Fitness First: Nutrition, Exercise Go Hand in Hand

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell June 15, 2010 16:21

Krista Howell

Hara hachi buis an Okinawan phrase that means “eat only until 80 percent full.” It’s also a focal point of a book Ive just read called The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Whove Lived the Longest.

Author Dan Buettner shares stories from some of the worlds longest-lived cultures (blue zones), where dieting is an unknown. Instead, calorie-control and physical activity are an integral part of daily life. This concept is opposite the one my generation was raised on: “Eat everything on your plate, because there are children starving in China.” I don’t think we helped starving children at all by cleaning our plates.

Nutrition in the American culture has become unnecessarily complicated. We face so many choices in the supermarket, and are continually blasted with information about omega-3s, antioxidants, whole grains, fiber, fat content and more. Food labels seem designed to confuse and mislead us – if we can even read the small print.

Yet good nutrition and exercise are the keys to maintaining health as we age. You must practice both to achieve optimum health. Exercise improves our physical and emotional health. Good nutrition helps us maintain our healthy body and ward off disease.

A 91-year-old patient of mine is a case in point. He was inspired 50 years ago by Nathan Pritikin, founder of the Pritikin Program, to adopt a strict regimen of low-fat food and moderate exercise. He never considered it a diet. Rather, he saw it as a door to health, longevity and the improved quality of life he has enjoyed ever since.

Americans tend to wait until a health crisis looms before realizing diet is a key to good health. After a heart attack, most people are far more motivated to make dietary and lifestyle changes. But why wait? Work toward prevention instead. An active lifestyle paired with good nutrition is the first step — and hopefully will mean fewer trips to the doctors office.

Top 10 tips for a healthy diet

  1. Always eat a healthy breakfast. Oatmeal, whole grain cereal, fruit, juice, low-fat milk, toast with peanut butter, fruit smoothies.
  2. Fruit first. When feeling hungry, grab a piece of fruit.
  3. Increase antioxidants. Look for natural sources of foods high in these substances, which help the body to neutralize harmful free radicals. Good choices are raspberries, greens, oranges, cherries, broccoli, raisins and spinach.
  4. Opt for omega-3 fats: Fish, walnuts and flax seed are good sources.
  5. Eat more fiber. 20-30 grams of fiber per day is recommended. Good sources are whole grains, fruit, vegetables, barley, beans.
  6. Drink up. Have a cup of tea before a meal or increase your water intake. Our bodies need about 64 ounces (eight 8-ounce glasses) of water daily, and more when we exercise. Often, what we experience as hunger is really thirst.
  7. Focus on fresh. Local farmer’s markets are full fresh produce. This can be a great social outing that includes a walk around town.
  8. Shop on the perimeter. In the supermarket, thats where youll find the least- processed foods. Linger in the produce and vegetable aisles.
  9. Grab the grains. Add more whole grains to your diet, along with beans, nuts, and low-fat dairy items.
  10. Eat less: Hara hachi bu – eat only until 80 percent full.

Exercise physiologist Krista Howell supervises cardiac rehab patients for Sonora Regional Medical Center, and also teaches senior fitness classes.

© 2010 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell June 15, 2010 16:21
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