A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition as well as one released from the Agricultural Reserve Service (ARS the USDAs chief scientific research agency) have concluded that plant based foods can help to preserve lean body mass and reduce the extent of sarcopenia, the natural muscle wasting that occurs with age. Maintaining lean body mass is important in aging to prevent falls and fractures as well as increasing metabolic rate.
The studies find that metabolic acidosis occurs when individuals consume a diet high in acid producing foods such as cereal grains and proteins. The typical American diet is very high in protein so the study diets were modified to include more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are high in potassium and are alkaline when digested so the idea was that they would neutralize the acidity of the protein and cereal grains. The results show that the study participants that ate diets that were rich in potassium (high in fruits and vegetables) could expect to have 3.6 pounds more lean body mass than study participants with only half the amount of potassium.
This information is beneficial since we see 4.4 pounds of lean tissue lost per decade of life in most Americans, especially over 65 years of age. In order to see this benefit, aim for the upper end of the recommended range of 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Those fruits and vegetables that are particularly high in potassium are bananas, potatoes, avocados, raisins, apricots, kiwi, melons, spinach, tomatoes, oranges and prunes.
So add this to your already long list of reasons to eat more fruits and vegetables!