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Handbook for successful ageing - 1.4 - 1.4.7


1.4 Ingredients

Preliminary remark: I assume, and that is also the common opinion, that you should preferably avoid animal fat and protein - apart from that ones in poultry and fish.

1.4.1 Fat

Fat consists of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. The latter consist of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids increase the risk of pancreas cancer.

Saturated fatty acids are contained in animal produce, unsaturated ones are contained in vegetable products. Exceptions are fish, which contains polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acids, see below), palm- and coconut-oil, which contain up to 80 and accordingly 90% unsaturated fatty acids.

At the same amount of calories food with saturated fatty acids makes you gain weight more easily than food with unsaturated fatty acids, since your body transforms the saturated fatty acids more slowly and builds rather them into fat depots than unsaturated fatty acids. Therefore, you should prefer food which contains little animal fat and fills your stomach faster.

Saturated fatty acids prevent omega-3 fatty acids from inserting into the cell membrane, which is very important, and increase the concentration of the inflammation level in the blood. A high consumption of fruits and vegetables, however, has an anti-inflammatory effect. Furthermore, green vegetables like cole, spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli, salad and similar, reduce the risk to contract age-related diabetes. Pulses, however, increase the uric acid level, though, and thereby the risk of gout (see below 9.3.22).

The more red meat people eat, especially sausage and bacon products, the higher is their risk to die of cancer, heart disease or circulatory disorder. Furthermore, animal fats, apart from the ones contained in fish, raise the risk of rheumatism, which harms the heart likewise.

Too much butter and margarine increase the risk of breast cancer for women. Therefore, you should bake and fry preferably with oil.

Among the polyunsaturated fatty acids, which the body cannot produce and therefore are also called essential fatty acids, the already mentioned omega-3 fatty acids and the omega-6 fatty acids stand out particularly. Both of them reduce rheumatic troubles and arthrosis considerably, reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death by almost 50 percent, reduce cardiac arrhythmia, protect the bones and optimise the body’s capacity. Furthermore omega-3 fatty acids increase the body’s defences, are anti-inflammatory, are good for the joints, the skin, the vessels, the lung and the gut, lower at least the risk of prostate cancer and possibly also the risk of macular degeneration. They have a good influence on the blood flow and so they lower the risk of thrombosis, decline the blood pressure by increasing the flexibility of the blood vessels, lower the level of blood lipids and the risk of dementia and old-age-related hardness of hearing. They prevent the production of chemical messengers which promote infections and the deterioration of cartilage and thus reduce pain caused by osteoarthrosis, increase the communication between the brain cells, stabilize the mood, might prevent depressions and can even heal them when highly consumed (David Servant-Schreiber, "The instinct to heal - Natural approaches to curing stress, anxiety and depression without drugs and without psychotherapy", Rodale Books, February, 2004). They can also cause relief for patients with multiple sclerosis and probably prevent wet macular degeneration as well. It is assumed that they lengthen life in general, since they are also contained in sea fish, and life expectancy is particularly high in places where lots of sea fish is consumed, such as the Japanese coasts.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also contained in sushi. The health of Europeans who supply their bodies in general with enough iodine by assimilating iodized salt might be jeopardized due to the seaweed (in sushi), which contains lots of iodine. Therefore, children should not eat sushi at all, and adults should do so only in moderation. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important during a pregnancy and the first years of age of a child, since the brain grows most at this time. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important during a pregnancy and the first years of age of a child, since the brain grows most at this time.

Omega-6 fatty acids exist in our nutrition sufficiently. In addition they have a vaso-constrictive effect, stimulate the blood clotting and the cell growth and intensify the inflammatory reaction. In this respect they partly even counter the positive features of omega-3 fatty acids.

Besides fish, linseed, hemp, walnut, rapeseed and soy oil contain omega-3 fatty acids. As we in general do not eat enough of all this food, we should complete our nutrition with omega-3 fatty acids. The proportion of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids should be at 4 or 5 to one. However, their proportion is in general at 10 or even 25 to 1, depending on the kind of nutrition.

Therefore, it is recommended to take one capsule of Omacor daily, in case you do not suffer from hypertriglyceridemia (morbid increase of blood lipid level). A person who takes blood-thinning medication has to be careful, though, since omega-3 fatty acids, as already mentioned, dilute blood.

