‘Im a nutritional therapist – here are six dietary tweaks to extend your life’

Centenarian reveals SURPRISE drink that helps her live longer

Your day-to-day diet greatly impacts your health and the foods and drinks you consume can influence and affect various aspects of your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

Focusing on a balanced plate and packing in nutrients wherever you can, will ensure help to support your body, from the inside out, said Nutritional Therapist Cara Shaw.

She explained: “Diet plays an important role in blood sugar regulation, weight management, gut health, immune function, cardiovascular health, and mental wellbeing.

“Dietary needs can be very individualised and can depend on many factors, varying from person to person. If you’re considering making big changes to your diet or lifestyle, be sure to consult a qualified nutrition expert.

“Always start with tiny tweaks to your diet as a more sustainable approach to change. Small and simple changes can make a huge difference and can help you on your way to supporting longevity and quality of life.”

Woman eating plant-based foods

Consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, legumes, spices, and herbs (Image: GETTY)

Here are Cara’s top tweaks

Focus on adding more colour to your plate

A focus toward promoting better gut health has certainly been trending in recent years and rightly so, as 70 percent of our immune system resides in the gut making it especially important when thinking about supporting immunity, said Cara.

She added: “Immunity should be at the forefront of our minds as we approach the Winter months. Focusing on adding more colour and diversity to your plate is a fantastic way to start supporting gut health and increasing your good gut bacteria, to help fight those pesky germs.

“When looking at your plate, try to add as many different colours as you can, imagining a rainbow of colour. The more colour, the more phytonutrients and antioxidants you consume that help to feed your gut bugs and give your body a boost of nutrients.”

Limit caffeine intake

Caffeine is a stimulant that can interfere with sleep, especially if consumed in large amounts or close to bedtime.

Cara said: “There is staggering research showing that those who have poor sleep are more likely to develop an infections/colds; and that our sleep hormone, melatonin, has a profound ability to modulate and strengthen the immune system, not least due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

“By gradually reducing your intake of caffeine, you may improve sleep quality, which will likely have a positive impact on your overall health. I always recommend cutting caffeine gradually to limit the effects of caffeine withdrawal. As a first step to reducing your caffeine intake, try switching one caffeinated drink for a decaf version or better yet, a herbal tea. I recommend Calming Chamomile tea (£17.99) from tea specialists JP’s Originals ( Chamomile is a wonderful anti-inflammatory herb and has properties to support calming the digestive system. It is also a relaxing herb which can help improve sleep quality and is best enjoyed in the evening, a couple of hours before bed.”

Olive oil being poured

Healthy fats like olive oil can improve cardiovascular health (Image: GETTY)

Increase your intake of plant-based foods

Consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, legumes, spices, and herbs, said Cara.

She explained: “These foods are rich in fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals which can support hormones, gut health, detoxification and elimination pathways and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Aim for 30 plant-based foods a week – each food counts as one plant point so if you had a bowl of porridge with coconut milk and added sunflower seeds, flaxseed, blueberries and raspberries, that’s already six plant points in one meal.”

Focus on healthy fats

Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in foods like olive oil, olive, avocados, nuts, seeds, and oily fish (salmon, sardines, trout, herring, anchovies, and mackerel), can improve cardiovascular health.

Cara said: “Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish and seeds like flaxseed, have been shown to help reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which in excess can lead to plaque build-up in the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease. Adding in 1-2 tbsp of healthy fats per meal is a great place to start.”

Limit added sugar

Excess sugar consumption is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems which can significantly shorten your lifespan via a cellular process called glycation.

Cara advised: “Sugary foods and drinks often provide few (if any) nutrients and little satiation, leading to overconsumption and an increased risk of obesity. Sugary foods and drinks also cause rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, which overtime can lead to insulin resistance and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Limiting ultra processed sugary foods is essential for overall health and longevity.

“To effectively limit sugar intake, it’s essential to read food labels, opting for wholefood ingredients that you understand. Sugar can often be disguised as a different name on food packaging, e.g., maltodextrin, glucose syrup, maltose, and dextrose. If in doubt, avoid it.”

Hydrate adequately

Water is essential for various cellular processes in the body.

Cara said: “It helps transport nutrients, oxygen, and hormones to cells and remove waste products from cells, playing a key role in the body’s natural detoxification processes. It helps flush out toxins and waste products through the body, reducing the risk of health issues related to toxin buildup. Staying hydrated also supports cognitive function and healthy digestion by preventing constipation. Aim for at least 1.5 litres of water a day.

“Avoid using diluted squash which contain lots of additives and artificial sweeteners that can negatively affect gut function.”


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