Dietary Fiber Intake Tied to Successful Aging, Research Reveals

Dietary Fiber Intake Tied to Successful Aging, Research Reveals

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Most people know that a diet high in fiber helps to keep us “regular.” Now Australian researchers have uncovered a surprising benefit of this often-undervalued dietary component.

A new paper — published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences by scientists from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research — reports that eating the right amount of fiber from breads, cereals, and fruits can help us avoid disease and disability into old age.

Using data compiled from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, a benchmark population-based study that examined a cohort of more than 1,600 adults aged 50 years and older for long-term sensory loss risk factors and systemic diseases, the researchers explored the relationship between carbohydrate nutrition and healthy aging.

They found that out of all the factors they examined — which included a person’s total carbohydrate intake, total fiber intake, glycemic index, glycemic load, and sugar intake — it was the fiber that made the biggest difference to what the researchers termed “successful aging.”

Successful aging was defined as including an absence of disability, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, respiratory symptoms, and chronic diseases including cancer, coronary artery disease, and stroke.

According to lead author of the paper, Associate Professor Bamini Gopinath, PhD, from the Institute’s Centre for Vision Research, the study is the first to look at the relationship between carbohydrate intake and healthy aging, and the results were significant enough to warrant further investigation.

“Out of all the variables that we looked at, fiber intake — which is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest — had the strongest influence,” she said. “Essentially, we found that those who had the highest intake of fiber or total fiber actually had an almost 80 percent greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life over a 10-year follow-up. That is, they were less likely to suffer from hypertension, diabetes, dementia, depression, and functional disability.”

While it might have been expected that the level of sugar intake would make the biggest impact on successful aging, Gopinath pointed out that the particular group they examined were older adults whose intake of carbonated and sugary drinks was quite low.

Although it is too early to use the study results as a basis for dietary advice, Gopinath said the research has opened up a new avenue for exploration.

“There are a lot of other large cohort studies that could pursue this further and see if they can find similar associations. And it would also be interesting to tease out the mechanisms that are actually linking these variables,” she said.

This study backs up similar recent findings by the researchers, which highlight the importance of the overall diet and healthy aging.

In another study published last year in The Journals of Gerontology, Westmead Institute researchers found that, in general, adults who closely adhered to recommended national dietary guidelines reached old age with an absence of chronic diseases and disability, and had good functional and mental health status.

Source: The Gerontological Society of America

Vegan One-pot Dish with Spinach, Sweet Potato and Lentil

Ingredients

1 tbsp sesame oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chili, finely chopped
1-1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 sweet potatoes, (about 400 g), cut into even chunks
250 g red split lentils
2-1/4 cups vegetable stock
80 g bag of spinach
4 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal, to serve
1/2 small pack of Thai basil, leaves torn, to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a wide-based pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the onion and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the garlic, ginger and chili, cook for 1 minute, then add the spices and cook for 1 minute more.
  2. Turn up the heat to medium, add the sweet potato and stir everything together so the potato is coated in the spice mixture. Tip in the lentils, stock and some seasoning. Bring the liquid to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes until the lentils are tender and the potato is just holding its shape.
  3. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then gently stir in the spinach. Once wilted, top with the spring onions and basil to serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Good Food Magazine

In Pictures: Meatless Dishes

Linguine with Arugula, Garlic and Parmesan

One Pot French Onion Pasta

Goat Cheese and Egg Souffle Cups with Puff Pastry

Spinach, Mushroom and Feta Frittata

One Pot Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

Chickpea Coconut Curry with Broccoli

Meatless Meals: The Benefits of Eating Less Meat

You can eat healthfully without spending a lot. One way to achieve healthy savings is to serve meat less often.

It can be challenging to serve healthy meals on a budget. Meatless meals are built around vegetables, beans and grains instead of meat, which tends to be more expensive. You may be able to save money by going meatless once or twice a week. In addition, meatless meals offer health benefits.

The health factor

A plant-based diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. And people who eat only plant-based foods — aka vegetarians — generally eat fewer calories and less fat, weigh less, and have a lower risk of heart disease than nonvegetarians do.

Just eating less meat has a protective effect. A National Cancer Institute study of 500,000 people found that those who ate the most red meat daily were 30 percent more likely to die of any cause during a 10-year period than were those who ate the least amount of red meat. Sausage, luncheon meats and other processed meats also increased the risk. Those who ate mostly poultry or fish had a lower risk of death.

How much protein do you need?

The fact is that most Americans get enough protein in their diets. Adults generally need 10 to 35 percent of their total daily calories to come from protein. Based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, this amounts to about 50 to 175 grams a day. Of course, you can get protein from sources other than meat.

In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends choosing a variety of protein foods, including eggs, low-fat milk and products made from it, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. The guidelines also suggest replacing protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories. The fats in meat, poultry, eggs and high-fat dairy products such as cheese are considered solid fats, while the fats in seafood, nuts and seeds are considered oils.

Try meatless meals once or twice a week

You don’t have to go cold turkey. Instead, try easing into meatless meals. Consider going meatless one day a week. If you don’t like the idea of a whole day without meat, start with a couple of meatless dinners each week. Plan meals that feature entrees you like that are typically meatless, such as lasagna, soup or pasta salad. Or try substituting the following protein-rich foods for meat in your favorite recipes:

  • Beans and legumes — great in casseroles and salads
  • Vegetarian refried beans — a good substitute for meat in burritos and tacos
  • Tofu — a perfect addition to stir-fry dishes

When meat is on the menu

When your meals include meat, don’t overindulge. Choose lean cuts and avoid oversized portions. A serving of protein should be no more than 3 ounces (85 grams) — or about the size of a deck of cards — and should take up no more than one-fourth of your plate. Vegetables and fruits should cover half your plate. Whole grains make up the rest.

Flexing for your health

The term “flexitarian” has been coined to describe someone who eats mostly plant-based foods, but occasionally eats meat, poultry and fish. That kind of healthy eating is the central theme of the Mediterranean diet — which limits red meat and emphasizes fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and healthy fats — and has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions. Why not work on your flexibility and start reaping some healthy benefits?

Source: Mayo Clinic


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