ON average, we can expect to live at least a decade longer than our grandparents and we can access an abundance of superfoods that will help keep us healthy and vital as we age.
Superfoods? Granny and granddad would be snorting with derision, if they were alive, at the marketing makeover of what they would consider good decent food, in the first place. But we do live in an age when there is a much wider variety of food available to us and more detailed knowledge of their health benefits.
And while ‘superfoods’ may be a marketing tag, the term does drive home to us which foods in particular have nutritional properties that are above and beyond those of other foods.
“Usually this implies they contain vitamins and nutrients that promote good health, but no one food can cause, treat or prevent disease,” says dietician and nutrition consultant, Paula Mee.
“What we know is that our best route to health is to include a broad variety of fruits and vegetables of all different colours. We can get all the nutrients we need from natural everyday superfoods, as opposed to shelling out lots more money for exotic and tropical berries or supplements. Not only do whole superfoods taste better than a tablet, but they are less expensive too.”
The qualities of certain foods can be ‘super’ in keeping our hormonal and immune system balanced, our weight in check and our heart, brain and bones in peak condition as we age. Here Paula gives some of her favourite superfoods that we should be eating for our senior years:
All unsalted nuts are generally packed full of essential vitamins, minerals, fibre and healthy fats. But Brazil nuts are one of the few good sources of selenium, an antioxidant mineral for your immune system and thyroid function. You need just a couple a day.
Rich in vitamin E and potassium, it may help keep your heart healthy. Avocadoes also contain protective monounsaturated fats similar to those found in olive oil, tryptophan, vitamin B6 and folic acid, which can help you produce the feelgood chemical serotonin.
Another healthy heart food, due to two fundamental components — monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidant substances. It is, of course, a main ingredient in the well-documented healthy Mediterranean diet.
They contain vitamin C for normal functioning of the immune system and for keeping your ageing skin elastic and healthy. And, they’re packed with phytoeostrogens and with antioxidants which help mop up harmful toxins, called free radicals in the body.
Because it’s oily fish, it’s rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which can help blood flow through the arteries, lower blood pressure and make the blood less likely to clot. Omega 3 fatty acids are also important for the ageing brain and nervous system.
Less energy as you age? Broccoli contains not only antioxidants including vitamin C, but also folic acid, which can help prevent fatigue. It is a good source of fibre, vital for a healthy digestive system and also provides some iron to the diet.
Keep your cholesterol down with the help of this grain. It’s high in soluble fibre which works like a sponge, soaking up cholesterol transporting it out of the body.
Popeye was right! Bright, vibrant looking spinach leaves contain phytonutrients and also carotenoids, which the body converts to vitamin A, to help trigger the immune response to fight infections and also support healthy vision.
The humble baked bean is a nutritional powerhouse of protein, fibre, iron and calcium. Beans are naturally low in fat and including them as part of a healthy diet can help you maintain a healthy weight. They are a good source of soluble fibre which helps lower levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and of insoluble fibre, which helps to keep the digestive system healthy.
Maintain bone health is very important as we age. Yoghurt is great source of calcium and protein.
Protein is important for growth, repair and maintenance of muscle, while calcium is important for healthy bones, and also has a role in blood pressure regulation and muscle contraction. Live probiotic yoghurt contains ‘friendly bacteria’ which contribute to the functioning of a healthy gut by increasing the numbers of good bacteria to support a healthy immune and digestive system.
This Eastern spice contains zinc — which we need for maintenance of normal vision, for the immune system and protection of cells from oxidative stress.