Diet a part of healthy aging

Jul. 30, 2013 @ 08:21 AM

I'm about to celebrate my 66th birthday, which got me thinking about aging and what, in terms of health, my future may hold. I've been fortunate so far, since: I've never undergone surgery; my blood pressure continues to be normal; I only require glasses to read and peer at my computer screen and still have most of my almost gray-free hair.
My mom, bless her, lived to be 86 and up until the last year of her life her eyes still gleamed when she raised a celebratory champagne glass. Later, however, she probably wouldn’t remember she even attended a party: the aging mind can play some tricks.
At one time my brothers and I gently kidded her that when someone has memory problems, they can't remember they have a memory problem. My Mom’s Alzheimer's offered me a personal glimpse into its potential. A few of my friends and working acquaintances have parents, or relatives close to my mom's age with Alzheimer's. We share a common concern about our futures and our increasing potential for the dreaded "A" word, especially when headlines shout that Alzheimer's cases could triple by 2050.
Some Alzheimer studies support the belief that genetics and age, two areas over which we still have zero control, affect Alzheimer's potential. However, some recent studies indicate we may, in fact, have some control and can lower Alzheimer's risks.
Not that long ago the best advice for reducing Alzheimer's risks told us not to cook in aluminum pots and pans, stop using aluminum-based deodorants, keep exercising and hope for the best. Now it appears that some newer drugs may reduce Alzheimer's risks.
That's not the only hopeful research though. New research indicates that miracle drugs have their place, but something else can play an important prevention role: yes, you guessed it ... diet. Researchers have found that a high-fat diet during early and mid-adulthood may be associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. They determined that a diet low in fat, rich in antioxidants like vitamins C and E, fish, vegetables and whole grains could reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
To me, that means my choices are no longer limited to discarding my Kmart cookware, personal deodorant and hoping for the best. In fact, having dedicated almost two decades to trimming the fat, I find that I've already begun to lay a healthy foundation for building resistance to an "A" word future.
The main reason I write about how much I enjoy late spring, summer and early fall has everything to do with my ability to acquire great tasting, beautiful looking fresh produce from my local farmer’s market. I know I'm much more likely to reach for a blushing, juicy peach or a bright red sweet pepper or make a salad that includes crisp cucumbers and true vine-ripened tomatoes, than opening canned peaches or tomatoes or head for my freezer. I get all the nutritional benefits that keep my future looking healthy.
To keep fish as a regular menu item in my food plan, I purchase and prepare a piece of wild-caught salmon. Judged on its own nutrient characteristics you might think it's too high in fat for the "lean" guy, but it's not.
I believe a healthy daily food plan includes omega-3 fatty acid. Few land sources provide omega-3, except for flaxseed oil, which is difficult to work into menus, especially since no one substitutes it for olive or canola oil. But salmon, an excellent source of omega-3 tastes sensational and appeals to most adult palates.
Few changes happen quickly, but by tweaking your food plan, keeping it low in fat and making easy for everyone to choose something healthy like an apple or a pear over one not so healthy, like French fries, you'll be making regular payments on what may be the true definition of "health insurance."
There's fresh corn-on-the-cob corn available along with sweet bell pepper and scallions. The following salad ties those components with fresh lemon juice and olive oil as the centerpiece for a healthy weekend lunch.

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Simple Corn and Pepper Salad
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about seven or eight ears)
1 cup diced sweet green pepper (or red pepper or 50/50 mix)
2 tablespoons chicken broth (or 2 tablespoons vegetable broth)
4 scallions, including the green parts, washed, trimmed and sliced thin.
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from one lemon) or to taste
Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil, garlic and cumin and cook briefly, stirring, until fragrant. Immediately add the corn, sweet pepper, and salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes, stirring. Add the scallions and chicken (or vegetable) broth and cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Transfer to a serving bowl and cool to room temperature. Serves 6 to 8.
Nutrition values per serving (for 8): 104 calories(36.5 percent from fat), 4.2 g fat(0.5 g saturated fat), 16.4 g carbohydrates, 2.5 g fiber, 2.3 g protein, zero cholesterol, 164 mg sodium.
Nutrition Note: To elevate the amount of omega-3 in this salad use one tablespoon olive oil to cook the corn mixture and add one tablespoon of flaxseed oil with the lemon juice at the end.

Don Mauer’s “Lean and Lovin’ It” column appears every other Wednesday. Don welcomes comments, suggestions and recipe makeover requests at