First of all, yes I am over the age of 40. I was supposed to hit some kind of evil metabolic wall by now and not be able to eat what I want. While I can’t say that I’ve seen a big hit in my metabolism, I do feel more aware of how foods affect me. Do I think that is some age-related phenomenon? Not necessarily. The one thing you can do everyday to affect your health is what you put in your mouth (don’t go there). So I like to think that I’m more in-tune with my day-to-day feels. I think it just might be the consistency in my life between work, family and activity with the awareness that wearable technology brings. Add in some regular blood tests and a good enough memory and you can start piecing together the effects of your nutrition and lifestyle. For today we’re going to focus on nutrition and a few foods I think you should be consuming more of in 2022. Most of these foods are aimed towards longevity and increasing your healthspan. Yes, we’re looking at the big picture…not instant weight loss (I hear that cabbage soup for 30 days does wonders if you survive). Trust me, feeling good later means you’re going to also feel good now. Let’s dive in!
- Fruit…and specifically blueberries, apples, pomegranates and blackberries.
Say it with me, fruit does not make people fat? I love the look when someone walks in and I’m eating a banana (again…don’t go there). They usually say something like, “I can’t believe you eat that because of all the sugar.” Yep, those bananas are really fattening people up…at a whopping 105 calories for a medium banana…I’d have to eat 35 bananas OVER my daily caloric output to gain a pound…I don’t think that’s the culprit but I digress. These fruits are powerhouses. Why? Here are a few reasons… I love blueberries and blackberries for their brain-friendly neuroprotective resources. Studies have shown that blueberries can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, slow down brain aging, reduce the risk of heart attacks and lower blood pressure. And you know that old saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away? Well, that’s probably because they contain health substances that have been linked to a reduced risk of asthma, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer. And last, but certainly not least, let’s talk about those pomegranates. Pomegranates can help keep your blood vessels young and flexible and may even slow down skin aging…I mean who doesn’t want beauty inside and out?
- Green leafy vegetables.
Yep…it’s time to eat like an adult and that means consuming more kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts and spinach. These guys pack a punch of awesome vitamins and minerals. People who consume these often have brains that are up to 11 years younger. Plus, their blood vessels are much healthier and have about a 16 percent less risk of a heart attack. Want to reduce that risk even more? Come see me at enduraLAB and let’s exercise! And don’t worry about loading up on these carbs. Green leafy vegetables don’t cause glucose spikes in your blood. Why is that important? Reducing your blood glucose spikes leads to better health and a longer healthspan. We’ll discuss that in detail at another time.
- Starch resistant carbohydrates
Gut health baby! Before I dive into the benefits of a healthy gut, let’s first clarify what “starch resistant carbs” actually are. My favorites for 2022 are plantains, sweet potatoes, yucca, cassava, lentils and legumes. You might know of these lovely carbs as prebiotic fiber. That’s a way cooler term but we like them because they support a healthy gut flora. And a healthy gut flora equals a healthy person. Plus, starch resistant carbs can improve your insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, keep you full…and regular. If you are looking for a starch, this is where you start as these will usually lead to a lower sugar spike due to the fiber and usually contain more micronutrients. One thing to note, you might not “agree” with some of the starch resistant carbohydrates. Experiment with a few to find your favorites!
- Green Tea and Coffee
These are a few of my favorite things…because caffeine! It’s pretty well known that tea can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease, and can reduce the risk of stroke. This is because of the magic of Theanine. Theanine has been associated with healthier blood vessels, and could reduce blood pressure and even obesity. Consuming green tea in the afternoon can help improve concentration and improve relaxation.
While coffee has a somewhat of a controversial reputation (especially online) if you look at the scientific studies, we see that the benefits outweigh any potential drawbacks. Coffee can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkiinson’s, Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and various cancers. That doesn’t mean you get to go crazy with coffee though. Keep it to a max of 3-5 cups per day and try to keep it before noon (your sleep will thank us).
- Dark Chocolate
Not only do I think this is delicious…but dark chocolate is full of brain-healthy substances like flavanols that reduce inflammation, protect your brain and blood vessels, slow down cognitive decline and make you happy. Dark chocolate has also been associated with less risk of hypertension, heart disease and therefore a reduced risk of dying. Now don’t go eating bars of this stuff…a block or two a day will do you…and make sure it contains 70% cacao or higher!
- Fatty Fish
Fatty fish like salmon, sardines and anchovies have been linked to less cardiovascular disease, auto-immune diseases (like rheumatoid arthritis) and healthier brains. This is because they contain omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and are important components of the cell membranes (especially in the brain, eyes and blood vessels). The big thing I like about these foods is that they are shelf stable and always ready if you need a quick snack. But like all foods you consume, do your research and make sure you’re finding quality products with minimal ingredients.
This one usually catches people off-guard. Really, mushrooms? The thing is, mushrooms are kind of a catch-all. They are excellent alternatives to starchy foods and can be a pretty good alternative to those looking to take a plant slant in their nutrition. Mushrooms give your immune system a boost and may aid in a reduced risk of cancer. They’ve even been linked to a reduced risk of depression. I mean, pretty impressive right?
- Healthy Fats…think coconut, olives, avocados and walnuts
Healthy fats don’t make you fat…they make you PHAT. I’ll be focusing on increasing my fat intake in 2022 due to their power in reducing inflammation. Most of these fats should be coming from fish (see above), nuts, seeds and fruit (you know…avocados, coconuts and olives). These fats help to reduce systemic inflammation and are good for the skin. They’ve been shown to aid in the reduction of aging-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease and have been associated with less insulin resistance and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes! Many studies have shown that increasing your intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) - found in sunflower seeds, walnuts, salmon - lead to a reduced risk of heart attacks and lung cancer.
Take a quick look at the list again. In total, we believe that eating more nuts, fruits and vegetables will lead to a healthier 2022. This list can easily be consumed throughout a day. Start with a smoothie made with berries, kale, walnuts, and plant protein. Make a lunch with some starch resistant carbs and a lean protein and finish the day off with some salmon on top of a green salad. Throw in some black coffee in the morning and some green tea early afternoon, treat yourself with a few squares of dark chocolate and boom, list complete!
We’re excited for 2022 and we’ll be talking a lot more about nutrition and how a renewed focus on what you’re putting in your mouth will help you perform, look and feel better. Do you need help with your nutrition? Need to bounce some ideas off how nutrition can help support your quest for a more healthy lifestyle? Maybe just an accountability buddy? If you are, we’re here to help! Sign up for a nutrition consultation by clicking the link below.