People often think that, by age 45, damage from their bad habits can’t be undone. Science has good news! Research shows that regardless of your age it’s never too late to make a transformation in your health. And it does not have to be an all or nothing scenario. You can begin by making just a few changes. The key is to replace those bad habits with good ones and stick to it. Eating healthy foods and eliminating the unhealthy ones can reduce inflammation, improve your brain chemistry, eliminate acid reflux, enhance organ function and generate many other positive effects.

Eating Habits for Healthy Aging

1. Replace salt with herbs and spices.

A 2013 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that U.S. adults eat way too much salt.1 They estimated that 90% of Americans overindulge. With heart disease and stroke a leading cause of death, cutting back on salt could save millions of lives and billions in medical costs.

You do need some salt in your diet, but too much is never a good idea. So why not add a little spice to your life? Besides helping to change your palate, herbs and spices add flavor, color, vitamins and often medicinal aspects to your food. For instance, cinnamon is known to reduce blood glucose and improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Herbs and spices can also help ‘un-train’ your brain from craving salty snacks and reduce the bloating and water retention caused by salt. Adding these calorie-free, flavor-enhancing seasonings will, in fact, change your relationship with food.

2. Wean yourself off heavily processed foods.

We live in the age of industrial food. Some of it is good, nutritious food and some not so good. Many consumers like the convenience and taste of prepackaged, ready-to-eat or ready-to-cook meals. After all, who wants to spend a lot of time in the kitchen after a long day at work? Nevertheless, there are plenty of ways to prepare quick, healthy meals without succumbing to products that are obviously bad for you.

• Start reading labels. It’s the only way to avoid hidden sodium, fat, sugar, sweeteners, soy, corn and corn products, refined carbs and the chemicals added to enhance flavor, texture and shelf life. You’ll be amazed to discover that most of the products in boxes, jars, bottles and cans, or frozen are loaded with all kinds of unhealthy ingredients.

• Stay away from fast foods. Even if you’re opting for the salad, the add-ons and dressings are loaded with things you can’t pronounce.

• Take advantage of pre-cut vegetables, salads and other lightly processed foods to hasten your meal preparation. These are healthier alternatives to heavily processed and refined foods. Or pick a day of the week to prep things yourself.

• Collect recipes from websites that offer ideas for quick, healthy meals. Cooking Light has some great offerings. Pinterest is also loaded with delicious recipe suggestions.

3. Eat more plants.

Vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and other plant foods are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fiber that your cells are starving for. Again, this is not an ‘all or nothing’ proposition. Start with a few meals per week, or eat 1 or 2 plant-based meals a day.

4. Eat healthy fats.

Research continues to show that healthy fats can significantly impact heart health, blood pressure, blood sugar, brain function and other aspects of your health. Adding nuts, seeds, avocados, salmon or tuna, olives, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and even dark chocolate to your diet are great steps toward cleaning up your act and supplying what your body needs.

5. Eat organic.

We once raised animals and plants organically as a matter of course. No hormones, no herbicides, fungicides, pesticides or liquid fertilizers. Our foods were far more tasty and nutrient-packed than those produced today using ‘conventional’ methods.

Eating organic is helping us return to our roots. You and your family can avoid GMOs and toxic chemicals in plants, as well as antibiotics, hormones, toxins and other additives in animal products. Researchers have found that organic food does have more nutrients and better taste. Additionally, supporting organic will help keep chemicals out of the water, air and soil and reduce farm pollution. What’s good for us is good for the planet.