Government statistics show that the chance of living to 100 will double in the next 50 years (1) . Yet, according to the State of Ageing 2022 report (2), there is a notable decline in those later years being spent ‘living well’, especially for women.
In response to the report, California Prunes’ health ambassador, Jo Travers, has shared her tips on how a balanced diet and active lifestyle can help contribute to healthy ageing. Registered dietitian and professional nutritionist Jo explains: “Our food choices, and when and how much we eat, impact our health. Lifestyle factors are also important – taking regular exercise, cutting out drinking and smoking, reducing stress and even socialising more can also help contribute to living well in older age.”
Here, Jo shares her top tips for healthy ageing:
The food we eat can impact our weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure and lead to diet-related diseases. It’s important to eat well across all food groups at regular intervals throughout the day. Don’t starve yourself, instead ‘treat yourself well’ by choosing foods that leave you feeling nourished. Eating foods that are high in fibre, such as prunes, keeps you feeling full. Fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains also contain vitamins and minerals needed for every process in the body so it’s important to consume at least five portions a day.
Keeping properly hydrated has a positive effect on many bodily systems. Temperature control, excretion of waste, transportation of nutrients, and blood volume all depend on hydration status. If you are dehydrated, cells can’t function as well and the blood becomes thicker, which can cause fatigue and leave your head feeling ‘foggy’. Aim for 2-2.5 litres of water every day; if that seems like a lot, remember that no one ever feels worse after a glass of water!
Look after your bones
The amount of bone tissue we have begins to decrease. For women, bones lose strength at a faster rate after menopause. Taking care of our bones through diet and regular weight-bearing exercise is an important part of ageing well. Research funded by the California Prune Board has revealed the positive effects prunes can have on bone health (3) . High in vitamin K and as a source of manganese, which contribute to the maintenance of normal bones, studies have shown the beneficial effects prunes may exert on bone mineral density. Research also suggests that eating five to six prunes (50g) per day may help reduce bone loss in postmenopausal women.
California Prunes have been successfully awarded “Bone Health Approved” status by the Royal Osteoporosis Society (ROS). They are the first natural food to have been given this accreditation by the UK charity.
Get gut friendly
Fibre plays a key role in gut health, which in turn contributes to overall health, with increased fibre intake linked to a lower risk of strokes, heart disease, and bowel cancer. Eating a diverse range of fruit and vegetables is an easy way to get more fibre. Naturally high in fibre, prunes also contain sorbitol and polyphenols, all of which are thought to combine to create a prebiotic effect in the gut. Prebiotics are food for good bacteria that live in the gut and the more variety and quantity of fibre, the more variety and quantity of good bacteria. These bacteria work hard for us, keeping our guts and immune systems healthy and reducing inflammation.
Exercise doesn’t have to mean going to the gym; anything that gets your heart rate up will be good for your cardiovascular system and help your immune system too. When walking, to get your heart rate to a good level, try to walk fast enough so that you breathe a bit harder – so you can still have a conversation, but you can’t sing a song. 30mins a day of this type of activity has been shown to be protective against dementia as well as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Cut out bad habits
Some things do our bodies no favours! Staying up late to watch TV, eating ultra-processed foods, and drinking alcohol are all examples. As we get older and our risk of developing diseases goes up, it’s even more important to develop healthy habits. A lack of sleep, a poor diet, and exposure to toxins like pollution, cigarette smoke, or alcohol can increase inflammation in the body leading to non-communicable diseases like cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Try to eat as much fruit, vegetables, beans, and wholegrains as you can and get a good sleep routine.
Visit our recipe section for some delicious culinary ideas from Jo Travers, chef Peter Sidwell, and more!