Aging isn’t a choice, but eating healthy is. What you eat can definitely affect how well you age. As Sir Robert McCarrison said, “The right kind of food is the most important single factor in the promotion of health; and the wrong kind of food is the most important single factor in the promotion of disease.” One can either nourish their body with healthy food or can stress and age themselves faster by eating the wrong foods.
How Food and Lifestyle Choices Impact Our Health:
Green, leafy vegetables, raw nuts/seeds and seasonal fruits in moderation are examples of foods loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, omega 3 fatty acids, pre/probiotics, and enzymes that are key to healthy aging. Without a diet rich in these types of foods our cells can’t receive proper nourishment. This nutrient deprivation results in decreased circulation and oxygenation of the cells and allows for toxins and free radicals to accumulate. Once this process becomes chronic, the cell’s mitochondria (energy producers) get damaged to the point that the ends of the cell’s chromosomes, called telomeres (protectors of our DNA/RNA), start shortening. Once telomeres get too short the cell becomes susceptible to disease, infection, malfunction and eventually death. This inflammatory process causes us to age faster on both the inside and out. Inflammation breaks down our organs internally and causes a release of enzymes that break down elastin and collagen resulting in sagging, aged skin externally. Vanity suffers and pre-mature wrinkles, fine lines, puffy eyes, and dehydrated skin dominate. Foods that are processed, refined, partially hydrogenated, sprayed with pesticides and genetically modified simply age us faster by attacking us at this cellular level. Foods that are rich in nutrients do the opposite.
Smoking, poor stress control, lack of exercise, and excessive alcohol consumption are some of the obvious habits that accelerate aging. But the most significant aging factor for many people is consuming a poor diet void of nutrients. Among the foods most culpable are processed foods and refined sugars. Processed food is stripped of most vital nutrients, yet, full of inflammatory and mitochondria attacking preservatives. While natural sugar from vegetables and fruit is essential, refined sugar is poison. This pertains to all kinds of sugar, including, high fructose corn syrup. Research has shown that long-term consumption of refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup leads to chronic inflammation, type 2 diabetes, obesity, fatty liver and cardiovascular disease.
Why Antioxidants are so Important:
Antioxidants are compounds found in fruit and vegetables that are crucial for slowing the aging process. They help protect our cells from damaging free radicals. While a certain amount of free radical exposure might be healthy, excessive amounts lead to destruction of the mitochondria and telomeres, promoting rapid aging. Flavonoids, carotinoids, lycopene, and resveratrol are examples of antioxidants that safeguard us against this process.
Flavonoids are proven to help prevent or delay the onset of cardiovascular disease, aging, and cancer. They’re even proven to increase blood flow to the skin! Fruits that are rich in flavonoids include blueberries, red grapes, citrus fruit, blackberries, and raspberries. Examples of vegetables that are rich in flavonoids include onions, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, garlic, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
Research has shown that a diet rich in carotenoids decreases one’s chances of premature death. This is probably due to the fact that carotenoids protect our DNA. Fruit and vegetables that consist of dark colored pigments synthesize carotenoids. Beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein are a few examples. Beta-carotene, found in mega doses, in sweet potato, carrots, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, spinach, butternut squash, red/green leaf lettuce, and collard greens provide powerful antioxidant effects. Lycopene plays a role in cancer prevention and heart disease. Foods high in lycopene are tomatoes, guava, watermelon, grapefruit, parsley, basil, persimmons, asparagus, chili peppers, and cabbage. Lutein-rich foods like watercress, Swiss chard, bok choy, dandelion greens, basil and parsley help protect the eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration, two common age-related eye disorders.
Resveratrol is a unique antioxidant in that it crosses the blood-brain barrier. In doing so, it delivers great protection to our brain and nervous system. It’s also been shown to be protective against obesity, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. A study recently published in Science, shows that resveratrol stimulates production of SIRT1, a serum that blocks diseases by protecting the mitochondria preventing telomere shortening and DNA damage. Resveratrol is found in grapes, boiled peanuts, blueberries, bilberries, cranberries and red wine.
A balanced diet rich in a rainbow of colors from fruit and vegetables and void of processed, refined food ensures us the best possible chance at slowing down father time. There is no substitution for a healthy diet! These nutrients work best from food and not as isolated compounds in supplements, potions or creams.
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