Living longer through dietary control
Peter Jaret, author of many health-related books, observes that certain groups of people around the world enjoy exceptionally long lives.
According to him, Pacific Islanders have an average life expectancy of more than 81 years, compared to 78 years in the United States and a worldwide average of 67 years.
“What makes these groups so fortunate? Evidence suggests that diet is one of the important contributors to longevity and healthy living,’’ he observes further.
He argues that a healthy diet is one that helps to maintain or improve general health by providing the body with essential nutrition.
Corroborating this viewpoint, a nutritionist, Mrs Folasade Olatana, explained that eating other foods such as nuts regularly could reduces the risk of contracting major chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes that frequently resulted in deaths.
“Those that eat nuts actually lived longer. Studies show that nuts help to lower cholesterol, improved arterial function and blood sugar levels.
“Daily nut consumers have fewer deaths from cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease, even after controlling other lifestyle factors.
“Nut consumers live significantly longer whether they are older or younger, fat or slim; diets enriched with nuts do not affect body weight, body mass index or waist circumference, Olatana, a consultant with Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, said.
In addition, Ms Yemisi Olowookere, a dietician with Garki Hospital, Abuja, observed that cultivating the habit of natural spices instead of processed seasonings would enhance longevity and healthy living.
According to her, natural spices, such as ginger and garlic, contain vital minerals and vitamins that improved healthy lives.
“People don’t really know the importance of taking garlic and ginger; they look ordinary but are significant in making our bodies healthy.
“Instead of using the processed or artificial seasoning sold in the market for food, one can add ginger and garlic to improve our health,’’ Olowookere said.
She also said that garlic and ginger were two herbs that possessed therapeutic and health benefits.
“Both of these herbs have been studied for their effectiveness in fighting infections, preventing cancer, reducing inflammation and various other applications.
“Garlic is known to have antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties and both garlic and ginger are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.
“Ginger is sometimes used to treat arthritis, a disease characterised by inflammation. When ginger is taken in long term, it has sugar reducing effect for those that have diabetes,’’ Olowookere said.
She observed that although garlic could have a strong smell, its efficacy was more beneficial than its smell.
In her opinion, Hajiya Jummai Abdul, a nutritionist at Wuse General Hospital, Abuja, stressed that regular intake of yoghurt could also be helpful in the treatment of various diseases and reduce rate of deaths among young persons.
“Yoghurt prevents heart diseases and lowers the risks of many ailments, including colon cancer; one can enjoy it plain, flavoured or mixed with fruit or fruit syrups.
“It is a great source of protein, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin B12; all these nutrients are important for bone health,’’ she said.
She, nonetheless, advised that if anybody is allergic to milk, such person should avoid taking yoghurt because it contains milk proteins.
Abdul explained that regular intake of yoghurt would promote the normal growth and developments of bones in children by providing nutrients that maintain bone solidity and strength throughout life.
“Women who suffer from gastrointestinal conditions such as lactose intolerance, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, among others, may find relief through the consumption of yoghurts containing active cultures, she said.
“Yoghurt is a great source of calcium which is especially important for pregnant women whose calcium reserves are used by their growing baby.
“Children can consume all kinds of yoghurt and enjoy its benefits as a source of protein, calcium and high phosphorus,’’ she said.
She added that yoghurt contained ingredients that could stabilise a woman’s body system and provide healthy living.
She also explained that an essential mineral in yoghurt known as zinc could boost fertility in men.
For effective dietary control, Dr Kingsley Umeh, a private medical practitioner in Abuja, warned against inclusion of processed foods in daily diets as they might result in piles.
He said adequate water intake, consumption of healthy meals and maintaining a healthy lifestyle were keys to achieving long live.
“Most people do not get enough fibre in their diet and they do not even eat enough fresh vegetables and fruits,’’ he observed.
Umeh, therefore, insisted that taking the time to fill one’s plate with lean proteins, vegetables and other food rich in fibre, as well as eating moderately, will help people to live longer in good health.
SOURCE: THE NATION