As we enjoy our thrifty retirement, we want to remain healthy and active for many years. To do that, we need to eat right, exercise, and be certain we get enough vitamins and minerals. Sounds like what your teachers used to tell you in school, right? Vitamins and minerals? The unfortunate truth is that as we age, our bodies become less efficient at both absorbing and producing the vital nutrients that keep us healthy and help our bodies to function at optimal levels. To compound matters, a slowing metabolism reduces our need for calories as we age, even if we stay active. We must make extra sure we eat the best foods we can and take supplements when it makes sense.
We might begin with how we prepare our foods. Most of us have always observed good habits in the kitchen: cleaning our counters, cutting boards, and implements well. The difference now is that many more germs and viruses are around than in the past. The cute little e-mails that circulate and talk about how much simpler our lives were as we were growing up tend to ignore the global connections that are so common today. Our food comes from different continents and passes through dozens of handlers before we eat it. It has picked up germs and microbes that we never dreamed of in our hometowns. As a result, washing fruits and vegetables well and sanitizing cutting boards and other surfaces is important-really.
With that under control, we can turn to the best foods to eat to ensure we get a wholesome supply of nutrients. Think simple and think natural as we retire on the cheap. Loading up your diet with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is the key to maintaining a healthy diet and healthy body. At least two thirds of your diet should be composed of fruits and vegetables, with the remaining third divided among fish and poultry, whole grains, and sweet treats. Fresh fruits and vegetables form an important part of your strategy in your thrifty retirement. Brightly colored vegetables and fruits pack extra doses of vitamins, so envision a crayon box of colors.
Deep green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale, spinach, arugula, and parsley are full of vitamin A and folate. Bright orange and yellow produce includes oranges, squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and corn. Bright red tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, pomegranates, and red bell peppers are loaded with vitamins A and C. Deep blue and purple signal the berry super heroes, including blueberries, blackberries, and purple grapes. These colorful fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals, as well as vitamins and minerals. Phytochemicals encompass a group of nutrients that may help our bodies avoid some of the diseases associated with aging, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and macular degeneration.
Conversely, try to avoid white foods. Bland color often equates with bland flavor and bland nutrition, as well. White rice, white potatoes, and white bread are common culprits. Although each of those foods contains some nutrients, better choices have better flavor and much more nutrition. Brown rice, sweet potatoes, and 100% whole wheat bread are easy, flavorful substitutions.
Vitamin B-12 has received increasing attention lately, especially with regard to our retiree age group. Research has shown that as many as a third of seniors can no longer absorb B-12 from foods such as eggs, meat, milk, and yogurt, so we must get it from enriched cereals or from a daily supplement. Vitamin B-12 is vital to maintaining healthy nerves and blood.
Calcium and vitamin D go hand-in-hand today when we talk about maintaining strong bones and avoiding osteoporosis. The two are linked because the body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium efficiently. Women, especially, should be concerned about getting enough of both. The most commonly known sources of calcium are probably dairy products (always choose low fat versions), which are also enriched with vitamin D. Mom always told you to drink your milk, right? But if you abandoned milk as you aged, or if you are lactose intolerant, you might not be getting the daily 1200 mg of calcium that we require in our healthy retirement. Calcium is also found in vitamin D-fortified products such as soy milk, almond milk, and orange juice. Other calcium-rich food sources include dark green leafy vegetables, canned salmon, and canned sardines.
Vitamin D is best absorbed from sunlight directly on your skin, as it rarely is present in food. A daily 20-minute walk with your face and arms exposed to the sun will provide enough Vitamin D, as well as help to keep you physically fit and in shape. Supplements of vitamin D may be a wise option, as most authorities today believe people need at least 1000 iu each day, rather than the lower recommendations of the past.
Staying alert, healthy, and active is important to all of us in our healthy retirement. Eating right, which means both eating the right foods in the right proportions and avoiding the foods that contribute little to your health, provides a solid foundation for a long and happy retirement.
Copyright 2010, Linda Manley