Eating for Longevity
Adopting good eating habits when we’re younger, makes sure that we experience graceful aging.
Have you noticed that healthy people seem to have gong “glow” about them? Well good nutrition goes a long way in making us not only feel better, but look better too! The quality of your skin is a direct indicator of your internal state of health. Skin experts will agree that when it comes to improving the quality of your skin, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are a vital part of the treatment process. Take good care of the inside, and the outside will follow suit.
There is sadly no “magic bullet” when it comes to anti-aging. There are however some important nutrients to include in your diet that will definitely improve the quality of your years of life, and potentially the quantity.
Why Do We Age?
Without getting overly complicated, we have within each and every cell a specific portion of DNA at the end of every chromosome called a Telomere. These Telomeres are the keys to aging! Each time a cell divides and makes a copy of itself the Telomere sequence gets a little shorter.
Telomere shortening is like our “biological clock “ if you will. It will keep on ticking until the DNA sequence runs out, triggering disease and eventual cell death. Although this does sound a little morbid – the discovery of telomere shortening has provided us with an opportunity for intervention! We can target our nutrition to improve both the length and quality of our telomeres and fight the aging process!
Foods to Avoid
The key approach to anti-aging? Eat good quality REAL food.
Poor quality foods such as trans fats can cause inflammation, while excess sugar and refined carbohydrates can lead to damage of your skins collagen – the protein that keeps your skin supple and wrinkle-resistant. What’s more, these foods are tied to serious conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Remember that these conditions develop over time, so what you do now will affect the quality of your life in years to come.
- Trans fats in deep fried foods or foods fried in sunflower, safflower, canola, grapeseed or any other seed oil. Check food labels for “partially hydrogenated oils” and “vegetable shortening” and avoid, avoid, avoid! Trans fats are implicated in heart disease, aging and even cancer. There is no role for them in your diet.
- Refined carbohydrates and sugar. These are, in my opinion, the greatest of all evils. Be warned that sugar is hidden in almost ALL food products- we just don’t realize it! I urge you to read food labels a little more and avoid excess or added sugar wherever possible (just a hint: avoid anything with the suffix –ose e.g. glucose dextrose, sucrose etc).
- Excess Alcohol. We know that moderate amounts of alcohol, red wine in particular, is good for the heart but excess amounts will accelerate the aging process. “Moderate” drinking means one drink (approx. 120ml of wine) per day for women, and two (approx. 360ml of beer or 240ml of wine) for men. Excess alcohol leads to dehydration, liver damage, and depletion of your vitamin A, all of which directly affect the health of your skin. On top of this, alcohol can lead to dilation of the capillaries in your skin, which may eventually burst, leaving you with red spots that are difficult to get rid of.
Foods to Include
Nutrition in the prevention of aging is all about improving Telomere length and quality, and fighting inflammation.
For optimising Telomere length and quality, include:
- Vitamin E rich sources such as nuts, seeds (particularly sunflower seeds), avocado and asparagus.
- Adequate dietary protein, especially those rich in sulfur e.g. organic pure whey protein, eggs, dairy, red meat, poultry, legumes, nuts and seeds.
- Adequate dietary choline – eggs are the best source!
- A good quality multi-vitamin – especially with adequate B vitamins such as B12, folate and B6
- Sufficient Magnesium and Zinc sources – full cream milk is a great source of both!
Having previously written an article on Inflammation for Lifestyle Health (see here), I will keep this brief. We want antioxidants, coconut oil, omega 3 and vitamin D to stop the inflammatory response from getting out of hand, and to prevent a host of conditions ranging from heart disease to cancer.
Focus on including:
- Antioxidants such as Vitamins A, C, E and zinc by eating brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds regularly.
- Coconut Oil applied both topically and as part of the diet. Coconut oil is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial agent. Ingestion of coconut oil improves your lipid profile and is protective against heart disease. Applied topically, coconut oil is hydrating for the skin as well as healing of skin irritations or wounds.
- Omega 3 from fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and pilchards. (Alternatively get a good quality supplement)
- Vitamin D from the sun (10 minutes per day is enough – but do not get sunburn!), egg yolk, fortified milk, liver and fatty fish such as salmon and sardines.
Did You Know? Studies have now shown in 2,100 female twins, ages 19-79, that the highest levels of vitamin D were associated with the longest telomeres, and the lowest vitamin D levels were associated with the shortest telomeres, a difference equating to five years of lifespan potential.
Other antioxidants still under study are resveratrol (in red wine), and rapamycin (produced by a bacteria). Both of these have shown promise in the fields of anti-aging so watch this space!
We all fear the day our skin starts to sag a little more and shine a little less. But if we can focus on building healthy habits TODAY, we can look forward to graceful aging with youthful skin in the future!