How to increase your lifespan?
If you are an adult between the ages of 18 and 64 years, this is for you. Adulthood should be a time of experiencing life to the fullest. With robust health and fitness, you can fully embrace your diverse roles within your family, community, and workplace. Unfortunately, throughout this age span, a shift toward sedentary behavior tends to occur. The tendency is to become more inactive in leisure time rather than pursue active recreational options. In addition, although ideally, 100 percent of adults would engage in both aerobic activity and resistance training, the percentage of adults engaging in these activities decreases with age. Even though this is a bit discouraging, let’s focus on the positive side and on you! By applying the recommendations, you are taking steps to change your personal health path. By focusing on nutrition and physical activity, you can claim a healthier and more active life.
Focus on a Healthy Nutrition
Nutrition is the process of taking food into your body so your body can use that food to provide energy for daily activities and exercise. Too often the word “nutrition” brings to mind unappealing foods without taste. Healthy eating does not mean surviving on dry toast and celery sticks. A balanced diet should include a variety of appetizing foods that provide needed nutrients. Food can have no–nutrition-related functions as well. For example, social celebrations, holiday get-togethers, and expressions of support for a family facing an illness or tragedy often include food. Food is part of everyday life. Rather than seeing nutrition as an obstacle, you can focus on positive food choices as part of your emphasis on a healthy lifestyle.
You may be asking yourself, does nutrition really have much of an impact? To drive home the importance of nutrition, consider that an estimated 16 percent of deaths in men and 9 percent of deaths in women have been attributed to missing the mark with regard to nutrition. The following sections will help sharpen your focus on optimizing your diet.
Physical activity is a key factor in maintaining health and fitness during adulthood
Areas of the Diet to Increase
American adults consume sufficient amounts of most nutrients but are lacking in others. Underconsumption of a number of nutrients has been highlighted as a particular public health concern; these include calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and dietary fiber. Iron is also under-consumed by women between the ages of 19 and 50 years. Fortunately, many foods contain these vitamins and minerals. Here is a list of some examples of good sources. Reflect on your own eating habits and consider small changes you can make to ensure that you consume adequate amounts of these nutrients.
Falling short in regard to these nutrients as well as others (e.g., magnesium, choline, vitamins A, E, and C) is likely related to an inadequate consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy. Take a second look at table Foods and Nutrients to identify a couple of items in each row that you could substitute for another less nutritious item in your diet.
To ensure adequate iron status, premenopausal women should consume foods with heme iron (e.g., lean meats, poultry, seafood) as well as non-heme sources (e.g., legumes, dark green vegetables, fortified products). When consuming non-heme sources of iron, include foods rich in vitamin C (e.g., orange juice along with fortified cereal), which enhances the body’s ability to absorb the iron.
What is the recommended intake of folic acid?
Folate is one of the B vitamins found naturally in many foods (e.g., beans and peas, fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, dairy products, poultry, and meat). A folic acid is a synthetic form of the vitamin found in fortified foods and supplements.
Fortification of grain products with folic acid was implemented in the United States to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects. It is recommended that all women capable of becoming pregnant consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily (from fortified foods, supplements, or both) in addition to the amount of folate consumed as part of a healthy eating pattern.
Areas of the Diet to Reduce
Although adults may under-consume some nutrients, they often overconsume other nutrient and dietary components. The Dietary Guidelines reveals that most Americans exceed recommended intakes for added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. In addition, caloric intake is higher than needed, resulting in weight gain over time. The key is to make shifts in the composition of current foods and beverages consumed in order to ensure adequate intake of needed nutrients within the caloric requirements and personal preferences for each individual.
Dietary sodium intake is recommended to be less than 2,300 milligrams per day. Salt (or more technically, sodium) intake is linked to higher blood pressure. To decrease the risk of developing high blood pressure, keep a handle on your sodium intake and also ensure adequate intake of potassium by checking on sources noted in table Foods and Nutrients. Both naturally occurring sodium and added salt within the cooking process or at the table account for some of your total intake (12 and 11 percent, respectively).
Most salt consumption (77 percent), however, is related to packaged and restaurant food. Snack favorites that typically are high in sodium include pretzels, potato or tortilla chips, and salsa. Some items vary in their sodium content among manufacturers. Soup is a good example of a product that can be very high in sodium or reasonable, in the case of some new lower-sodium options. Keep an eye on product labels. Low-sodium products have less than 140 milligrams of sodium or less than 5 percent of the Daily Value for sodium.
What can I do to reduce salt in my diet?
Consider the following ways to reduce salt consumption:
- Check the Nutrition Facts label and select lower-sodium options.
- Prepare your own food without salting during cooking, and limit adding salt at the table.
