While ageing, like taxes, is one of life’s inconvenient inevitabilities, a little know-how can go a long way to upping our health game. The following 10 nutritional tips won’t, in isolation, transform your wellbeing; but, when followed in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, these easy-to-follow tweaks can only help to boost how you look and feel.
1. EAT A COLOURFUL PLATE
Besides helping us feel fuller on fewer calories, eating a colourful diet that’s high in fruits and vegetables (whether fresh or frozen) will give you a boost of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre, which reduce the risk of chronic disease and help counter free radicals, thereby helping to fight cellular damage and ageing.
Choosing a colour-rich variety of produce is best, as different health benefits exist from the different colour spectrum.
2. REDUCE YOUR SUGAR INTAKE
Sugar has had a hard time of it lately – and with good reason, too. A diet high in the white stuff has been linked, amongst other things, to obesity, chronic diseases and inflammation.
Consuming sugar is often a habit, rather than necessity: a few spoonfuls added to your morning coffee, pre-packaged, sugar-loaded smoothies, processed microwave meals or even salad dressings, ketchup and the like – they all contain surprising amounts of sugar.
When food shopping, learn how to spot sugar amongst the ingredients (it is commonly labelled as anything from high fructose corn syrup or sucrose to dextrose, maltose and even honey).
3. SPICE UP YOUR LIFE
Do your best to boost your intake of healthy spices. Seasoning your favourite foods with spices will not only enhance the flavour, but will boost your nutrient intake, and help fight the ageing process.
Turmeric, for example, contains the active ingredient curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties and helps relieve joint pain. And, for an added boost, seasoning food with spices will help reduce the need to use added sugar and salt.
4. PRACTICE TOTAL RECALL
British scientists found that people who thought about their last meal before snacking ate as much as 30 per cent fewer calories than those who didn't stop to think. The theory: remembering what you had for lunch might remind you of how satiating the food was, which then makes you less likely to binge on your mid-afternoon snack.
5. LESS IS MORE
If the ingredients on a product’s label are too numerous to count and too difficult to pronounce, that’s your cue to leave it on the supermarket shelf.
Here’s a sobering stat: there are now more than 3,000 ingredients on the FDA's list of safe food additives—and any of these preservatives, artificial sweeteners and colourings and flavour enhancers could end up on your plate.
The long-term effect of these chemicals is not exactly beneficial for your health – or your waistline. So, as a simple guideline: if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.
6. APPLY PORTION CONTROL
Pennsylvania State University researchers discovered that by simply reducing meal portions 25 per cent, people ate 10 per cent fewer calories—without feeling any hungrier.
Serving yourself? Think about what looks like a reasonable portion, then take at least one-quarter less than that.
7. EAT BEFORE HUNGER STRIKES
We’re all familiar with the hunger pangs that accompany a growling stomach. But by the time those gurgling noises make themselves heard, your body is already craving nutrients - those pangs of hunger – and the accompanying sounds effects - are the body’s last-ditch attempts to get your attention.
Whenever possible, aim to eat before hunger strikes. Why? No matter how motivated or disciplined you are, when you’re physiologically hungry, your body's desires will undoubtedly trump your brain's best intentions; and your hunger-influenced choices will often be larger in both quantity and calories than ones made while content.
8. WATER WORKS
Our bodies are about 60% water, so it’s no secret that we need to drink plenty of H2O to keep our body systems running smoothly, optimise metabolism, boost energy levels and promote good digestion.
Don't wait until you're thirsty, though - thirst signals the first stage of dehydration, which means you're already too late. To remain hydrated, drink often throughout the day, and especially before and during a training session.
9. NOT ALL FATS ARE CREATED EQUAL
Once considered the ‘enemy’, fats are a vital part of any diet. Contrary to previous dietary advice promoting low-fat diets, newer research has confirmed that fats are necessary and beneficial for health.
But – and it’s a big but – they need to be the right kind. Healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil and coconut oil will not only satiate you, but they also support brain function, lower the risk of heart disease and, rather pleasingly, can enhance the taste of meals.
Avoid foods with saturated and/or trans fat, though. The latter – which are found primarily in processed foods - are particularly unhealthy and will increase the risk of disease, even when eaten in small quantities.
10. A LITTLE OF WHAT YOU FANCY…
Healthy eating doesn’t need to be about deprivation—it's about making smart choices the majority of the time. While fast food consumed on a daily basis is not going to boost anyone’s health, the occasional treat isn’t going to prove too detrimental in the long run. The bottom line: eat foods that you enjoy, just not too much of them.