On Nutrition: Getting active, better late than never | Health

A widely held theory on aging pins some of the blame on compounds called free radicals, which gum up the works and facilitate the path toward disease. Research evidence continues to reveal how whole grains and nutrient-rich whole foods can combat free-radical damage. Phytochemicals, the beneficial compounds that plants evolved to help them survive, can help our bodies, as well. But it takes a plant-based, whole foods diet to facilitate that payoff. Eating well can help keep you off the sick list — though nothing can be guaranteed in this regard, of course — and, if you do become ill, can aid in faster wound healing, fewer surgical complications and shorter hospital stays. This is of critical importance in today’s debates about health care.

Energy is the most basic commodity of life, and the body saves all it gets its mitts on. We are designed to cut back on systems that are not routinely used, saving extra energy whenever possible. Dietary excesses get converted to energy and stored whenever possible, but being “wealthy” in this regard can set us up for chronic disease.

A healthful lifestyle keeps the body on notice that we want to keep all our parts in working order. Even the best-built engine will become sluggish if not used regularly. The “use it or lose it” proposition comes into even greater play as we age. It is easier to maintain fitness than to become fit, but patience, persistence and guidance from knowledgeable professionals can chart a course that is appropriate for each situation.

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