Want to live to a ripe old age and maintain your good health the whole time? You’ve got to eat well.
Everyone knows that eating well is essential for good health. You know a healthy diet reduces your risk of developing chronic diseases including cardiovascular, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and dementia, all of which lead to premature death. But what are you doing about it?
Because while genetics, lifestyle choices, environmental factors, and events out of your control also play a part in your health and longevity, you can control what you eat. So what should you include in your diet to keep a youthful appearance and to improve your body’s ability to recover from and avoid illness?
Fruits and Vegetables
This one should come as no surprise: fruits and vegetables are good for you. They provide high amounts of antioxidants, which help ward off infection and disease. A diet full of these plant-based foods helps you keep a healthy weight, which reduces your risk for a number of medical conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. The recommended servings of fruit per day are two to four, and you should go for three to five servings of vegetables each day. It is especially helpful to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in your snacks and meals. Doing this increases your nutritional intake and helps you consume fewer calories by filling you up before you get to the starches, fats, and meat on your plate.
Also known as the anti-aging fat, omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish are essential for a long, healthy life. Omega-3 fats have been shown to improve your brain function and the health of your heart; reduce depression and schizophrenia; and lower your risk of certain cancers including colon, prostate, and breast. Examples of fatty fish are tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel, halibut, flounder, and herring. Try to have at least two three-ounce servings of fatty fish a week and a daily serving of another source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil, canola oil, leafy greens, walnuts, or walnut oil.
Research shows that whole grains are another food that may help you live longer. Not only are whole grains naturally low in fat and high in fiber, but they are also a great source of key vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates.
This combination of goodness has been shown to lower your risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and more. Whole wheat, barley, oats, brown rice, spelt, and quinoa are all examples of whole grains to sprinkle in your diet. Many refined carbohydrates including breads, cereals, pastas, rice, and snack foods have added fiber and are labeled as “enriched,” but it is the whole grain equivalents that offer the most health benefits. So if you want maximum benefit from your grains, make sure the first ingredient on the nutrition label of the food you’re going to eat is whole grain.
Mediterranean Vs. Western
A Mediterranean-style diet is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and fish. Those who live in the Mediterranean coastal region have set a good example for the rest of the world. Their diet of mostly plant-based foods and monounsaturated fats with plenty of physical exercise isn’t considered a “diet,” but rather a lifestyle that leads to a long, healthy life and a much lower risk of chronic disease.
This is opposed to a “Western” diet, which includes refined grains, red and processed meats, sugary foods, French fries and processed foods, all which lead to a higher incidence of chronic diseases.
Three for the Road
Want to live longer? Eat lots of high-fiber plant-based foods, minimize foods and beverages high in sugar, and go with low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
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