The foods you eat can help you hold back the years. Take our quiz to find out if your diet has time on its side!
The fountain of youth may be mere legend but a diet that’s high in certain foods can help slow the signs of ageing — from poor memory and eyesight to wrinkles and arthritis. Answer these 12 questions then add up your points for your total score and read the answers to find out whether your diet has a youthful glow!
1. How many serves of dairy do you have each day?
(One serve is equivalent to 250ml milk, 150ml yoghurt or 40g cheese)
A Less than one
B One or two
C Three or more
2. How often do you eat leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and kale?
A On most days
B A couple of times a week
3. Which of the following fats are you most likely to use when cooking?
B Olive oil
C Safflower oil
4. Do you add salt to foods?
- A Yes, when cooking and when eating at the table
- B Yes, only when cooking
- C No
5. How many serves of vegetables and fruit do you eat each day?
- A Fewer than three
- B Three or four
- C At least five
6. Which of these do you reach for when craving a savoury snack?
- A Cheese and crackers
- B A handful of raw nuts or seeds
- C Potato chips
7. How often do you eat oily fish such as salmon?
- A At least once a week
- B Once a fortnight
- C Rarely
8. How often do you eat an egg?
- A On most days
- B A couple of times a week
- C Less than once a week
9. Which choice would you eat for breakfast?
A Coffee and a pastry
B A bowl of porridge
C Toast topped with reduced-fat spread and marmalade
10. What’s your favourite sweet snack?
A A blueberry muffin
B Fresh fruit
11. Which variety of pasta, breakfast cereal, bread and rice are you most likely to eat?
C Whole grain
12. How many standard alcoholic drinks do you have a day?
A No more than two standard drinks (for women) or three standard drinks (for men) and at least two alcohol-free days every week
B More than two standard drinks (for women) or three standard drinks (for men)
Add up your points to see how you’ve scored.
1. A=0 B=1 C=2
Dairy foods are a key source of calcium, which we need to keep our bones strong and guard against osteoporosis, a condition that’s more likely to affect us as we age. Around two in three 60+ women and one in three 60+ men will break a bone as a result of poor bone health. Aim for three serves of dairy a day.
2. A=2 B=1 C=0
Green leafy vegetables are packed with antioxidants, including beta-carotene and vitamins C and E. Sufficient intakes of these substances can help stave off age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in later life. Leafy greens are also high in folate, a B vitamin that may help protect against anaemia and Alzheimer’s. Aim to add leafy greens to your five daily serves of vegetables.
3. A=0 B=2 C =1
Olive oil is high in healthy monounsaturated fat and low in unhealthy saturated fat. In contrast, safflower oil is low in both, while butter is packed with saturated fat and low in monounsaturated fat. This makes olive oil the best option for keeping your blood cholesterol within a healthy range, thereby reducing your risk of stroke or heart attack, or both.
4. A=0 B=1 C=2
Consuming too much salt increases our risk of high blood pressure, which, like osteoporosis, is a condition more likely to occur as we get older. Data from the last adult nutrition survey found 31 per cent of adult New Zealanders had high blood pressure. This disorder raises the risks of stroke and heart disease. To lower your risk, choose low-sodium packaged foods and avoid the salt shaker altogether.
5. A=0 B=1 C=2
Enjoying at least five serves of vegetables and fruit each day can help you live an extra three years, compared with eating fewer or none, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It’s recommended we eat at least three serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit every day. These amounts will boost your fibre, vitamin and antioxidant intakes.
6. A=1 B=2 C=0
Most varieties of nuts and seeds are rich in antioxidant vitamin E, which is essential for a strong immune system. As we age, our immunity naturally weakens, making us more susceptible to infections and colds. Nuts and seeds are also good sources of fibre, which helps keep the bowel healthy. A high-fibre diet can even prevent problematic digestive disorders.
7. A=2 B=1 C=0
Oily fish, such as salmon and sardines, are full of omega-3 fats which protect the heart, and vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium, keeping our bones strong and lowering the risk of osteoporosis. In one US study, people who ate oily fish at least once a week had a 60 per cent lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared with those who rarely or never ate oil-rich fish. Omega-3 fats also inhibit inflammation, ward off osteo-arthritis and maintain joint health. Aim to include either canned or fresh oily fish in your diet at least twice a week.
8. A=2 B=1 C=0
In addition to oily fish, eggs are one of the few other foods that provide vitamin D, making them a great choice for strong bones. Eggs are also rich in vitamin B12, low levels of which have been linked to Alzheimer’s in people over the age of 75. The New Zealand Nutrition Foundation suggests we enjoy up to six eggs a week as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
9. A=0 B=2 C=1
Oats contain beta-glucan, a soluble fibre that acts like a sponge in the digestive system, soaking up and removing cholesterol from the body. This kind of fibre also helps control blood-sugar levels and appetite: enjoy a bowl of porridge for brekkie and you will be less likely to reach for energy-dense snacks come mid-morning.
10. A=1 B=2 C=0
Treat foods, such as chocolate and muffins, are full of fat and kilojoules so if you indulge in them regularly, you may find it harder to control your weight. Being overweight at the age of 40 could shave three years off your life while being obese could knock off seven years. In contrast, fresh fruit is low in kilojoules and high in antioxidants, which help stave off cell damage that can lead to heart disease, Alzheimer’s and certain cancers.
11. A=0 B=1 C=2
A 2008 Cochrane Review found higher intakes of wholegrain foods, such as grainy breads and cereals, reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 33 per cent. They also help prevent constipation and haemorrhoids, both of which become more common as we age. Studies also link the consumption of whole grains to better cognitive performance.
12. A=2 B=0
Although debate continues that drinking alcohol in moderation may extend our life expectancy, quaffing too much raises the risk of some diseases and cancers, which is hardly conducive to long life! Try to limit your intake to no more than two or three standard drinks a day, no more than five days a week.
How did you score?
10 points or under
Don’t despair! There is plenty of room for improvement but the good news is that if you keep following the recipes and advice in Healthy Food Guide, you will be taking great strides towards a longer, healthier life. Remember, small steps can make a big difference.
Well done! You’re on your way to a long and healthy life. You’ve already developed good eating habits and are probably including plenty of vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and dairy foods in your diet. To enjoy even better health, save tempting less-than-healthy foods for special occasions.
20 points or more
Congratulations! Chances are, you’re going to live to a ripe old age! But don’t use your good habits as an excuse to settle into complacency. Why not share your knowledge with friends and family members? To keep your anti-ageing know-how in top shape, keep reading Healthy Food Guide, so you and those you love go on to enjoy many healthy and happy years!
Article sources and references
- Barberger-Gateau et al. 2007. Dietary patterns and risk of dementia: the Three-City cohort study. Neurology 69:1921-30https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17998483
- Bellavia et al. 2013. Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause mortality: a dose-response analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 98:454-9https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23803880
- Corrada et al. 2005. Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease with high folate intake: the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. Alzheimer’s & Dementia 1:11-18https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3375831/
- Garvan Institute. 2013. Osteoporosis www.garvan.org.au Accessed December 2013https://www.garvan.org.au/
- McLean R et al. 2013. Blood pressure and hypertension in New Zealand: results from the 2008/09 Adult Nutrition Survey. New Zealand Medical Journal 126:1372https://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/read-the-journal/all-issues/2010-2019/2013/vol-126-no-1372/article-mclean