Can scoffing a salad really make you feel ten years younger? Do superfoods live up to the hype? And more importantly, why should you always take some mushrooms along to a party? (Because they’re such fungis. Boom boom.)
Let’s talk about veg.
Our nutritional needs change gradually over a lifetime, but one constant is the benefit that we can derive from eating more fruit and vegetables. Guidelines in the UK are that we should eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables every day to maintain optimal health and avoid chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. After 50, eating more fruit and vegetables becomes even more important, and well-chosen veg can work with your body to ward off some of the natural difficulties of ageing.
Get the most from your veg
NHS advice states that pretty much any fruit or veg (apart from potatoes) counts towards your 5-a-day target. Fresh or frozen, tinned or dried — all have their place in your diet, with fruit juice, beans and pulses also making a limited contribution. To get the most from the vegetables you eat, check out the portion size advice from the NHS, go for a wide range of types and colours of veg, and don’t forget that fruit contains significant natural sugars. These can cause blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, leading to hunger pangs and fatigue, so fruit should be enjoyed in moderation alongside plenty of fresh veg.
If you need any more convincing, recent research shows that a healthy diet can even be powerful enough to combat Alzheimer's disease. Pick some of the specific choices highlighted below to get the biggest bang for your buck.
Veg versus vitamin pills
Upping your veg intake generally is a great idea after 50, but by making careful choices, you can also turn to your fruit bowl – not your medicine cabinet – to ensure optimal health. Increasing your vitamin C intake with additional citrus fruits, kiwi or raspberry, for example, can help prevent bleeding gums. Eating whole fruits instead of drinking juices can increase fibre and boost the immune system, and using herbs for flavour as a replacement for salt can help manage and reduce elevated blood pressure.
Veg for bone health
Thinning bones can be a problem in older adults, and particularly for post-menopausal women. Although some loss of bone density is to be expected, osteoporosis means that bone density is lost much faster than normal, and fractures can occur more frequently. Calcium and vitamin D can help prevent this, with calcium being found in dairy sources, but also in green leafy vegetables like kale and broccoli. Eating a wide and varied range of vitamins from fruit and veg can help calcium be absorbed by your body most efficiently.
Boost antioxidants with veg
Antioxidants are believed to protect your body from cell damage, thus helping protect you from cancer and other diseases. Vitamin C and beta-Carotene have been highlighted as powerful antioxidants and can be found in a wide range of fruit and vegetables including broccoli, peppers, melon and sweet potato. Or try some carrots. High in beta-Carotene, they’re overlooked superfoods, according to the World Carrot Museum website (yes, we were as surprised as you to find that such a thing existed).
From convincing toddlers to eat their greens to tempting teens with superfood smoothies, getting enough fruit and veg can be a challenge at any age. But after 50, the benefits of protecting and improving health through diet become more pronounced. Making smart choices at this stage can set you up for a healthy later life, give you more energy, and allow you to do more of the things you love with the people you love.