I recently came across a quote which stated that “aging can be fun if you lay back and enjoy it.” I thought about it for a while and concluded how wrong this thinking is.

There is no laying back when it comes to aging healthily. It is a time in our lives when we need to be aware of the changes that come with aging and prepare for them, so we can enjoy our healthy lives.

Understandably, changes occur in our senses of taste and smell. Research suggests that taste sensitivity declines with age, and this decrease is exacerbated by an accompanying reduction in how well we can smell.

In fact, our loss of taste as we get older is probably due mostly to losing our sense of smell than other factors, since we lose almost half of our olfactory ability by the time we are 80. Making this even worse is decline in our ability to recognize previously familiar scents.

One impact of these changes in our senses of taste and smell is that we may need to consume more of most flavors to be able to detect them.

For example, boomers typically need about 30 percent more aspartame and up to 300 percent (three times) more salt in our food to get the same taste impact we did when we were younger.

The Risks to Our Health

Not being able to taste sweetness and saltiness as we once did can carry significant health risks for us since we may compensate by consuming far more sugar and salt than is recommended and healthy.

This overcompensation may cause many nutritional challenges that we may already have from medications, decreased appetite or chronic diseases.

Spices and Herbs to the Rescue

Luckily, we may not need to resort to upping the salt or sugar content of our foods to make them flavorful and appetizing. You can enhance the flavors of your food by using the spices and herbs in your spice rack, your home garden or your local farmers’ market.

An added bonus is that herbs and spices offer a wide variety of nutrients – like magnesium, calcium, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C, iron and folate – and other benefits that our bodies need to stay their healthiest.

To give you a better idea of the benefits – in addition to flavor – of using more herbs and spices, here are examples of the more common ones along with some of the ways they can help us stay our healthiest.

Cinnamon

You may be surprised to find out that cinnamon is high in calcium content. Just one teaspoon of ground cinnamon contains 26 mg of calcium, and we all know calcium is important for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. Adequate calcium intake may also decrease your risk for colorectal cancer.

Sage

Closely related to rosemary, sage may be a powerful antioxidant. It also may promote mental health, soothe digestive issues, relieve sore throat and clear congestion.

Cilantro

Cilantro is also known as coriander or Chinese parsley. Just one-fourth of a cup of cilantro has 5 percent of the daily value of vitamin A. This vitamin helps with bone growth and reproductive health. It is also mainly known for improving your eyesight, skin health and cell regeneration.

Rosemary

A member of the mint family, rosemary has been associated with improving memory, fighting cancer, helping prevent diabetes and helping with hair loss. It also is a nice addition to your oral hygiene routine given its antibacterial properties.

Mint

Mint is an aromatic herb that can be found in hundreds of products, from toothpaste to teas. Aside from its flavor, mint freshens your breath, may reduce symptoms of the common cold, relieves stomach issues, reduces stress, increases the effectiveness of exercise and reduces skin irritation.

Parsley

A close relative of celery, parsley is more than a decorative addition to your meal. It is full of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium as well as vitamins C and A.

Turmeric

Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color. It is a very powerful antioxidant that may improve brain function, fight Alzheimer’s disease, reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, and relieve arthritis.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper offers a wide variety of benefits, including pain reduction, blood pressure reduction, prevention of heart disease and help with weight loss.

Ginger

Ginger is a flowering plant that has been used since ancient times to aid digestion, relieve stomach issues and fight a variety of ailments such as the flu and common cold. It also can benefit those with arthritis, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes and even cancer.

Other popular herbs and spices that offer health benefits are garlic, cumin, black pepper, tarragon, fennel and thyme.

Always remember that if you take medications, certain foods can alter drug-metabolizing systems in the body. You always want to avoid drug interactions so that you will be healthy and your medication will be effective.

As you can see, getting older or being a boomer is not about laying back and enjoying it. We have to be proactive and educate ourselves about those changes that are likely to occur in our bodies as we age.

We have to identify some lifestyle modifications that we may need to make to compensate for those changes. Trying new herbs and spices might be a start. Perhaps a better quote would be, “aging can be fun if you are proactive and enjoy it!”

What is your experience with changes in taste and smell? How did you deal with the issue? What did you do to overcome it? Was your strategy successful? Have you ever tried experimenting with different herbs and spices? Tell us about it. Please join the conversation.

Joy Stephenson-LawsJoy Stephenson-Laws is the founder of Proactive Health Labs, a national non-profit health information company that provides education and tools needed to achieve optimal health. Her most recent book is Minerals – The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy, available through Amazon, iTunes and bookstores.

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