With diets, longevity is key
Proper nutrition that’s sustainable over time fuels our bodies as we age
Brought to you by Kaiser Permanente
Diets with beginning and end dates might help a person accomplish a weight loss goal, but they rank pretty low on the scale of sustainability over time.
A healthy diet and longevity go hand in hand because a diet is a lifestyle, not a 30-day event. Diets should be viewed as part of an overall healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, healthful eating, avoidance of drugs and tobacco, and minimal alcohol consumption, said Dr. Carol Venable, Internal Medicine Physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Frisco Medical Offices.
“The long-term goal is coming up with a healthful diet that can be maintained over years,” she said. “Fad diets are often unrealistic long term, and, as a result, patients tend to revert to prior eating habits when they tire of the fad diets.”
Reverting back to old ways after following such strict dieting guidelines tends to equate to gaining back the weight that was lost. Doctors advise that a healthy, long-term diet must be realistic to maintain.
“It’s all about health. Being able to consistently eat healthy and exercise regularly has been shown to maintain health as we age,” said Dr. Jeannine Benson, Internal Medicine Physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Edwards Medical Offices. “These lifestyle changes can prevent diabetes, heart disease, strokes, cancer and many other health issues. Maintaining and healthy weight and lifestyle can also keep joints and muscles healthy, which improves mobility as we age.”
Which diet is right for you?
The U.S. News & World Report recently released its ranking of popular diets, awarding points for diets that are healthy, easy to follow or effective for weight loss, among other criteria. An impressive panel of health experts including nutritionists, doctors and scientists reviewed the diets and ranked them in seven different categories.
The diets that scored top marks were the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet.
The Mediterranean Diet is primarily plant-based and includes daily servings of whole grains, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. Animal proteins are mostly limited to fish and seafood, with poultry, eggs and dairy eaten in smaller portions. Red meat is limited to a few times per month, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
Dash Diet is based on fruits, vegetables, low fat milk, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans and nuts, with a recommendation of minimal sodium, added sugars and red meat, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
Despite the rankings, many health professionals agree that there is not one best diet.
“I suspect if you surveyed all physicians, you would have a myriad of answers to this question,” Venable said. “The Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet have some of the most extensive data for patients with specific chronic conditions. More than that, we encourage patients to speak with their primary care physicians before embarking on a diet plan.”
Benson said a diet that has plenty of vegetables, fruits and lean proteins is important, and carbohydrates should include whole grain foods rather than processed carbs.
“In fact, I recommend that people stay away from as much processed foods as possible,” Benson said. “I recommend people should drink alcohol in moderation and have sweets/desserts in moderation. It is also helpful to track your food every day – when we know what we are putting in our body, it is easier to make better decisions.”
Nutrition is medicine
Nutrition is one of the predictive factors of successful aging, according to a study published in the journal Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics. The study on behavior and cognitive disorders in the elderly also reported that adequate nutrition plays a major role in a healthy lifestyle that maintains bodily and mental functioning, while inadequate nutrition contributes to a loss of function and to the development and progression of disease.
One of the key aspects of medical care is prevention, Venable said. Not every disease or ailment is preventable, but she said it’s important to prevent the diseases that we can. Healthy lifestyle choices, which include nutrition and diet, are a big part of the equation.
“Moderation in diet, as in all things, is key,” Venable said.