Healthy diet could lead to more functional golden years, study says

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Eat your peas and carrots. That is what a new study has concluded about maintaining good health in later years.

Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and dairy products appears to help people maintain functioning ability as they age, according to the study results, which appear in the February issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Older people who ate more of these foods had less risk of physical limitations, such as the inability to walk a quarter mile, often a first sign of disability. Those who ate the most fruits and vegetables had a lower risk of functional limitations nine years after being initially evaluated.

Researchers collected data on 9,404 healthy black and white men and women, 45 to 64 years of age. Nine years later, the researchers looked at the participants' diet and levels of disability. They tested the subjects' ability to perform 12 daily activities, such as dressing and feeding themselves.

Currently, dietary recommendations call for three cups a day of low-fat or fat-free dairy products, two cups of fruit and two-and-a-half cups of vegetables, the researchers said.