My mom turned 60 this year, and I might be biased, but the woman is aging quite well. She's definitely taken an all-natural approach to middle age, preferring to let her hair sprout gray strands instead of hiding it with dye and pointing to the wrinkles that frame her mouth as proof of years spent laughing and smiling. There's no right or wrong way to deal with aging, but it seems my own mother has achieved a level of peace with it.
While her approach is an all-natural one, that doesn't mean she hasn't made any lifestyle changes. A yoga teacher, Reiki master, and certified homeopathic practitioner, she carefully cultivates her health and wellness routines, and that's especially true for her diet. She credits the foods she eats for her ability to maintain her energy levels, brain and heart health, and overall a healthy lifestyle.
To combat the downsides of aging, namely a slower metabolism and a loss of estrogen, she meticulously curated a diet that works overtime. That includes prioritizing a bunch of superfoods to support everything from her energy levels to her to digestive health. She's always preaching the benefits of these foods, such as blueberries and green tea, to anyone who will listen (myself included). On the flip side, there are a handful of foods and ingredients that she's banned from her diet after years of trial and error.
Overall, she preaches the importance of adding a variety of fresh, raw, whole foods to her diet and practicing balance (read: not being too strict on herself) and has landed on what she feels is the best diet for women over 60. Scroll down to find out which foods are on her blacklist and why. Then, discover the foods she fills up her plate with instead.
Before we get into what she definitely avoids eating, I want to note that just because my mom is sharing her own guidelines here doesn't mean you have to take the below diet at face value. Instead, read through her list of nos, maybes, and yeses as more suggestions than anything else. After all, she's just one (rather health-minded) person and not a registered nutritionist or dietician.
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Meat was one of the first things my mom cut out of her diet years ago. At a time when vegetarianism had yet to hit the mainstream, she found herself knee-deep in research on the potentially nasty side effects of eating meat, specifically processed meat, which makes up the vast majority. When I asked her about it, her number one concern had to do with the way our bodies process this "unclean" meat, noting that the toxins stay in our colon for up to five days after. Yikes.
2. Cow's Milk
After reading The China Study, my mom found herself on the path to cutting out most dairy products, and cow's milk was the first to go. The groundbreaking study illuminates the link between casein (a type of protein found in most dairy products) and cancer. While she's not strictly vegan (certain aged cheeses and eggs are still on the table), she avoids most dairy products for this reason.
3. White Flour
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White flour, she tells me, is basically regular flour that's stripped of its nutrients. Instead, she goes for whole-grain, whole-wheat, or her favorite, sprouted bread, which she says offer much more fiber and nutritional benefits in addition to being less processed overall.
My mom found that caffeine was irritating to her digestive system, so now she avoids any harsh sources of caffeine, namely her daily cup of joe.
5. Corn Syrup and Artificial Colors
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Ah, high-fructose corn syrup. It's the universal evil that many Americans agree is unhealthy despite being found in nearly half of grocery store goods. My mom's taken to cutting out most, if not all, processed foods to avoid a run-in with HFCS. But if she does go for a packaged good, she always chooses one without any artificial dyes, which she says are equally as dangerous.
6. Palm Oil
This one caught me off guard. What's so bad about palm oil? Isn't it just another plant-based oil like any other? Apparently not, since it has a higher-than-average saturated-fat content, as I quickly learned during our chat. She told me that she always looks at ingredient lists because palm oil might be lurking in unexpected places. For instance, her beloved plantain chips are typically made with palm oil.
7. Processed Sugar
Blood sugar is another concern of my mom's, so she avoids processed sugars—specifically candy—like the plague, preferring to reach for naturally sweet alternatives like Medjool dates or dried mango instead.
EATS IN MODERATION
1. Dark Chocolate
She always keeps dark chocolate (we're talking 70% to 80% dark) in her pantry to reap the benefits of cacao's antioxidants. And because, well, chocolate.
2. Organic, Low-Sulfite Red Wine
My mom isn't a big drinker, but when she does pour herself a glass, she prefers red wine with low or no sulfites, and organic wine is always a plus. The low sulfite levels are easier for our bodies to process, she says, and swears that they contribute to a hangover-free day after.
Beans are a good source of vegetarian protein, but she'll only eat them when she has the time to soak them overnight. This makes them easier to digest because otherwise, they can cause bloating.
4. Fat-Free Greek Yogurt
She adds in a bit of nonfat Greek yogurt to her diet because she says the additional bacteria are great for a healthy gut.
Finally, here are some of the foods she eats nearly every day. As she enters the seventh decade of her life, she's prioritizing a group of "brain foods," as she calls them. These are basically superfoods jam-packed with antioxidants and good fats that support healthy brain function. Talk about eating for longevity!
Touting benefits such as potassium, folate, vitamins C and B6, and more, blueberries are the superfood to end all superfoods.
Avocados serve up the healthy fats that are great for brain and heart health, so my mom adds a scoop to her salads or tops off her morning toast with a few slices.
Besides beans and tofu, eggs are a great source of vegetarian protein. My mom likes them boiled as opposed to adding in unnecessary oils by frying them.
Bananas offer loads of potassium and vitamin C, and they're beneficial for heart health, digestive health, good skin, and energy. In other words, they pack a punch.
Instead of drinking a morning coffee, my mom prefers matcha green tea powder, a more balanced source caffeine.
Chock-full of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate as well as being a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, and vitamin B2, spinach is my mom's go-to green.
7. Swiss Chard
But she also adds in leafy, cruciferous greens such as Swiss chard, which is a good source of magnesium.
A handful of almonds is my mom's trick for fending off the urge to incessantly snack in between meals since they offer a good source of fiber, protein, and healthy fats.
9. Pumpkin Seeds
The same goes for pumpkin seeds, which are another one on her short list of "brain foods."