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Balanced Diet Linked to Better Physical Function As We Age

Studies are finding that physical functioning is essential to healthy aging, particularly in the areas of mobility and independent living. A recent study suggests that eating a balanced diet high in walnuts, oranges, orange juice, apples, pears, and romaine or leaf lettuce may be associated with a reduced risk of developing physical impairments later in life.

Participants in the study included 54,762 women who took part in the Nurses’ Health Study, which tracked women for more than 30 years. Physical function was measured by the Medical Outcomes Short Form-36 physical function scale, which was administered every 4 years between 1992 and 2008. Cumulative average diet was assessed using food frequency questionnaires, also administered approximately every 4 years.

After examining the data, the researchers found that the participants who had higher levels of walnuts in their diet as well as oranges, orange juice, apples and pears, and romaine or leaf lettuce were less likely to have incidences that caused physical impairment and led to restricted independence. They also found that associations with specific foods were weaker than with the overall score, suggesting overall diet was more important than individual parts.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on May 11, 2016, in The Journal of Nutrition.

Maintaining a balanced, healthy diet is essential for good health. If you’re struggling to meet the fruits and vegetables requirements, consider substituting at least one meat-based meal per week with a vegetarian meal. You can also carry fruits with you throughout the day to snack on or make sure to include at least one green food item with every meal.

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