In recent years, much more research has led to better information about how diet affects our overall health and can boost longevity. The “food as medicine” movement has gained greater acceptance and the role nutrition plays in preventing illness has become more widely understood. Antioxidants found in certain fruits and vegetables are associated with reducing the risk for many diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration. In a recent study reported by Seniors Matter, people with higher levels of antioxidants in their blood were less likely to develop dementia.
Antioxidants such as vitamin C and E and beta-carotene help to protect our cells from disease. Researchers have recently found that people with higher blood levels of lutein+zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin had a lower risk of developing dementia. Lutein+zeaxanthin is found in leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach and broccoli, and beta-cryptoxanthin is found in oranges, tangerines, and papaya.
A higher dietary intake of antioxidants, especially vitamin C, can help protect older adults from the damage of oxidative stress and may improve skeletal muscle strength which can help promote mobility and function. The best way to increase the consumption of antioxidants is through food, rather than a supplement that can interact with some medications, or lead to health problems in high doses.
Because it can be difficult for older adults to eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking pressed juices or green tea can increase antioxidant consumption. Look for juices (or make your own) than include leafy greens, berries, and other fruits and vegetables that are not from concentrate. Orange and yellow plants are rich in carotenoids which the body converts into vitamin A. Researchers have linked these antioxidants with potentially protecting the brain from damage.
Need a weekend project? Dust off that juicer or blender and drink your way to a healthier older age! A new blender and smoothie recipe book also makes a great Father’s Day gift. Follow this link to Simple Green Smoothies for instructions on making an Orange Spinach Banana Smoothie, and for more tasty recipes. You can also sign up for the June 10-day Smoothie Challenge.