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Q and A: Nutrition concerns for aging individuals

Apples are a good source of fiber. Ashley Miller/Daily

Deborah Inaba, an exercise physiologist for Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, has a passion for sharing the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle though diet and exercise.

“Life is too precious to be mindless of its gifts,” Inaba said. “Savor each bite. Be grateful for our wealth of food and nurture real health.”

With her understanding of the way the body consumes nutrients, Inaba shared her thoughts on a few common misconceptions and uncovered the benefits behind the consumption of proper foods.

Q: What are the most important nutrient individuals need to function over 50?

A. Fruits, leafy green vegetables, whole grains and legumes, as they provide all the essential nutrients and amino acids for human to be healthy at any age, not just 50 and above.

Potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6 and a good source of potassium, copper, vitamin C and dietary fiber. Ashley Miller/Daily

“America is overly concerned with protein and generally consumes too much animal protein [meat, eggs, cheese, dairy], which has been strongly implicated in cardiovascular disease, increased occurrence of Type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers,” she explained. “Humans benefit greatly from whole food plant-based nutrition that includes fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and flavonoids. Animal protein is high in fats and cholesterol. Plants do not contain cholesterol and are nutrient dense and calorie low.  A whole food plant-based lifestyle can reduce the risk of chronic disease, help with weight reduction and greatly improve health.”

Because Americans eat processed food almost exclusively, they are exposing themselves to extremely high amounts of sodium and preservatives that have been proven to contribute to chronic lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic inflammation leading to many diseases such as obesity, arthritis and cancers.

“Often people take multi-vitamins to  make-up for their bad diets,” she said. “A multivitamin cannot undo the damage that a chronically unhealthy diet does to the body and its functions. “

Q: Aging causes a decline in the ability to process and absorb certain nutrients.

A. Documentation from a National Institutes of Health study on proving healthy and safe foods as individuals age states that nutrient absorbtion may impacted for undernourished people in their 70s with other complications that contribute to that state, such as medication interactions, dental health, economic status and cognition.

Vegetables are an important source of many nutrients including folic acid, vitamin A and vitamin C. Ashley Miller/Daily

“For people at any age who eat a low-fat, increased fruit, vegetable, legume, whole grain diet, they will receive all the essential nutrients needed for health and vitality,” Inaba said. “Vitamin B-12 may need to be supplemented if the person has not achieved a true whole food plant-based diet or is taking other medications that interact with specific nutrients.

 

Q: Is it true metabolism slows down when an individual turns 50?

A. Inaba said no, there is no switch that goes off when a person hits the 50.

“Think of the body as a car engine. If the engine is never run, kept in a garage, not maintained, given old bad gas, never has its oil changed  Will that car run well? It’s not the car’s fault. It’s the owner’s fault. “

People in today’s culture simply don’t meet today’s standard exercise requirements, which is often the cause of diseases, obesity and mood changes.

“Metabolism is a function of nutrition and energy use,” she said. “Metabolism is complex processes that marketers would have you think is easily controlled. It is not. However, because American society is for the most part extremely sedentary and inactive, it looks like a switch goes off. “

 

Q: Does diet have anything to do with skin aging?

A. Inaba explained that nutrition plays a huge role in the health of skin at every age, not just 50 and above.

“High fat, high sugar, highly refined, processed foods and lack of pure water throughout a day will cause anyone’s skin to age prematurely; develop acne (which is a sign of ill skin health) and other skin diseases,” she said. “Skin’s health and elasticity is affected by the amount of hydration maintained daily, the amount of burning from sun exposure, whether one smokes or drinks alcohol excessively, and whether a nutrient dense or nutrient poor diet is followed. Our body systems are immediate feedback loops to what is put into them.”

 

Q: Keeping a food journal and practicing mindful eating

A. “Think of eating with awareness,” she explained. “Think of eating as something sacred done with people you love. Prepare and eat food that contributes to your health and not destroy your health.”

Inaba will be teaching a NOURISH program in May. She will discuss foods for health, offer nutrition information with a grocery store field trip and a cooking class with meal. For more information, contact Inaba at 540-459-1387, ext. 31387 or dinaba@valleyhealthlink.com.

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