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Healthy Aging- Protect Yourself

4. Protective Nutrients

There are many nutrients in our foods that can act as protective agents to fight off sickness and disease. We need these on a daily basis to help us survive and stay healthy. The main types of nutrients include: protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins and water. We will be focusing on the types of nutrients that we consider protective. These include Omega 3 fatty acids, phytonutrients, antioxidants, functional nutrients, fiber and clean, filtered water. We will cover the first three here and the last three in the next portion of the blog.

What are Omega 3’s? They are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are vital components of the brain, nervous system and all cell membranes. Omega 3 fats include DHA, EPA and ALA.

How they function?

-Act as building blocks for brain and nerve cells

-Prevents artery blockage and hardening

– Decreases blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol

-Improves immune function

-Supports Eye Health

Sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids:

-Fatty Fish: Salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, herring

-Flax Seed Oil or Cod Liver Oil

-Nuts and Seeds

Easy Ways to incorporate Omega 3’s in your diet: Eat fish 2-3 times per week, snack on nuts and natural nut butters, or incorporate flax seed oil into a homemade dressing!

What are Phytonutrients? These are bioactive compounds that help to slow down the aging processes and reduce the risk of age progression. Some common phytonutrients we often here about include:

-Beta-carotene (commonly found in red and orange fruits and vegetables)

-Lycopene (most commonly found in tomatoes, eating 2-3 servings a week is sufficient)

-Flavonoids (fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds)

How they Function?

-Enhance immunity

-Cause cancer cells to die

-Repair DNA

-Detox Carcinogens

Best way to get your phytonutrients: Eat your fruits and veggies! Eat a variety of whole grains, nuts, beans, spices and herbs.

What are Antioxidants? Dietary substances that prevent or slow oxidation and inflammation (remember the causes of aging from the first blog? They do this by scavenging the free radicals in the body and preventing them from causing damage.

Function:

-Improve immune response

-Lower the risk of infection and cancer

-Slow down oxidation and cell death

Best Sources: Vegetables and fruits, spices and herbs, nuts and seeds and whole grains.

As you can see these micronutrients aren’t actually that micro when it comes to our health. They play a huge role in the aging process and fighting against sickness and disease. Just by simply modifying your diet, you can reap the benefits that they have to offer. Varying you diet is essential in obtaining both the micronutrients as well as macronutrients. By alternating foods often, our bodies remain happy and healthy!

Please follow up next week to hear about the other three protective nutrients.

Tip: Each food group is loaded with different kinds of vitamins and minerals. The easiest way to get them all in is to eat a diet diverse in fruits, vegetables, meats and grains and even herbs and spices!

Some Resources for Your Convenience:

Omega 3’s and blood pressure: http://andevidencelibrary.com.ezproxy.emich.edu/conclusion.cfm?conclusion_statement_id=250275

Phytonutrients for Bone Health & Aging: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23384080

Antioxidants & Free Radicals: http://www.fasebj.org/content/1/6/441.long

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