Every day there’s a new piece of advice on the internet, TV and in magazines about what to eat to stay healthy. How do we make sense of it all and who do we listen to?
“Green up your plate and then listen to your taste buds,” advises Dr. Carol Greenwood, Baycrest senior scientist and professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto. For the most benefit, include more vegetables than protein on your plate. The one exception to this rule is fish—a protein high in omega-3 fats and with many health benefits, especially for the brain.
Chasing the latest fads can make it difficult and confusing, says Dr. Greenwood. Studies are sometimes biased because they are done by a particular industry on one specific fruit or vegetable. When you look at studies, there isn’t evidence that one fruit or vegetable is better for your body or brain than another. The comparison studies usually don’t exist.
According to Dr. Greenwood, “a combination of fruit and vegetables is important in order to consume a variety vitamins and nutrients and other healthy food components. But remember, everything in moderation. As we age, we tend to lose muscle and build fat so caloric intake needs to decline. Exercise can help with that too.”
Don’t feel pressured by the latest fad
Choose your fruit and vegetables based on taste preference, seasonality and vibrant colours. Try a variety and go with what works best for you and your family.
At this time of the year, we have so many fresh and local fruit and vegetables. Why not experiment with something new? Don’t be intimidated. You can find many recipes and cooking directions online.
Nuts contain brain healthy oils which can be included in your diet. But if you prefer walnuts over almonds or pistachios over cashews, that’s fine, says Dr. Greenwood.
Fish is another brain food. It has omega-3 fatty acids which are essential in brain functioning. Sardines, salmon or pickerel? Makes no difference, go with what you like, adds Dr. Greenwood.
As for protein, chicken and other poultry are a healthy choice. Red meat should be eaten only periodically because it is high in saturated fats.
Whole grain carbohydrates should be part of your diet. They help control blood cholesterol and blood pressure. Choose from a variety of grains including wheat, bran, oats, flax and others. Make sure it says “whole grain” on the ingredients list.
Remember the golden rule: what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.
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