You should, however, be sparing with unsaturated fatty acids, too - apart from omega-3 fatty acids. While 100g of carbohydrates have only 390 kcal and 100g of protein have 410 kcal, 100g of fat have 930 kcal. At the same time this means that products rich in proteins and carbonhydrates satiate faster, hence make you feel full faster, than fatty food, due to its greater volume and thus lower "energy density".

On the other hand fat satiates not as long as carbohydrates and especially protein do. A further disadvantage of fat is that it is saved fastest, as the body does not have to metabolise it. For this process the body only requires 3% of energy, while it uses almost a third of the calories ingested for the transformation of carbonhydrates into fat.

Remind yourself - by carefully reading the information/details - that fat - and sugar, too - is a flavour enhancer and is therefore contained in many products in which you would not expect it. All this is particularly important if you want to or even have to lose weight.

By the way: 100 g of alcohol have 700 kcal and furthermore stimulate the appetite as appetizer.

1.4.2 Protein

We need protein for building up our cells, for the transport of substances, for metabolism, for the catalysis of chemical reactions, for the recognition of messenger substances, for building up of our muscles and for the activity of our brain. Furthermore protein deficiency causes loss of hair and lack of motivation, and in an extreme case a disease, which is called kwashiorkor (see It has a higher saturation effect than carbohydrates - which is important for people with overweight.

Protein consists of at least 23 amino acids (the "bricks" of protein). Adults cannot produce themselves 8 of these amino acids (essential amino acids), children and adolescents 10. Both animal and vegetable food contain it. Adults need about 0.8 g, children 0.9 g, babies and small children 1 g protein per 1kg body weight every day, but for the full-body sports, described in chapter 3, we need more.

You would assimilate too much animal protein, if you satisfied your needs for protein primarily with animal food. Too much animal protein favours gout and osteoporosis, and the calcium excretion from bones can cause kidney stones.

Therefore, the German Nutrition Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung) recommends eating meat only twice a week, namely the white one, since it contains particularly high-value protein, and, unlike red meat, it does not involve the risk of colon cancer. Avoid innards, in particular, since they often are contaminated with harmful substances. If you still want to have the feeling of eating meat on a daily basis, you should try tofu. You can buy it in health-food shops in various types and flavours.

You should satisfy your need for protein with vegetable food, especially as vegetable protein reduces LDL (see below 1.4.3), and vegetable products satiates much faster than meat, hence causes a sensation of satiety earlier. All in all, the German Nutrition Society recommends, besides the two meals with meat, eating three times a week vegetarian food and twice a week fish.

1.4.3 Cholesterol

Besides saturated fatty acids and protein, animal food contains cholesterol. The body needs it for the development of hormones and fat-soluble vitamins as well as for energy production, but produces it itself, so that we should not additionally assimilate it with food, according to the general opinion.

Therefore, I quote from a survey financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Germany). The survey is called: "Heart in danger? Causes, prevention and therapy - results of the cardiac circulation research" ("Herz in Gefahr? Ursachen, Prävention, Therapie - Ergebnisse der Herzkreislaufforschung"):

"(…) The umbrella term "lipids" is used by biochemists to name all lipoid substances in the blood. The most known one is cholesterol.

Cholesterol is an essential building block of the cell membrane and origin for the development of bile acids, hormones and vitamin D. About one third of cholesterol is absorbed through food, exclusively through food of animal origin. Especially egg yolk, butter, offal, but also eel, mussels and prawns are rich in cholesterol. About two thirds of cholesterol are produced by the body. This is done almost exclusively in the liver.

The cholesterol absorbed through food and the one produced by the human organism determine together the amount of the cholesterol level in the blood. A value of 150 to 200 mg cholesterol per decilitre blood is common. Higher values come along with an increased risk of arteriosclerotic angiopathy.

In addition, a slightly increased level of cholesterol at medium age can already increase the risk of dementia.

However, not only the amount of the cholesterol level is crucial for the hardening of arteries, but also the kind of cholesterol in the blood. In the blood cholesterol is transported to the target organs by carriers that are especially provided for this process. These carriers are called lipoproteins (a complex of fat and protein). The low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is responsible for the transport from the liver to the cells, which use it, for example, to repair their membrane or to produce sex hormones. The transport of the cells back to the liver, which recycles cholesterol or decomposes it, is carried out by the high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

Especially a high LDL content in the blood points to the risk of arteriosclerotic harm of vascular walls. LDL particles accumulate in the arterial wall, are oxidised there, and thereby stimulate infections. Therefore, LDL is also called "bad" cholesterol.

