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The Wine Guy: Proper nutrition more important as we age

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As we age we must obtain more nutrients than when we were younger, while consuming fewer calories.

Eating well as we age is fraught with irony. Older folks’ health can decline quickly if they don’t get adequate nutrition. Our metabolism slows down and we need less food, but at the same time we need just as many nutrients — if not more — than we did before.

Studies show certain nutrients can keep us young or at least delay age-related diseases from taking hold. The food we eat can be an empowering weapon against aging, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer and perhaps Alzheimer’s disease. Disease, in fact, may have much more to do with diet than many people think.

Physical ailments, prescription medication, loneliness and depression can negatively affect appetite. Many senior citizens who live alone live on coffee and rolls instead of eating three balanced meals a day, loading up on bright-colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy, while eating fewer high-fat foods and sweets and drinking fewer sugary beverages. Eat less butter, chicken with skin and fatty meats and cook with olive oil. Snack on nuts instead of chips, and eat more green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits.

A fish diet helps slow the progression of heart disease in older women and delays memory loss, while calcium and vitamin D help delay aging and bone loss. Blueberries help prevent Alzheimer’s and arthritis. Eat beans, brown rice, whole wheat bread, bran cereal and oatmeal for fiber, which prevents inflammation of the intestinal wall, lowers cholesterol and helps prevent diabetes. Wine and orange juice are helpful in absorbing iron, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc. Watch your milk intake, it has no iron and interferes with the absorption of iron from other foods.

Supplement the diet with wine, which has no fat or cholesterol and very little sodium. It contains none of the obesity-causing calories in foods such as butter, oils, meat, milk, and fried and other high-fat foods. People who drink one to three glasses of wine a day are less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.

Diabetics can drink wine if they carefully control their calorie consumption. The body burns alcohol without using insulin, thus providing energy for the diabetic.

No nutritionally-based reason exists for excluding light regular wine consumption from the diet. Dr. Arthur Klasky, a cardiologist in Oakland, Calif., says a large number of his patients with heart disease are people who abstained from drinking any alcohol. He studied the health records of 20,000 patients and found men and women who consumed alcoholic beverages were less likely to die of from a heart attack than were nondrinkers.

Anthony Scarano is not a doctor. He is an 88-year-old Evergreen Park resident, winemaker and certified naturopath. Suggestions in this space are solely the opinions of Mr. Scarano based on years of independent study and personal experience, and may not be beneficial to health. Wine should be consumed in moderation, as overindulgence may be harmful to health.