Ok, so maybe Ponce De Leon failed to find the famed fountain of youth, and maybe such a place where one drink will give you everlasting youth will never be found, but, maybe, just maybe there IS something that can help keep us young…help us feel great and live longer, much healthier lives. The fact is, this thing does exist and each of us possesses it and ingests it each and every day…and it’s called…FOOD.I know, big letdown, huh? You were hoping there was some secret elixir or potion that was behind the curtain, but alas, the reality is the food we eat has the biggest affect on how long and how healthy a life we live and we alone are in control of it. We control what we put in our bodies and how much as well.
The secret is no secret at all, it is just in knowing some simple concepts and have just enough self-control to follow a few simple rules…that’s all. So, what are the rules? Let’s try to break down (in simplest terms) how food and more specifically the diet we eat can keep us feeling and looking younger and living a longer and healthier life.
First of all, let’s start with the #1 reason people don’t live a longer and healthier life and that is the #1 cause of death in men and women…HEART DISEASE. This killer kills without conscience and it is extremely effective in wiping out people…as many as 2600 people PER DAY. While there are hereditary factors which can make one be at more risk than others, there is plenty you can do to decrease your odds of succumbing to this killer and they all pretty much involve your diet…more specifically WHAT YOU EAT and HOW MUCH YOU EAT.
Overeating and eating the wrong kinds of foods is largely at the root of many of the risk factors that lead to heart disease and these include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity and being overweight. While smoking is also on the list, we certainly don’t have to discuss why you should quit…if you smoke, stop, ‘nuff said. Now, because being overweight is such a major problem and contributes to so much of what causes heart disease, let’s break down the category of your diet that makes up the HOW MUCH part…
Overeating leads to weight gain, that is not big mystery, but how can you know HOW MUCH is enough? If we leave ourselves to our own devices, then we often eat to excess. Our love of food makes this a big problem and if not kept in check, we start the downward spiral of weight gain, complications associated with it, diabetes and then often, sadly, heart disease.
But by following one simple formula, we can cut our risk way down, lose significant weight if we need to, and maintain it long term. The formula is known as BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate. This BMR describes the amount of calories your body will burn daily when at rest. When you add in your physical activity along with a specific formula, you can discover the amount of calories you should be eating per day.
How to calculate how much you need to eat
I am going to go ahead and throw the BMR calculations out the window. One of the biggest factors that prevent people from achieving success with their diet is that they make it too complicated. If you can’t understand or easily follow the plan, chances are you will fail. Instead, here is a very simple breakdown that will give you an idea of how many calories you should eat depending on whether you want to lose weight, maintain your weight, or even gain weight (although that is rarely a problem for us as we get older…)
Fat loss = 12-13 calories per lb. of body weight
Maintenance = 15-16 calories per lb. of body weight
Weight gain = 18-19 calories per lb. of body weight
So, if you want to lose weight, multiply your current bodyweight times 12.5 calories. A 200 pound man then would multiply 200 x 12.5 which equals 2500. Therefore, this person would aim for about 2500 calories per day. Then, once you reach your goal weight, simply stick to the amount of calories based on the MAINTENANCE formula.
Now, this is certainly a GENERAL guideline and I do NOT want to discount the importance of physical exercise. Consistent daily exercise (or AT LEAST 4-5 times per week) is definitely vital for overall health and longevity and will change the amount of total calories you need, but you can use the above as a simple guide to get you started. Just by following this simple fat loss or maintenance formula, you can go a LONG way in cutting down your risk of heart disease and use your diet to help you live longer and healthier. Ok, so that covers the HOW MUCH part, now let’s tackle the WHAT YOU EAT part…
I hate to throw it down like it’s so EASY to do, especially when so many struggle, but knowing what to it is, well, kinda easy. You already know what is healthy and not for the most part. Here’s a quick quiz, read the foods below and say HEALTHY or NOT HEALTHY when you read each one:
Lean red meat
In general, we all know what is healthy and what is not. We usually give into our cravings and pleasures which leads to our expanded waist lines and all the other health maladies that go with it. Here are a few rules you can live by that will help you plan a healthy diet a little more easily.
Now, I can’t remember who said it, but I read a quote somewhere about healthy vs. unhealthy foods and it went something like this: “If it wasn’t around 3000 years ago, DON’T EAT IT!” I LOVE that one! It is probably a little extreme for most of us today considering the world in which we live, but it does contain a pretty logical adage. The more that food is processed, the less healthy it is, the more natural state you find it in, the healthier it is, pretty simple I would say.
In order to live a healthy and long life, you need adequate vitamins and minerals to ensure that your body operates as efficiently as possible down to the smallest molecular level. Give your body the tools and fuels it needs and it will run like the high performance machine it is. This means eating a VARIETY of foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.
You need vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. In a varied diet, this means fruits, vegetables, fish, chicken, and even lean red meats. For the purposes of this article, I won’t delve into exacting ratios because the choices are almost endless. If you workout and want muscle, you might eat more animal protein, if you are an animal lover and don’t eat meat, you might supplement with tons of soy to get the protein you need and so on and so on.
The basis being, the less packaging and chemicals the food you eat has, the better, and the more varied and COLORFUL your diet, the better as well. Try to do your best to include vegetables with each meal as they are usually lower in calories but higher in vitamins and minerals. In addition, when you do eat red meat or chicken, opt for smaller portions in relation to the vegetables.
Ok, that wasn’t too bad, was it? If you want to live a longer healthier life, maintain your weight by managing your caloric intake and eating a variety of healthy, non-processed foods. That is really all there is to it. Add regular exercise to the mix and you might look in the mirror one day and realize the fountain of youth does exist, and you had the power to discover it all along…