Baby boomers are the generation born between 1946 and 1964. This puts them in an age range of 52 – 70 years old in 2016. While standards of aging are changing for the better and in general, people are able to live longer, healthier lives, baby boomers do have a unique set of health challenges.
Baby boomers are the generation that transitioned our culture from one of whole food products, to more processed foods that promoted an agenda for health, but was primarily for profit. Beginning with the popularization of margarine, trans fats, and other fat-free products such as diet sodas in an effort to stave off obesity, and other health issues, the baby boomers were an experiment in processed foods. The result of these products, across the population, have been an increase in chronic disease, specifically metabolic disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, neurodegenerative disease and autoimmune conditions.
Over the decades we have become more concerned with health and healthy eating and to this day, research continues to bust myths that were set in place as baby boomers were coming of age, raising families and investing in their own personal well being.
Today, we do have some repair to do, and a large part of that comes to education and dismantling messages that we have come to take for granted as healthy. Before we address those myths though, there is one giant adversary to the health and fitness of baby boomers and that is, hopelessness. Modern medicine is failing us because they are still looking for the one pill to cure what we now understand are multi-layered complex situations.
Energy levels, which is really brain health, have roots in multiple areas of metabolism, insulin and cortisol production, gut health, diet and lifestyle factors. Many of these areas are directly in the hands of the patient to address, and will not be solved by pharmaceutical means. Hopelessness is perpetuated when we fail to see the power we all have, today, to take actions that will change our biochemistry for the better. Diet and lifestyle provides a place for action right now, because now is the time to take care of your present and your future self.
First of all, fat is your friend, not your enemy. Certain fats are considered healthy and essential for our health. In fact, fat is not only healthy but critical for the health of our brains. When we ingest good fats, like avocados, wild Alaskan salmon, coconut oil, pastured butter and extra virgin olive oil then we nourish the brain. If fatigue is present, either physically or mentally (can’t focus, remember, stay on task) then fat is a number one priority for health and bringing the brain back up to its functioning ability.
Second, bread and pastas are not healthy and can actually cause a lot of metabolic damage, which in turn drastically affects brain functioning. Breads, pastas, bagels, pretzels, and baked goods are all processed flour which is processed in the body as sugar. High blood glucose, or blood sugar levels, create inflammation in the brain and interrupt hormone balance which will cause mood swings, irritability, impatience, low energy, fatigue, depression and anxiety to name only a few repercussions of a high sugar diet. Obviously, high sugar foods such as sodas, candy, fruit juice, and even packaged yogurts contain exceedingly high levels of sugar and should be avoided.
Noting the way processed grains are experienced in the body as sugar is an important addition for the baby boomer seeking to feel energized. Another important distinction regarding weight gain is this: it is excess sugar that is stored as fat in the body. Fat itself does not make you fat. Aim for healthy fats to make up about 20% of your daily intake of fuel, more if you are experiencing any form of mild cognitive impairment. Aim for sugar to be less than 5% and to come from whole sources such as: fruit, raw honey, molasses, or maple syrup.
Complex carbohydrates are important for healthy endocrine systems and organ health in general. We can get quality carbohydrates from starchy and fibrous vegetables, nuts and seeds. It is a myth that we need grains to get this essential macronutrient. In fact, grains may have negative effects on the brain in some people, such as gluten from wheat, rye and barley. Grains can be useful in moderation, and whole grains such as millet, brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, and oats are best.
Finally, for sustainable daily energy, protein with each meal is important, not only for fuel but for blood sugar regulation. Prioritizing protein, fiber, and good fat with each meal or snack will maintain healthy blood sugar regulation which will support one’s entire system returning to balance. Skipping meals, or substituting meals with sugary snacks and caffeine asks too much of our adrenal glands and pancreas, causing internal stress that will result in dysfunction and disease if left unchanged.
Quality proteins include grass-fed, organic meats, pastured eggs, fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines), nuts, seeds, and legumes (lentils). Consider your own fist size as a measure for the amount of protein on your plate and let the rest be nutrient rich vegetables, both starchy and leafy, with a robust serving of fat as well. This could be avocado slices, or bacon as an accent. It could be cooking vegetables in pastured butter or ghee (a kind of clarified butter) or drizzling everything with extra virgin olive oil.
Feeding the brain what it needs and letting go of foods and beverages that are high in sugar and promote inflammation is the most significant change one can make for brain health and thus overall, feeling good. In addition to these diet tips, the next things that are absolutely wonderful for our health and brain functioning are regular aerobic exercise and stress management. The combination of these three things can make a difference in how you feel on a daily basis and on the trajectory of your health.
This article originally appeared on Building Bookshelves.
Francie Healey is the author of "Eat To Beat Alzheimer's and has a Master’s Degree in Counseling and is both a Certified Health Counselor and Licensed Mental Health Counselor.practitioner.