We don’t necessarily want to live indefinitely, but we do want to look and feel the best we can for whichever age we happen to be. Cosmetic surgery may alter our features, but it can be a painful procedure and will not help our bodies to feel as youthful as we may (artificially) look.
However, with a little dietary effort, we can slow the aging process….
1. Avoid yo-yo diet
The cycle of gaining, then losing body fat through yo yo dieting, causes the elastic skin fibres to stretch and retract repeatedly.
Younger skin can cope with this process better than older skin due to presence of collagen and elastin in the dermis.
When we age, these proteins reduce and with them elasticity. Our skin struggles to spring back into shape, resulting in sagging, loose skin and wrinkles.
Keep a consistent healthy weight to not overstretch skin.
Exercise regularly to maintain muscle mass and form.
Support collagen formation with foods rich in:
Retinoid: liver, oily fish, eggs
Carotinoid: green leafy and orange and red vegetables
Vitamin C: vegetables and fruit
Vitamin E: tofu, avocado, sunflower, almonds, hazelnuts, spinach broccoli, pumpkin. Mango, tomato, kiwi
Copper: shellfish, whole grains, beans and nuts.
2. Limit calories
There is growing evidence to support the theory that calorie restriction extends life span and reduces occurrence of degenerative conditions associated with aging. However, it needs to be a quality diet.
Calorie restriction without malnutrition. A couple of McDonalds per day with diet coke will not cut the mustard!!! The emphasis is on choosing nutrient dense foods and reducing exposure to harmful chemicals whilst limiting calories.
The Calorie Restriction Diet is also not about starvation and your BMI should not drop lower than 18.5. Our modern day hectic lifestyles may make this kind of diet quite a challenge, but if your motivation is a healthier old age, the results could be what you are looking for?
3. Protect protein
Most of us are aware that proteins are the basic building blocks of the body. We know that protein is needed for building muscle, skin, tendons and organs and therefore plays an essential role in the anti aging diet.
So, maybe it’s just a case of eating plenty of meat, fish and eggs and we’ll all look fabulous darlings?
For example, fried eggs for breakfast, a grilled tuna niςoise for lunch and BBQ steak for dinner? They are protein foods, right?
Dry cooking protein food to a high temperature, such as grilling and frying causes a chemical reaction called Glycation where proteins and fats bond with sugar molecules without enzymes.
This will occur during the cooking process and may also occur in the blood stream.
These new sugar proteins are called AGE’s (Advanced Glycation End Products).
The body does not recognise the AGE’s as normal and reacts by creating antibodies and Inflammation. AGE’s have been linked to (among other things) skin aging, insulin resistance in Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. For an anti aging diet we need to protect our protein:
Do not overcook
Reduce heat and do not char
Cook with liquid i.e. add a splash of water/stock to the frying pan or steam
Marinate meat or fish in lemon/lime juice before cooking.
4. Reduce inflammation
By this I’m not referring to acute inflammation as a result of a sudden accident or injury, more systemic, low grade inflammation often due to undiagnosed allergies, autoimmune disease or excess sugar in the diet.
Many age-related illnesses have been associated with chronic inflammation for example with heart disease, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Scientists believe that Inflammation damages telomeres (telomeres are caps on the end of chromosomes which protect our genes from damage).
Once these telomeres become shortened due to damage, the cells do not operate effectively and aging accelerates (including skin aging).
It is hypothesised that it may be possible to slow the aging process, by avoiding triggers and mediating factors and eating foods known to be anti inflammatory:
If there is a history autoimmune disease such as hypothyroid or coeliac in the family and you have long standing unchecked symptoms, make an appointment with your GP.
If you are overweight, take action to rectify.
Reduce sugar intake by avoiding processed, white foods, sweets and excess alcohol.
Consult a Nutritional Therapist for allergy advice.
Be generous with anti inflammatory herbs and spices: ginger, turmeric, garlic, onions.
5. Include good fats
Western diets tend to be high in Omega 6 fatty acids from vegetable oils such as safflower and sunflower and artificial trans fats from takeaways and processed foods such as biscuits and cakes.
Some Omega 6 is important in the diet, but an excess is pro-inflammatory and as we have discussed earlier, may lead to accelerated aging.
Artificial trans fats are fats that have been chemically altered through heat (during the manufacturing process of margarines and oils, or through cooking) and cause oxidative damage to cells and again, accelerated aging.
For an anti aging diet:
Avoid fried food
Avoid white fluffy food
Eat wild or organic oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel)
Include walnuts, flaxseeds, chia, and rapeseed.
6. Avoid refined carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates include white rice, white pasta, and white flour. They are used in pretend foods such as biscuits, cakes, doughnuts and bread etc and serve no discernable use for health.
This white rubbish is converted to glucose in the blood stream very quickly giving you spikes, then sudden dips in energy.
Long term consumption has been directly linked to insulin resistance and diabetes. As discussed in ‘Protect Protein’ excess sugar contributes to AGE’s and if we wish to delay wrinkles and saggy skin, we need to choose healthier options:
Choose whole grains such as quinoa, amaranth, millet, brown basmati rice, buckwheat pasta, spelt wholegrain flour.
Choose seeded wholegrain bread instead of white.
Consult a low glycemic index website or book for more information.
7. Eat food you enjoy, together with people you love
Whether you are 100 years old or 16, nothing looks more beautiful and anti aging than a beaming smile. When you eat food you enjoy with people you love your digestive system is more relaxed and therefore works more efficiently to absorb nutrients to help you stay younger for longer.
Don’t eat when stressed or arguing
Chew food to a pulp, rather than bolting food down
Try new food, but don’t force yourself to eat or drink food you really dislike just because it’s deemed healthy.
8. Eat a rainbow
As discussed earlier, the bad news is oxidative damage causes aging. The good news is an anti aging diet including vegetables and fruit based on the colours of the rainbow contain antioxidants, which will protect our cells from damage:
Include each day at least 5 portions of different vegetables of various colours and 2 portions of fruit.
Each day enjoy a large raw salad.
Have 2 cups of green leafy vegetables per day.