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Nutrition and Adults: The Decalogue of Longevity

Every day we are bombarded with messages of nutrition and health and a seemingly endless series of concerns about lifestyle and diet. A healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle are important for how we look, feel and how much we enjoy life. Making the right lifestyle choices, with a good eating routine and regular exercise, can help us make the most of what life has to offer. Making smart food choices early in life and into adulthood can also help reduce the risk of certain conditions such as obesity, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, certain cancers and osteoporosis.

1.      Enjoy the wide variety of foods

This idea is the most consistent health message in nutritional recommendations around the world. We need more than 40 different nutrients for good health and no food can provide them all. That is why eating a wide variety of foods (including fruits, vegetables, cereals, meat, fish and poultry, dairy products and fats and oils) is essential for good health and any food can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet. Some studies have linked dietary diversity to longevity. In any case, the choice of variety of foods adds to the enjoyment of meals and snacks.

2.      Eat regularly

Food is one of the great pleasures of life and it is important to take the time to stop, relax and enjoy meals and snacks. Scheduling meal times also ensures that no meals are missed, resulting in the loss of nutrients that are often not offset by subsequent meals. This is especially important for school-age children, adolescents and the elderly.

Breakfast is a very important meal - it can either make or break your day. Breakfast also seems to help with weight control. All meal times offer the opportunity for social and family interaction. So, whether it is three square meals or 6 mini meals or snacks, the goal is to make healthy choices that you can enjoy.

3.      Balance and measure

Balancing your food intake means that you are getting enough, but not too much, of each type of nutrient. If portion sizes are kept reasonable, there is no reason to remove your favorite foods. There are no "good" or "bad" foods, only good or bad eating habits. Any food can be included in a healthy lifestyle, as long as we remember moderation and balance.

Moderate amounts of all foods can help ensure that energy intake (calories) is controlled and that excessive amounts of any food or food ingredient are not consumed. If you choose a high-fat snack, choose a lower-fat option at the next meal. Examples of reasonable serving sizes are 75g -100g (the size of a palm) of meat, a medium-sized fruit, ½ a cup of raw pasta or a scoop of ice cream (50g). Ready-to-eat meals offer an easy-to-use portion control and often have the energy (caloric) value listed on the package.

4.      Maintain a healthy body weight and feel good

Healthy weight varies from person to person and depends on many factors such as gender, height, age and heredity. Excess body fat occurs when you consume more calories than you need. These extra calories can come from any source - protein, fat, carbohydrates or alcohol - but fat is the most concentrated source of calories. Physical activity is a good way to increase the energy (calories) expended and can also lead to feelings of well-being. The message is simple: if you gain weight, eat less and be more active.

5.      Do not forget your fruits and vegetables

Many Europeans do not follow the recommendations for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Numerous studies have shown an association between the intake of these foods and the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Increased fruit and vegetable intake has also been associated with lower blood pressure. People can consume fruits and vegetables because they are good sources of nutrients (vitamins, antioixidants, minerals) and most are naturally low in fat and calories.

Nutritionists pay much more attention to fruits and vegetables as "packages" of nutrients and other ingredients that are healthy for humans. The "antioxidant case" has drawn attention to the role of micronutrients found in fruits and vegetables such as vitamins C and E, as well as a number of other natural protective substances. Carotenes (beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene), flavonoids (phenolic compounds commonly found in fruits and vegetables commonly consumed such as apples and onions and plant-based beverages such as tea, cocoa and red wine ) and phytoestrogens (mainly isoflavones and lignans), have been shown to play a beneficial role in human health.

6.      Base your diet on carbohydrate-rich foods

Most dietary guidelines recommend a daily diet in which at least 55% of the total calories come from carbohydrates. This means that more than half of our daily food intake should consist of carbohydrate-rich foods such as cereals, legumes, beans, fruits and vegetables. Choosing wholemeal bread, pasta and other cereals will help increase your fibre intake.

Although the body treats all carbohydrates the same way, regardless of their source, carbohydrates are often broken down into "complex" and "simple" carbohydrates. Plant-derived complex carbohydrates are called starch and fibre, and are found for example in cereals, vegetables, breads, seeds, legumes and beans. These carbohydrates are made up of long bundles of many simple carbohydrates that are interconnected. Simple carbohydrates (sometimes called simple sugars) are found, for example, in table sugar, fruits, sweets, jams, soft drinks, fruit juices, honey, jellies and syrups. Both complex and simple carbohydrates provide the same amount of energy (4 calories per gram) and both can contribute to caries, especially when oral hygiene is poor.

7.      Drink plenty of fluids

Adults should drink at least 1.5 -2 liters of fluid daily, even more so if they are physically active. Plain water is a good source of fluids, but the variety can be pleasant and healthy. Alternative sources are juices, tea, coffee and milk.

8.      Fats in moderation

Fat is essential for good health. Fats provide a ready source of energy and allow the body to absorb, circulate and store fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat-containing foods are required to provide "essential fatty acids" that the body cannot produce. . For example, fish-rich fish and fish oil supplements are rich sources of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), alpha linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and dicoxyhexanoic acid (DA).

However, too much fat, especially saturated fats, can lead to adverse health effects such as being overweight and high in cholesterol and increasing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Limiting the amount of fat, especially saturated fat in the diet - but not completely - is the best advice for a healthy diet. Most dietary recommendations are that less than 30% of the total calories of the day should come from fat and less than 10% of the total calories of the day should come from saturated fats.

9.      Get started now - and make gradual changes

Making changes gradually, such as eating one more fruit / serving of vegetables each day, reducing the portion size, or going up the stairs instead of to the elevator, means that changes are easier to maintain.

10.   Do not forget the exercise

The advice for increased physical activity is closely related to the general recommendations for a healthy lifestyle, because it affects the energy balance and the risk of lifestyle-related diseases. In recent years, many articles and guidelines have highlighted the importance of moderate physical activity for good health. These reports show that physical activity for at least 30 minutes daily reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and colon cancer, all of which contribute significantly to morbidity and mortality in Europe. In addition, in both children and adults, physical activity is associated with improvements in body flexibility, aerobic endurance, agility and coordination, bone and muscle strengthening, lower levels of body fat, blood fat, blood pressure and reduced risk of hip fractures in women. Physical activity makes you feel better physically and encourages a more positive mental outlook.

Increases in physical activity levels are required in every age group and it is recommended that adults be physically active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.


By Ellie Hadjilucas, Scientific Collaborator of Charalambides Christis, Sports Nutritionist and Public Health Nutritionist



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