Defy Aging with a Healthy Diet
Healthy diets do not include heavily processed foods, and saturated fats. The most beneficial diets rely heavily on fresh vegetables, fruits, and legumes -- foods that are naturally lower in calories and packed with nutrients.
Anti aging Experts suspect the antioxidant compounds found in produce, legumes, and whole grains are largely responsible for holding back the march of time.
Antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, and other compounds, including phyto nutrients, polyphenols and anthocyanins, battle free radicals -- unstable forms of oxygen that damage cell function. Free radicals form from normal metabolism. Your body also produces them in response to strong ultraviolet rays from the sun; air pollution; smoking; and secondhand smoke.
The buildup of free radicals contributes to the aging process and to the development of a number of age-related diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and inflammatory conditions, including osteoarthritis. What's worse, aging increases free radical production. That means your diet should be healthier than ever with the passage of time.
The question, of course, is how do we do that?
Antioxidants generate a lot of buzz when it comes to longevity, but aging well takes more. You must optimize a myriad of beneficial nutrients, including protein, calcium, and vitamin D, and minimize detrimental dietary components including saturated and trans fats.
While none of these foods is the "Fountain of Youth," including them on a regular basis as part of a balanced diet can reduce the toll time takes on your body.
Fruits provides fiber, vitamins, and minerals, as well as hundreds of anti-aging phytonutrients. When it comes to age-defying properties, some produce is better than others, according to the United States Department of Agriculture's tests for antioxidant activity.
People who take in the most produce (produce includes fruits and vegetables) -- upwards of 10 servings a day -- have higher levels of antioxidants in their bloodstream, which probably translates to better aging. Produce-lovers also have stronger bones, thanks to the magnesium and potassium that fruits and vegetables supply (dark greens are also rich in vitamin K, necessary to bolster bones).
Top picks: blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, apples, and cherries.
Like fruits, vegetables also provide healthy fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and lots of anti-aging phytonutrients.
Top picks: artichokes, avocado, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, Kale, onions, carrots, pumpkin, spinach, and sweet potato.
Nuts are cholesterol-free protein sources, and are worthy substitutes for fatty meats. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that in a group of nearly 35,000 women, those who ate foods rich in vitamin E, including nuts, lowered their risk of having a stroke.
Top picks: walnuts, for omega-3s; almonds for their high vitamin E levels; and pecans, for their antioxidants.
Legumes are packed with complex carbohydrates and fiber to ensure steadier blood glucose and insulin levels, and they provide a cholesterol-free source of protein. Legumes are also packed with antioxidants.
Top picks: from black beans to soy beans, they're all good for you.
Whole grains retain more of their natural nutrients, particularly age-defying vitamin E, fiber, and B vitamins, than refined varieties. They are also a wealth of antioxidant compounds. The fiber in whole grains also help control blood sugar and increase satiety (fullness)
Top picks: quinoa, chia, millet, barley, oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta, cracked wheat, wild rice.
According to the American Heart Association, certain types of fish contain high levels of omega-3 fats that reduce the risk of plaque buildup in your arteries; decrease blood triglyceride (fat) levels; help lower blood pressure; and lessen the odds of sudden death. Fish is also a smart protein choice because of its relatively low saturated fat and cholesterol content.
Top picks: salmon, sardines, and canned tuna are among the fish with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
Dairy foods are excellent sources of bone-strengthening calcium and also supply protein that bolsters bones and muscle, and is needed for peak immune function.
Top picks: milk, either 1% low-fat or fat-free. Milk is fortified with vitamin D, necessary for calcium absorption. Adequate levels of vitamin D may reduce prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer and some inflammatory diseases.
Olive oil is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and beneficial plant compounds. Olive oil is also free of the trans fats found in some margarines and other processed foods. A study published in the journal Neurology found that among healthy people 65 and older, the higher the saturated and trans fat intake, the greater the cognitive decline during a six-year period.
Top pick: A recent report in the Annals of Internal Medicine found extra-virgin olive oil more beneficial than other types for increasing the high-density lipoprotein levels (HDL or good cholesterol) in men. Extra-virgin olive oil also offers beneficial levels of oleocanthal, a compound that mimics the effects of anti-inflammatory medications including aspirin and ibuprofen.
Eat Light and Live Longer?
It's not only what you eat when it comes to stalling the aging process. Calories count, too. Being overweight stresses your heart, blood vessels, and joints, accelerating age-related diseases. High cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes are all linked to heart disease and premature death. Excess body fat also plays a role in the development of dementia, certain cancers, and eye diseases, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Cutting a few hundred calories a day from your regular eating plan may be all it takes to make it into your 80s or 90s in relatively good health. In fact, cutting daily calorie intake by 30 percent may put the brakes on the aging process, have beneficial effects on the brain, and result in a longer life span, according to a new 20-year study of monkeys published in the journal Science. The study confirms in primates what's long been known in other species, including mice, worms, and flies. Recent human studies also suggest that calorie reductions can extend life. That's what Dr. Craig Willcox and his colleagues found when they related eating habits to death rates among 2,000 nonsmoking men. In his study, the men who consumed an average of 1,900 calories per day -- about 15% below the average for the entire group -- were less likely to die over the 36-year study period.
Exactly how a calorie-restricted diet helps stave off age-related diseases and extend lifespan is unknown. Perhaps the secret lies in a slower metabolism that comes with eating less food. A reduced metabolic rate means your body produces fewer free radicals. Calorie reduction plans also lower the body's core temperature and insulin levels, two indicators of longevity. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that overweight people who cut their daily calorie intake by up to 25% were more likely to have a lower core body temperature and normal fasting levels of insulin in their blood. An added benefit of controlling calories is it can help people lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for many diseases. Eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods can also produce important physiologic changes in the body, which may lower disease risk.
Bottom Line on Slowing Aging and Living Longer and Healthier
Aging is a part of life. Perhaps combining a diet rich in "anti-aging" foods with fewer calories overall may help us age more gracefully and live a longer, healthier life.