Ageing and diet

D is for Diet

Only one posting on what has become a major industry?! The interesting thing is that despite the many books, the hosts of dieting gurus, loads of TV programmes that humiliate the obese, and ‘sensible’ food sold in supermarkets, there is now a strong consensus of what healthy eating consists of. For our purpose there is an important association between poor nutrition and deterioration in the physical and mental health of old people, so a carefully controlled food programme is vital.

The five portions of fruit or vegetable a day rule is a good beginning. Fresh rather than processed food guarantees that the vitamin content is intact. Whole grain food is good for essential vitamins and minerals and prevents constipation. If you are a meat-eater, choose lean meat, poultry and fish and eat protein-rich foods such as dried peas, beans and lentils which are vital for muscle and nerve function. Chose a sensible amount of low-fat milk products; they provide calcium which is needed for healthy bones, nerves and teeth.

If you need to watch your cholesterol, you will have been advised to cut down on all animal fats which isn’t a bad idea for any of us.

Food to be kept at bay is meat with a high fat content, especially if you fry it. Of the cooking oils on the market, certainly olive oil is the most healthy and, as an advantage of a Mediterranean life-style, fresh fish – especially mackerel, salmon and herring which are rich in vitamins and the necessary Omega 3 oil. Keep away from too many sweet things (children and the elderly have this temptation in common, as my grandchildren will attest). There’s a recent claim, with which I unhesitatingly concur, that dark chocolate is good for you – but of course in moderation. Snacks and crisps with their high fat and salt content are not a good idea; if you are a nibbler, keep to dried fruit and unsalted nuts.

And alchohol? There is the well-known guidance that women shouldn’t drink more that 14 servings and men no more than 21 a week. Recently there has been a researcher’s welcome suggestion that red wine is quite good for you, especially for people with cardiac problems. But for general health, the best liquid is water – though the 2 litres a day some suggest is a bit unrealistic unless you live in a desert region (when you couldn’t get it anyway).

Final thought – watch what you eat, but ENJOY it!