However, the "good" cholesterol HDL is said to have a protective function, since it removes cholesterol from the bloodstream. According to recent research results, it also prevents the dangerous oxidation of LDL particles in the vascular wall. If the value of LDL exceeds the one of HDL threefoldy, the risk of suffering from a heart and vascular disease is increased. There is a very high risk of vascular hardening, if the value is exceeded fivefold.

A balanced and low-fat diet can lower increased blood lipid levels. According to nutritionists, "Mediterranean food" is exemplary. It contains lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and fish. A lot speaks in favour of the fact that especially the regular consumption of fish is good for your health. Especially fish like mackerel, salmon and herring contain polyunsaturated fatty acids, in particular. These fats cannot be produced by the body. Therefore, we have to get them from food. Fat from fish seems to prevent from cardiovascular diseases. However, the reasons for that have not been resolved, yet. Fruits and vegetables contain, among others, soluble dietary fibres like pectin (…). They are known to bind bile acids and thereby withdraw them. As a result, the body is forced to produce new bile acids. For this process the body needs cholesterol, which it extracts from the blood circulation - thereby the cholesterol level in the blood sinks (…)".

Our ancestors lived only on plants until they could hunt. Afterwards they could only feed on game, besides plants and possibly carrion and worms. This got scarcer, the more the population increased. It had become especially scarce since they populated all the land that could be settled. Therefore, our bodies at first had been used to manage with no and later only little animal food for millions of years. This could not change during the short time since cattle breeding, especially since evolution did not demand such a change.

In addition, a too high level of cholesterol can cause erectile dysfunction and dementia.

Unsaturated fatty acids and a lot of exercise raise HDL, and reduce LDL. This is another reason why you should prefer vegetable food. In this context, however, you should mind that vegetable fats must not be hydrogenated, as it often happens in the production of fast food, instant meals, industrial pastries, crisps, fries/chips, cookies, other sweets and margarine, since hydrogenated fats (trans fats) increase the risk of coronary heart diseases, diabetes and lipid metabolic disorder.

According to the German food labelling regulations, therefore, the use of hydrogenated fats and oils has to be referred to with the information "hydrogenated" in the table of ingredients, if the class-name "oil" or "fat" is used.

It is desirable to have, besides a preferably low overall cholesterol level, a - in relation to LDL - preferably high amount of HDL. The better this ratio, the the lower the risk of contracting cancer, and the more you can prevent dementia. From an overall cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL the risk becomes, however, increasingly higher.

In Germany, your blood is also checked for that within the medical check-up from the age of 35. If you have, due to a familiar risk, the reason to believe the level of your LDL is too high, consult your doctor, and ask beforehand your health insurance to bear the costs for that, too. The same applies to children.

Ask your doctor whether you should buy cholesterol-reducing food after he has told you the results of the blood examination. If this is not necessary, the vegetable sterols in the food could rather harm you than be of use to you, as in any case more than 3 gram a day make the absorption of valuable carotenoids contained in the food harder.


1.4.4 Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are metabolised into glucose. If you are active, energy will arise out of it immediately. The rest is at first saved in the liver and the muscles as glycogen. In case of need it will be metabolised back into blood sugar. If the glycogen depot is filled, depot fat will develop, which will be only metabolised into energy when the glycogen depot is empty.

We differentiate:

  • simple sugar (monosaccharide), such as grape sugar (glucose) or fruit sugar (fructose), which passes over into the blood almost immediately; it is especially contained in fruits and honey;

  • disaccharide, which comes into being from the combination of two monosaccharides, needs a little more time to pass over into the blood and forms table sugar, and

  • polysaccharide, long-chain sugar molecules, which need lots of time to pass over into the blood. This happens only bit by bit, so they satiate for a long time (see above 1.1). Best known is starch, which is contained in potatoes, vegetables, pasta, rice and grain, and tastes hardly sweet or not sweet at all.

Disaccharides are contained in table sugar, but also in fructose, honey and jam, nougat cream, barley malt, cake, pastries, desserts, liqueur, chocolate, chocolates and partially also in fruits. Furthermore they are "hidden" in other food, such as instant meals, white bread, muesli, cereals, ketchup and even sausage. They pass over into blood quickly and thereby cause a rapid energy impulse. However, they are again decomposed quickly, have a low saturation value (see above 1.3), and contain hardly any vitamins. On overcast days, the appetite for sweets is especially high. The reason: sugar creates, just as sunlight, serotonin, which contributes to our well-being. However, omega-3 fatty acids, a workplace as close to a window as possible, or the usage of a daylight lamp, too, brighten up the mood.

Complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) are mainly found in food that contains lots of starch, such as wholemeal flour and wholemeal pasta, potatoes, pulses, rice and partially fruit. The finer flour is ground, the whiter it becomes, however, the more outer layers with a high dietary mineral content, and cores rich in fat, vitamins and dietary minerals get lost. Therefore, wholemeal flour is richer in valuable ingredients, which prevent high blood pressure, diabetes as well as cardiac disease, circulatory disorder and cancer. The body initially has to split them into plain carbohydrates. As therefore time is required, the carbohydrates have a longer satiety effect (see above 1.1). They, too, contain lots of protein, unsaturated fatty acids, dietary minerals, including trace elements, and vitamins.

According to a saying, "plain carbohydrates make sick, complex carbohydrates make slim!"

I want to emphasise walnuts. They contain omega-3 and -6 fatty acids as well as numerous vital substances, but also fibres. They lower LDL and the risk of heart diseases and cancer, have an anti-inflammatory effect, and can hold up the occurrence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Walnuts contain a lot of vitamin B6 and therefore help when you suffer from lack of concentration and tiredness. There is a messenger substance for vascular dilation. Its production is blocked through rich food. Walnuts work against this by increasing the elasticity of arteries. Therefore, you should take them for cooking, especially when you prepare high-fat meals. In meals they do not taste bitter any more and do not remain between your teeth.

Almonds are also worth mentioning: they satiate, reduce LDL and triglycerides, and increase HDL, improve the intestinal flora, are a source of valuable micronutrients, strengthen the immune system, and are rich in proteins and dietary fibres. The latter keep you satiated longer, since they reduce the blood sugar peak after high-carbohydrate meals. Their skin contains flavonoids and therewith has an antioxidant effect. Although they are very rich in fat, they are said to help losing weight. Scientists assume that their fat is not assimilated completely by the body and that their cell walls hinder the assimilation of other fat. It is recommended to eat about 20 almonds daily.

1.4.5 Dietary fibre

Dietary fibres extend the satiety feeling and thus help to lose weight. Furthermore, it is assumed that they reduce the risk of contracting bowel cancer. There are soluble and insoluble dietary fibres.

Insoluble fibres are mainly contained in cereals; primarily in wholemeal products and pulses. They reduce the risk of diabetes and its possible consequences (see below 9.3.13) in many cases.

They slow down the digestion of carbonhydrates and, being fillers (?), they extend the volume of the bowels.

Soluble fibres, which are mainly contained in fruits and vegetables, are almost entirely decomposed and converted into gasses and fatty acids, and function as bulking agents in the bowels. They are able to bind with water and thus able to excrete harmful substances that have been absorbed with the food; apart from bile acids and cholesterol (s.o. 1.4.3)

Wheat bran (49g), flax seeds (39g), dried apricots (17.7g), wheat germs (17g) and whole wheat flour (13g) are particularly rich in dietary fibre. We need 30 g of dietary fibre every day, but in general we assimilate only 20 g with our nutrition. Therefore, you should add wheat bran or flax seeds to everything you cook, and you should use whole wheat flour for baking.

If dietary fibre causes a feeling of fullness and flatulences, you should take some caraway, anise, fennel or an anti-foaming agent with the active ingredient simethicone.

1.4.6 Mediterranean food

The Mediterranean food is regarded as ideal. It consists of vegetables, fruit, bread, pasta and other cereal products, pulses, nuts, fish, poultry and, as main fat source, olive oil -instead of animal fats -, as well as red wine, regularly but in moderation. In general, men can handle 30 g of alcohol (3/8l) without hesitation, women can handle half of this per day. People who eat that way are slimmer and suffer less often from heart trouble, cancer, especially stomach cancer, depressions and renal calculi. Furthermore, Mediterranean food also prevents diabetes and its possible consequences (see below, 9.3.13), asthma, bronchitis, mild cognitive impairment (see below 9.5), Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson´s, and diminishes the risk of inflammation. Especially the consumption of green vegetables slows down the brain’s degradation in the old age. Therefore, Mediterranean food lengthens life.

1.4.7 Preservation of vitamins and secondary plant products

Cook food only until it is soft enough to be eaten. If you cook food too long, the vitamins and secondary metabolites contained will be destroyed (see above 1.2). Therefore, you should not keep meals hot for someone who eats later. Instead you should then heat them up.

Cook carrots uncut. Thereby their nutrients do not fade and they taste sweeter.





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