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What’s on your plate?

Various drugs and pills on a slice of granary bread on a wooden plate at a table settingTo improve your overall health and wellbeing, one of the most effective things you can do is ensure your diet is up to scratch. A clean healthy diet will improve your immune system, your ability to handle stress and give you the energy you need to exercise regularly.

Nutrition researchers have long suggested that when you take a look at your plate at each meal, that half of it should be brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, then there should be good quality protein and complex, unprocessed carbohydrates, along with some good fats.

Now, researchers at Tufts University have updated their recommendations for the plates of older adults.  Our plates should still be chock-full of fresh produce, is rich in nutrients and compounds that not only fight heart disease, but also certain cancers, stroke, diabetes and obesity. If fresh produce is harder to find due to seasonal variations or cost, unseasoned frozen produce, low sodium canned veggies, and fruit canned in juice are all nutrient-rich sources.

Fibre is extremely important to keep your digestive system moving. Fresh fruit and vegetables provide fibre, but grains are another excellent source. Make sure that your grain choices are whole grains and drink plenty of water to assist digestion.

Next on the plate, remember to get regular calcium and vitamin D from dairy foods. Eating dairy is a good way to assist bone health – recommendations for those over 50 are three servings per day. Dairy is often a good source of protein as well, so it packs twice the nutritional punch.

If you have a sensitivity or intolerance, make sure it is correctly diagnosed by a medical professional. It has become popular to be ‘dairy free’ or ‘gluten free,’ but there is also evidence that removing these from your diet when you aren’t allergic or intolerant can create other health issues.

A spot on your plate should be devoted to muscle-building protein. Lean meat, fish poultry and eggs will provide the protein you need with less heart-unhealthy, saturated fat. However, fats such as olive oil, coconut oil and omega 3s are essential for brain function and immunity. Add in good fats every day.

As we age, our thirst mechanism isn’t as sharp as it was in our younger years meaning our body could be in need of hydration although we are not feeling thirsty. Cut the sugary beverages, including fruit juice, and use water or herbal tea to stay hydrated. Coffee, teas, and soups will all add fluids to your diet.

Spice up your life with herbs and other spices as substitutes for salt. Blood pressure not only naturally rises with age but also with a high sodium diet. Chronic high blood pressure increases your risk for stroke and heart disease.

Lastly, remember to move. Adults need at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking weekly. When you need a loaf of whole grain bread at the local shop, take a walk instead of the car.