rich in omega-3’s may also benefit the brain by lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
SECRET TO AGING WELL: Eat a 3-4 oz serving of fish at least twice a week.
My go-to is baked salmon with EVOO, lemon, whole grain mustard, paprika, & thyme.
3. GO PLANT-BASED
VEGGIES, FRUITS, WHOLE GRAINS, NUTS, SEEDS, & LEGUMES ARE THE KEY.
Research now shows that by eating more foods from plants and less foods from animals, you can help prevent cancer and heart disease, maintain a healthy weight and promote good digestion.
Plant foods contain substances called “phytochemicals.” These natural compounds can help prevent cell damage that, over time, can lead to cancer. Along with vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals are also important for the health of your bones, heart and brain.
SECRET TO AGING WELL: Fill 1/2 your plate with non-starchy vegetables and fresh fruits, 1/4 of your plate with whole grains, & 1/4 of your plate with a lean protein source.
Shop your farmers market weekly for locally grown produce, it’s cost effective, lasts longer, and tastes SO much better!
4. OPT FOR WHOLE GRAINS
BROWN RICE, QUINOA, BUCKWHEAT, AMARANTH, AND EVEN POPCORN!
When selecting a bread or pasta from the grocery store, make sure the first ingredient on the label reads “whole grain” or “whole wheat”.
Whole grains contain more fiber than refined grains. A high-fiber diet slows digestion, increases fullness/satiety, lowers blood sugar levels, lowers blood cholesterol levels, promotes gut health, and protects the lining of the colon and prevents cancer.
SECRET TO AGING WELL: Make at least half your grains whole.
Drink plenty of water with added fiber in the diet.
5. BE A VOLUNTEER
THE ESSENCE OF LIFE IS “TO SERVE OTHERS AND DO GOOD”.
Volunteering your time to help others is not only gratifying but also has been associated with stress reduction. Reduce your stress level and reduce your susceptibility to negative health outcomes.
SECRET TO AGING WELL: Find stimulating volunteer programs you are passionate about, give your time to others, and feel good about it
6. STIMULATE YOUR MIND
MORE READING & WRITING!
A recent study from The American Academy of Neurology showed that participating in activities throughout life that involved seeking or processing information, such as reading and writing, experienced a slower rate of cognitive decline than those who had not engaged in those activities. Mental stimulation early in life correlated to a 32% slower rate of decline in old age, but those who had done stimulating activity infrequently as children had a 42 percent faster rate of decline late in life.
SECRET TO AGING WELL: Find an activity that stimulates your mind. Reading, writing, puzzles, sudoku, you choose!
Just make sure you enjoy it! Start with just 10 minutes a day.
7. EAT GOOD FATS
LET’S GET HEART HEALTHY.
Heart-healthy unsaturated fats lower your bad cholesterol and help improve your good cholesterol. Your hair and skin will thank you too.
Maintain a healthy heart and a beautiful glow for years to come.
SECRET TO AGING WELL: Choose heart healthy fats like plant-based oils, avocado, nuts, seeds, and fish. Limit saturated fat intake from meat, poultry, high fat milk, butter, and cheese.
Lena Rakijian, MS, RD, LDN is a dynamic registered dietitian and fitness instructor based in Boston, MA. She specializes in balanced eating, weight management, sports nutrition, gastrointestinal health, and post-natal nutrition. To make your health goals a reality, connect with Lena at BACKBEET Nutrition!