None of us like it, but inevitably we gain weight as we get older. The combination of hormonal changes, a reduction in metabolic rate as we lose muscle mass over time and less active lifestyles mean that ‘middle aged’ spread equates to gradual weight gain each and every year. Finally we have some scientific evidence to show that the types of foods we choose on a day to day basis are crucial when it comes to preventing the ‘age creep’ many of us see in our 40’s and 50’s.
The study published by Tufts University in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition tracked the dietary patterns of over 120,000 US health professionals over 16 years. The study found that the diets that had the highest glycaemic load caused by a regular intake of foods that course rapid rises in blood glucose levels were associated with weight gain over time. On the other hand, protein rich staples including dairy, seafood, lean chicken and nuts were associated with weight loss over time. From a physiological perspective these findings make sense – protein rich foods are not only nutrient rich but they help to control blood glucose levels and keep us fuller for longer after eating them. Refined carbs and sugars as found in white breads and rice, soft drinks, juices and snack food result in relatively high release of the hormone insulin, which is related to weight gain and increased blood glucose levels.
From a practical perspective, the findings of this study are a good reminder of the need to work towards a balance of protein rich foods and a controlled amount of low glycaemic index carbohydrate in your daily diet rather than basing meals and snacks around carb rich foods such as rice, pasta, processed grains and processed snack foods made from white flour and sugars. For example Greek yoghurt with a couple of spoons of oats as opposed to a large bowl of cereal with a little milk; or a chicken salad with a slice of bread rather than a Turkish bread sandwich. Such changes reduce the glycaemic load of your diet which will only be of benefit for weight control and diabetes prevention long term. Specially, here are some of the other anti-aging superfoods shown in this study to keep your waistline thinner as the years tick by, as they do, seemingly so quickly!
Greek yoghurt not only contains much less sugar than the average serve of store bought yoghurt but it is much higher in protein which helps to keep your blood glucose levels regulated throughout the day. An added benefit will come if you choose a variety of Greek yoghurt which also contains probiotics, the live bacteria that will help to feed the good bacteria in the gut and is thought to have a powerful role in optimal immune functioning long term. Enjoy with some oats for breakfast, as a filling snack, as a light dessert option, add to smoothies and protein shakes or even as a dressing option with vegetables for a daily calcium boost.
Cottage cheese is one of the most nutrient dense foods you can enjoy. With a hearty serve of more than 16g of protein per ½ cup along with calcium, magnesium and Vitamin B12, adding a serve of cottage cheese into your day is a great way to bump up your intake of essential nutrients for very few calories. When you consider that more than 4 million Australians have osteopenia, or a low bone density, eating calcium rich foods on a daily basis needs to be a priority throughout our adult lives.
Exceptionally high in protein, low in fat and calories, any type of fish is a superfood when it comes to weight control. Served grilled, BBQ’d or even fried in a little olive oil, fish is a perfect base to light meals served with plenty of brightly coloured, nutrient rich veges. Of particular nutritional value are deep sea cold fish such as sardines and salmon which contain some of the highest concentrations from omega 3 fats, a natural anti-inflammatory. Aim for at least 2-3 serves of a mix of different types of fish each week and remember that fresh is always best as it contains much less salt than smoked or tinned varieties.
While good quality protein is required to protect muscle breakdown as we get older, the extra saturated fat found in fatty cuts of red meat or chicken legs and thighs is not. Chicken breast is exceptionally lean and is a rich source of protein, B-vitamins and magnesium. Enjoy with lunchtime salads, marinated with vegetables or made into mince to enjoy with zucchini pasta, burgers or in lettuce cups.
A serve of nuts each day ensures that we are getting a good dose of poly and mono unsaturated fat each day as well as protein, fibre and Vitamin E. When it comes to which type, a mix of different nuts will ensure you get the range of micronutrients different nuts offer. A nut based snack mid-afternoon is a great dietary habit. Not only will this help to ward off the pre-dinner munchies as nuts are a great source of protein and fibre, but the low carbohydrate content of nuts will help to taper off your fuel intake towards the second half of the day which is conducive to weight control. Just remember that 30g or ~20 nuts is a serve.
You will be hard pressed to find a more nutritionally complete food than the humble egg. Packed with protein, key nutrients including zinc as well as 20 other vitamins and minerals, eggs can easily be incorporated into any meal and prepared in minutes. Whether they are enjoyed for breakfast on wholegrain toast, added to sandwiches or salads at lunchtime or whipped into a quick frittata or omelette, eggs are the number one fridge food by far. And before you get too concerned about the cholesterol content of eggs, keep in mind that it is not cholesterol but saturated fat that increases blood cholesterol levels and 1-2 eggs each day will not have adverse effects on blood cholesterol when consumed as part of a nutritionally balanced diet.