- Substitute herbs and spices for salt to flavor food (e.g., no-salt seasoning blends, pepper, rosemary, basil).
- Select fresh rather than processed products when possible.
- Examine sodium content of condiments like ketchup and salad dressings; select low- or no-sodium options and watch portions.
Saturated fat should account for less than 10 percent of total calories. Only about 29 percent of the population meets this target. Common sources of saturated fats include mixed dishes, especially those containing meat or cheese (e.g., burgers, sandwiches, pizza, pasta or rice dishes), as well as snacks and sweets, protein foods, and dairy products. Shifting from consuming food items high in saturated fats to products high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats is recommended. Monounsaturated fat sources include olive and canola oils. Polyunsaturated fat sources include foods (e.g., nuts, fish) as well as various oils (e.g., soybean, corn, sunflower).
Among adults, intake of added sugars is also too high. Some common sources of added sugars are snacks and sweets (e.g., cakes, cookies, dairy desserts, candies, sweet toppings). A major source of added sugars in beverages, accounting for almost half of added sugars consumed by Americans. Consider how shifting from sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks and sweetened fruit drinks to water or low-fat or fat-free milk provides benefits for calorie reduction (with water) or improved nutrient content (e.g., milk).
Substitutions can be made in many aspects of one’s diet. Replacing refined grains with whole grains is recommended. Refined grains are found in pieces of bread, tortillas, mixed dishes using rice and pasta, snacks, chips, and crackers. Some examples of whole-grain products are whole-grain bread, whole wheat cereal, brown rice, and wild rice. In situations when a substitution is not available or desired, decreasing portion size could be considered as a way to reduce added sugars in the diet.
When considering areas of your diet that might be improved, focus on some areas to modify, making shifts in your diet where needed. Keep a healthy dietary pattern in mind rather than becoming solely focused on restriction. These are some suggestions:
- Adjust recipes, mixed dishes, and even sandwiches to reflect a greater emphasis on fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
- Focus on including foods providing under-consumed nutrients (e.g., vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, nuts, and dairy products).
- Replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated options.
- Make water a preferred beverage choice.
One last area to think about related to overconsumption is caloric intake. To maintain body weight, the number of calories consumed in foods and beverages must equal the number of calories the body uses for basic functions as well as to provide energy for work, activities of daily living, and exercise. Shifts in this balance as a result of even small amounts of extra calories on a daily basis may contribute to the gradual increase in body weight often seen throughout adulthood. One of the benefits of a physically active lifestyle is the additional calories used on a daily and weekly basis.
Adults should focus on an adequate intake of all vitamins and minerals and, in particular, those listed previously as often being under-consumed. The foods and beverages you consume create your eating pattern and should reflect your cultural and personal preferences. Meeting nutrient needs while staying within limits in some areas (e.g., saturated fats, added sugars, sodium, calories) is the focus.
Does alcohol have any place in the dietary pattern of adults?
Alcohol should be consumed only by adults of legal drinking age, and there are situations in which alcohol is not recommended (e.g., during pregnancy, when one is taking certain medications, before driving). The Dietary Guidelines does not recommend that individuals start to drink alcohol; if they do, moderation is recommended (i.e., up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men). Alcohol contains about 7 calories per gram and thus should be accounted for within one’s overall dietary intake.
To keep a positive viewpoint on nutrition, focus on dietary patterns rather than a list of “good foods” and “bad foods.” Recommendations include these:
- Focus on a dietary plan that is rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts.
- Keep your dietary plan moderate for low- and nonfat dairy products.
- Dietary patterns should be lower for red and processed meat and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages as well as refined grains.
Simple changes can have an impact over time. Bringing an apple, orange, or a container of cut vegetables to work may help you avoid grabbing a less nutritious, high-calorie item from a vending machine. Ideally, food selections should be nutrient dense. This simply means that the food item packs the biggest punch possible with regard to vitamins, minerals, and fiber for the least number of calories). Compare 100 calories of jelly beans to 100 calories from orange slices.
First, the orange offers a greater quantity (over a cup’s worth) for the same 100 calories. Second, the orange provides calcium, potassium, vitamin C, and folic acid among other vitamins and minerals. In contrast, 100 calories of jelly beans (about 25 pieces) provide some potassium and sodium along with added sugar. The potassium in the orange slices is over 375 milligrams compared to 10 milligrams in the jelly beans. This simple example clearly demonstrates the benefits of consuming natural, nutrient-dense foods.
With these guidelines in mind, you may realize that your current diet is right on track, or you may see that changes are needed. If some changes are desired, consider a series of substitutions rather than a sudden overwhelming overhaul. Food should be enjoyed, and with some attention, it can also be good for your health.