With preparations for last weekend's Elderblogger Meetup, the next chapter of Dr. Butler's book got sidelined. Now I'm back on track.
What could be more fun than talking about food, glorious food? Flavor, texture, aroma, beauty, conviviality, family and friends. Oh, and nutrition, which is what Dr. Butler is talking about in Chapter 7 of The Longevity Revolution.
“I don't think for a moment that life is supposed to be about deprivation, and certainly this book is not,” writes Dr. Butler. “Our pleasures help make life worth living...
“On the other hand, a long life depends in part on good decisions about how we live our lives, and nowhere is that more true than when it comes to our dining pleasures.”
“Decisions” is the theme of this chapter – deciding to make healthy decisions in what we choose to eat.
“Make it a habit to think – even for a nanosecond – about every eating decision you make, individually and collectively,” he says, because “for many people, moderate dietary adaptations can reduce insulin level, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and triglycerides, as well as overweight, all of what are significant factors in the aging process.
“That means you can eat your way into feeling and looking younger.”
While noting that no single nutritional approach works for everyone, Dr. Butler packs this chapter with with good information and simple rules:
• A good average intake of calories per day for women is 1600; for men, 2000.
• Saturated fats pose a significant health hazard because they put us at greater risk for stroke and heart attack.
• Our bodies require no processed sugar.
• Limit alcohol consumption to less than one drink per day for women, less than two drinks per day for men because aging bodies metabolize alcohol more slowly than when we were young.
• Drink a minimum of 1-1/2 to 2 quarts of water a day. We need to remind ourselves because aging bodies don't send enough thirst signals and with age, our kidneys function less efficiently which together can put us at risk of dehydration.
When Dr. Butler gets to the actual food we eat, he emphasizes the rules we all know – or ought to know by our age. You can decide to eat
Less salt – no more than 1500mg per day
More legumes and leafy, dark green and orange vegetables
Less fat – especially saturated fats in butter and meat
More fresh fruits – 2 or more cups per day
Whole grains should make up at least half of the 6 ounces of grains recommended daily
Less – or no - added sugar.
And, in general, eat less.
Butler recommends a daily multivitamin to be sure we're getting all the nutrients our bodies need.
Interestingly, among the many choices Butler gives of foods that are good for us (think a wide variety of colors), he highly recommends the potato.
“An amazing food is the potato. It is rich in potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. A whole potato, with skin, constitutes only about 125 calories when eaten plain.
"Beware high-fat toppings like gravy, butter, and sour cream; try yogurt, salsa, beans, cucumbers, onions, low-fat cheeses, cottage cheese, fruits, or lean meats.”
For years, a baked potato has been a favorite wintertime dinner of mine. I've tried most of his topping suggestions, but my favorite is a homemade duxelles which I cook up in a large batch that keeps in the refrigerator for a about 10 days for two or three meals in that time period.
Butler considers spinach a “wonder food,” high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidents. Too bad that agribusiness has bred out the wrinkles and with them, the flavor. I hardly ever eat spinach now that it is so tasteless.
On the other hand, I use a lot of ginger – especially in fruit smoothies I have for breakfast three or four times a week. Butler makes a good case for ginger's health properties, as he does for garlic too.
He also emphasizes nuts and fish, but warns against shark, swordfish, king mackerel, albacore tuna and tilefish due to high mercury levels.
There is so much to learn – or be reminded of – in this chapter that once again, I can't go through it all for you, but one story Dr. Butler tells is illuminating.
A woman was told by her physician that her cholesterol reading was 255, way above the healthy high end of 200. Reluctant to take a cholesterol-lowering drug, the woman made every recommended dietary change possible. Sixty days later, her blood cholesterol had fallen to 200.
The lesson, says Dr. Butler, is that you can take control of your diet – and your health.
“The single best way to improve your eating habits is to think before you eat anything, since every bite of food you take represents a choice.”
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Doctor Visit