New Zealanders are healthier today than they were 50 years ago, and improved diet is one of the main reasons, says Registered Nutritionist Nikki Hart in this video on healthier eating.
“Life expectancy has been steadily increasing, and women can now expect to live to around 83 years and men till about 80 – and with a bit more nutritional care we could improve the odds further,” she says.
“Contrary to what many people believe, we are healthier than we were 50 years ago, and the three most important factors for this continued rise are greater sanitation, improved diet and advances in medical care.
The video, entitled ‘Successful Ageing’, is about eating the right foods to help improve the odds of living past our life expectancy.
“Heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers are linked to inflammation in the body and so eating a diet that minimises inflammation, to reduce your risk for chronic disease and promote your longevity, just makes sense,” Nikki says.
She points to the three long-living and healthy cultures – the Japanese Okinawa, the Mediterranean, and the Nordic. The ageing success of those populations is based around the way they eat and move. “Across these three diets, the common theme is that all food is consumed in moderation and is largely plant-based.”
The New Zealand Food and Nutrition Guidelines also promote eating a diet that has at least two fruit and three vegetables a day. Nikki says including other types of fruit and vegetables, such as canned, frozen, dried or juiced, can all help add to variety.
“The trick when adding canned fruit and vegetables to your diet is to look out for the salt and sugar content. Look for canned vegetables that say ‘reduced salt’ or no-added-salt’. And look for canned fruit ‘in juice’ not ‘in syrup’.”
Fish and nuts are also important additions. “It’s recommended we eat two servings of fish a week for heart health, and eating nuts and seeds are also a common part of the identified diets of long living people. Eating 30g – a small handful – of nuts and seeds five times a week has been shown to reduce heart disease risk by 50%.
“The take-home messages for successful ageing would be to focus on a plant-based diet, include fish twice a week, nuts are good for you, and be consistent with your movement.”