Many people are afraid of growing old. We fear losing our health, our energy, our beauty and cognitive functions. We also see how society can marginalize people as they age. The good news is that aging isn’t something that has to come with negative or ominous feelings. It is possible to maintain an active, happy and fulfilling lifestyle well into your silver years. Nutrition plays a huge role in this. So, if you want to look and feel young for years to come you have to give time and attention to what you are eating right now.
What is Aging?
Aging is a very complex process and it is not entirely understood, but it is known to be greatly related to oxidative stress and free radicals in the body. Free radicals are produced naturally as part of metabolism and ideally cleared-up by the body’s own antioxidants. Sadly many things in the modern diet, specifically sugar and processed food, produce more free radicals than the body can cope with resulting in significant cellular stress, DNA damage and lifestyle disease.
The signs of aging often appear first in the skin, as it is one of the major detox organs of the body. This is one of the reasons why we frequently hear that the women we feature look younger after they’ve lost weight. It’s not just the weight loss. It’s that they’ve cleaned up their eating habits.
Wrinkles, sagging skin, puffiness and grey looking skin can all be the result of damage from free radicals and the chemical we ingest. Many diseases are also thought to be the result of an accelerated aging process as a result of the toxic and stressful environment we live in today. Fortunately we can include things in our diet which support our bodies in the fight against free radical attack and provide the nutrients our immune system needs to perform repairs and rejuvenate cells. There really are foods that can help you look and feel younger as part of an overall healthy lifestyle!
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Foods That Help to Keep You Young
Here are some of the best foods you can add to your diet to help your body naturally fight off the external and internal signs of aging!
Blackberries and Blueberries
These deep-blue colored berries are very rich in anthocyanin – a naturally occurring blue pigment which protects against: age-related decline of lung function; respiratory problems; heart problems; diabetes and obesity. It is a potent anti-oxidant and ideally, you should eat 2 serving of blue colored berries a week to make the most of its protective powers. Putting it in a green smoothie is an easy way to do this.
Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy greens, such as kale, spinach or collard greens are an excellent source of powerful antioxidants. They are known to enhance cardiac function, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and prevent various cancers. They are also rich in vitamin K, known to protect against bone fragility and help maintain long-term health.
Unprocessed raw cacao powder or at least a good quality chocolate with a high cocoa percentage (at least 85%) is rich in Flavonol. This is a type of flavonoid that is associated with improvements of cognitive function. It also helps control blood pressure and insulin resistance. Cocoa has the ability to improve your mood and balance hormones, which is why women often crave it around the time of their period.
Red Bell Peppers
Vitamin C is known to boost your immune system which will make you less sensitive to germs and bacteria, but also makes you less prone to wrinkles and protects your collagen from going saggy. Red bell peppers have three times more vitamin C than an orange making it a great choice to keep you young and healthy inside and out.
Avocados and Nuts
Packed with healthy fats and vitamin E, avocados will keep your brain working and your skin looking young and fresh. Nuts also contain healthy fats which improve mental function and help to keep your mind sharp. (Check out the book Grain Brain for more info on brain health and nutrition)
Not only are papayas incredibly delicious, they are also rich in vitamin C, folate and fibre. They also help protect your skin against signs of aging, maintain healthy cognitive functions and help control blood pressure and cholesterol. They contain lutein, which fights free radicals and slows down the aging process and fights inflammation.
Not only do apples keep the doctor away, they also help keep wrinkles at bay. They are rich in pectin, which contains oligogalacturonides that boosts the skin’s production of collagen. More recently a specific phenol found in apples, phloridzin, has been discovered to have a distinct anti-aging effect – reducing inflammation and promoting healing while reducing oxidative stress from those pesky free raidcals.
Tomatoes and Watermelon
Both these red fruits are rich in lycopene – an antioxidant that, by fighting free radicals, has been repeatedly shown to help protect individuals from various cancers including lung and prostate. This red pigment, which is more accessible in tomatoes when they are cooked, is also known to protect the heart as it reduces the so-called bad cholesterol.
Sardines have a even higher content of healthy omega-3 fatty acids than salmon. These healthy fats have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and improve cardiovascular functions and may even help protect against Alzheimer’s.
Foods that Make You Age
The harmful things you put in your body that cause it to age quicker are almost as important as what you eat to protect it. So, here is a list of things to ditch from your diet as soon as possible to help you age healthily.
Fried Foods (Fries, Chips, Crisp, Fried Chicken etc.)
High temperature cooking in fat creates toxic chemicals which increase inflammation and cause oxidative stress in the body, which accelerate aging inside and out. They also contribute significantly to heart disease, some cancers and are linked to depression and anxiety.
Refined and Processed Sugars
Hidden in processed foods and using over 100 different pseudonyms, sugar is a MAJOR cause of disease. Increased consumption of sugar will make your skin look wrinkled and dull by destroying collagen and elastin. Also, it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and can inhibit the action of the antioxidants in your body leaving you more prone to illness.
A glass of red wine is found to be protective against cardiovascular disease. However, excessive alcohol intake accelerates the aging process, harms our liver, creating toxin buildup, and is linked to cognitive decline.
Made up of sugar and artificial sweeteners, flavors, dye and colorings, soda is terrible for you. It’s also potentially damaging to your immune system and it’s consumption has been linked to the high rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in America. Have a glass of water or freshly brewed tea instead!
Fat-Free Processed Food
It might be expected that a fat free product would be good for you. But many of these products are made with a synthetic fat called olestra which binds to important fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) and carotenoids – all important age fighting components – and eliminates them from the body. In addition, when the fat is taken out of foods, they taste horrible. Chemicals and sugars are added instead so that the “Fat-free” foods still taste good.
Increased red-meat consumption raises levels of serum phosphate which increases your “biological age” and may lead to kidney diseases, cardiovascular problems and overall higher risk of mortality. If you do eat meat, try grass fed instead if you can and find out as much as you can about where your meat comes from. Many people believe it is the horrific conditions in the meat industry and excessive use of antibiotics and growth hormones combined with a totally unnatural diet which is causing all the problems. Do your research and make you own decision. This is an area where there is a lot of debate.
The Foods of Immortality Don’t Exist, but What You Eat Impacts Your Body. Period.
We all may have a few bad habits along the way when it comes to eating habits. There is no guarantee that you will look young and be free from disease just because you eat healthy food. But if you eat healthy most of the time you will likely be on the road to a longer, healthier and happier life. Eat a varied and colorful diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Ditch highly processed foods, refined sugars and chemical additives. Pay attention to what you are eating and how you feel.