A healthy diet and lifestyle are our best weapons against age-related diseases.
Becci Twombley is sports dietitian for USC Athletics and Angels Baseball, overseeing the nutrition of 650 collegiate athletes and the 200 players within the Angels organization. The healthy practices she employs to keep her athletes fighting strong also apply as preventative measures for staying fit and active as we age.
“It’s vital at any age to adopt good habits to live a long and healthy life,” says Twombley. “Exercise and move 30 minutes a day and along with that, pay attention to what you put in your body.” Twombley’s prevention plan starts with a “food first” approach.
Diet has a profound impact on two of the leading causes of age-related illnesses and conditions: inflammation and being overweight, Twombley says. “Maintaining a healthy heart and blood vessels are two of the most important things anyone can do, along with keeping one’s weight under control.”
Eating a healthy diet does not need to be a chore, she claims. It is all a question of smart choices. Picking the right foods not only makes a difference in health risks, but also positively affects performance throughout the day at work and at home.
While the answer is not in a single food, or even a handful, adding nutrient-rich foods is part of a winning game plan. Twombley recommends these "All Americans" of the functional food group.
Pistachios are a multitasking nut with proteins and healthy fats, as well as three types of antioxidants. Those antioxidants help to decrease blood pressure and allow for good muscle recovery. Large population studies show that people who regularly eat nuts, such as pistachios, have a lower risk of dying from heart disease or suffering a heart attack. They’re also good for the eyes and skin, and have been found to positively promote weight maintenance.
Twombley serves tart cherry juice to her athletes after their workouts as its targeted antioxidants help with muscle recovery, improving recovery time. In addition, it boosts sleep quality to help prevent anxiety and stress later in the day.
Plain Greek yogurt is a nutrient-packed snack that has many health benefits. High in protein, it can boost energy and muscle mass, which decreases as we age. It can also benefit digestive health if it contains probiotics. Check the label to see if it contains live and active cultures.
The deep red root vegetable increases the size of blood vessels, improving the flow of oxygen that can get to muscles and tissues. For anyone with high blood pressure or suffering from cardiovascular disease, this is a good food to include.
A good hydration beverage that has protein, vitamin D and calcium like we often hear, milk also contains electrolytes for good muscle contraction.
Salmon and grass-fed beef
Both are high in omega-3, which is a good healthy fat profile for overall heart health. They also decrease inflammation in the long term. Inflammation causes a lot of the diseases we fear as we age, whether it’s diabetes or cardiovascular health.
Beyond these foods Twombley identifies, the noted nutritionist has more tips for healthy eating.
* Look for different colors of foods at different times. Make sure they’re incorporated throughout the day.
* Eat often and in a good portion size.
* Shop for high quality whenever possible and pay attention to ingredients.
* Maintain balance. Make sure your plate has carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat in the correct amounts. Add fruits and vegetables to that to get the antioxidants.
* And finally, have a plan. Plan what you’re going to eat that day and stick to it.