Eating well is vitally important at any age and never more so than in your 60s, 70s and beyond. What you eat now can make a big difference to how you feel, how much energy you have, your ability to ward off illnesses – and even to your appearance. In short, eating well will vastly increase your chances of living a longer and healthier life! So, what combination of foods should we be aiming to eat to achieve this?
Perhaps the best clues come from studies of the world’s healthiest people. They live in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and also in the so-called ‘Blue Zones’ (regions where people live measurably longer lives). If you look at their habits, you’ll find they have several things in common. They enjoy physical activity incorporated naturally into their daily lives (like gardening or walking); a sense of purpose (like caring for grandchildren or doing voluntary work); low stress levels and a slower pace of life; strong family and community connections and a diet characterised by moderate calorific intake, mostly from plant sources.
What we can learn from them is that following a mainly plant-based diet, coupled with a healthy amount of exercise, can lead to a much better quality as well as a longer life. They eat very few processed foods; very little meat and they don’t overeat. Emphasis is placed on basing every meal on fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, beans, fish, nuts and olive oil. People who eat this way have been shown to have a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and dementia. In fact, no other diet has as much documented evidence as the Mediterranean diet. It appears to be a better option than the standard low fat diet for promoting health and preventing chronic disease.
How to make the Mediterranean diet work for you
- Eat more foods from plant sources: fruit, vegetables, unrefined whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and potatoes.
- Keep sugar, soft drinks, confectionery, cakes, biscuits and puddings to a minimum.
- Focus on fresh and seasonal foods, ideally seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
- Eat more beans and lentils in place of some of the meat in your diet.
- Eat fish and poultry several times a week.
- Use olive oil to replace your usual oils and fats, such as margarine and butter.
- Limit red meat to no more than a few times a month.
- Eat dairy products and eggs in moderation.
- Enjoy a daily glass of wine (optional).
The Mediterranean diet rules
Olive oil: as the main added fat (up to 4 tablespoons)
Dairy: 2 portions (1 portion equals 150ml milk or yogurt; 25g cheese)
Fruit: 2–3 portions (1 portion equals 80–100g)
Vegetables: 4–6 portions (1 portion equals 80–100g)
Grains: (wholemeal bread, wholegrain pasta, rice etc.) 4–8 portions (1 portion equals 1 small slice of bread, 25g; or 25g uncooked pasta or rice)
Red wine (optional): 1 small glass (125ml)
Potatoes: 3 portions (1 portion equals 100g)
Poultry: up to 4 portions (1 portion equals 60g cooked poultry)
Fish: 5–6 portions (1 portion equals 60g cooked fish)
Pulses, nuts, olives: 3–4 portions (1 portion equals 100g cooked pulses; 25g nuts)
Red Meat: up to 4 portions (1 portions equals 60g cooked meat)
If you enjoyed this post and want to find out more about healthy eating in your 60s, 70s and beyond, then read Sod It! Eat Well by Anita Bean and Muir Gray
Sod It! Eat Well will arm you with the knowledge to make the ‘right’ food choices – and that needn’t be dull! Based on the principles of the Mediterranean diet and backed up by the latest scientific research, this is no dieting plan – there are no fasting days, this is not a prescriptive day by day menu – it’s all about giving you the information you need to make subtle changes to your eating habits, to get some inspiration and to encourage you to make informed healthy food decisions and reap the rewards. Accompanied by over 40 quick, healthy and easy to make recipes, this is a fun, practical guide to eating right.