OCBC Silver Years

Eating for Healthy Ageing

How you can eat right for better health tomorrow

"Do you yearn to be​ young forever or to live a long life? The search for the elixir of youth is not new. Folklore records how many powerful kings of old searched in vain for elusive magical potions. But, things are different now. Nutrition science offers evidence-based suggestions to eat well to live a longer life. See how you can pick up ideas on how to eat right today for better health tomorrow.​​"

You work long and hard. You look forward to the day when you can enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle. Now, there are two paths. Do you see yourself healthy, well and enjoying life or, ill, popping medications and dependent on others for help? Of course, you want to stay well! Good health does not just happen you need to do all you can to protect and preserve it. Evidence-based nutrition science has led to practical suggestions to eat better to prevent or delay chronic lifestyle-related diseases and even, live longer. Eat right today and insure yourself for better health tomorrow. Here is how:

Eat for optimal protection

1. Make your calories count
As you grow older, your metabolism decreases and you will require less energy. Yet, nutrient needs don't change much, and in some cases they can even be higher. So, as you eat a little less make your food choices count for more nutrition. Go for mostly lean and low fat food, and cut back on food high in added sugar. Moderate your portions while ensuring a balanced diet that comprises of a variety of food.

2. Include wholegrains, fruit and vegetables
Did you know that each day your cells are bombarded by very active "free radical" molecules? Scientists propose that unchecked free radicals damage body cells and accelerate ageing, cause cataracts, heart disease, and certain cancers.

The body calls into play several mechanisms to protect body cells that are vulnerable to free radical damage. One effective protective mechanism is your daily diet. Evidence suggests that eating plenty of wholegrains, fruit and vegetables has a protective effect against heart disease and cancer. Vitamins, minerals and many natural 'phytochemicals' function as 'antioxidants' to neutralise the free radicals, protecting body cells from damage.

So, try your level best to include at least one wholegrain staple food like wholemeal bread, brown rice, wholegrain pasta or noodle or oats every day. Aim to meet your daily recommendation of 2 servings of fruit and 2 servings of vegetables. Remember to eat a variety of these wholesome food, especially brightly coloured produce, as they are richer in antioxidant colour pigments.

3. Bone up with calcium
As you live longer, the scaffolding holding you up that is your bones need support as well, to last a lifetime. So, do not neglect strengthening them with the natural bone cement.

Dairy products (milk, yogurt and cheese) are rich sources of calcium. Include dairy products in your diet every day, and go for low fat or fat free versions.

If dairy products trigger intolerance or an allergic reaction, then you need to include other calcium-rich food, for example small fish with edible bones, green leafy vegetables and calcium-fortified food such as soybean milk, bread and biscuits.

Eat defensively

1. Eat less fat, limit saturated fat and minimise trans fats
Fat is a nutrient. But fat is also a concentrated source of calories, so when eaten in excess, a diet high in fat can increase the risk of being overweight and obese. To make matters even more complex, there are different types of fat in our diet and each one of them has a different effect on health. Based on their composition, we can classify fats as saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fats.

Saturated fat and trans fat raise LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) and this increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Saturated fat is found mostly in animal fat (e.g. fatty meat, chicken skin), full fat dairy products, deep fried food and food prepared with palm-based vegetable oils. Food containing trans fat include pastries, cakes, cookies and products made with vegetable shortening and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.

Scientists generally agree that unsaturated fats - olive, canola, soya, corn, and peanut oils - are healthier choices. Unsaturated fats, rich in omega 3 fats offer a multitude of heart-health benefits ranging from lowering triglycerides to improving the elasticity of blood vessels. But, all healthier oils are to be used sparingly as part of a well-balanced diet.

2. Lighten up on salt
Many of us have acquired a preference for salty food. Salt is sodium chloride, and excessive sodium intake increases the risk of high blood pressure. The main sources of sodium in the diet of Singaporeans are salt and sauces added during cooking. So, cut down on using salt and sauces; flavour food with natural seasonings such as lemon juice, herbs and spices instead. Read food labels of packaged food to pick items that are lower in sodium or have the Healthier Choice Symbol.​

3. ​Chewing problems?
If you have difficulties chewing, see your dentist and try to get the problem treated. Don't let chewing problems become a barrier to good nutrition. Choose softer food and chop food well to reduce the risk of choking. All food groups of My Healthy Plate have food which are softer and easier to eat. Examples include porridge and mashed potatoes (Brown rice and wholemeal bread), and steamed fish, tofu and yoghurt (Meat and others).​​

So Remember...

  1. Optimise your health by eating a wide variety of food, in the right portions, guided by the My Healthy Plate. Maintain a healthy weight by balancing what you eat with regular physical activity.
  2. Include whole grains, fruit and vegetables to protect your cells from free radical damage and developing some chronic lifestyle diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Include enough calcium-rich food to protect your bones and prevent osteoporosis.
  3. Eat defensively. Eat less fat, limit saturated fat, and minimise trans fat. Choose and prepare food with less salt and sauces.

Source: Health Promotion Board © HealthHub. Reproduced with permission. View original source.

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