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Eating and drinking your way to youth

Wrinkles, sun spots and dry, saggy skin can be signs of the march of time. Time has a way of imposing a mask on our once youthful-looking face. You only have to look at the sales of expensive lotions or the number of people willing to undergo surgery to realise that, for many people, ageing is a difficult process and many will do anything to reverse the tide. What most of us don’t realise, however, is that the fountain of youth is as close as the nearest organic Grocery store.

Our mothers were onto something when they said, “You are what you eat.” The food you put in your body can be the most empowering weapon against the molecular mechanism behind cell degeneration that leads to ageing.

Equipped with keen knowledge of food choices, “Men and women have the power to stop, slow and even reverse the tide of ageing,” says Elizabeth Somer, author of Age-Proof Your Body. “When we analyse each component of ageing, from wrinkles and frail appearance to degenerative diseases, we repeatedly find that it is not age but years of abuse that wear down the body’s ability to regenerate itself.”

Luckily, you can stop the abuse and encourage the repair process with an arsenal of healing foods at your fingertips. There are dozens of “super foods” recommended, but here we will consider some of the least-acknowledged age-defying foods.

 

Garden variety

Capsicums, cherries, shiitake mushrooms and eggplants are some common foods that you could add to your anti-ageing diet. Fruits and vegetables flush with colourful pigments boost antioxidant levels in your skin to prevent wrinkles.

Antioxidants shield us from the damage inflicted by free radicals. Free radicals can be produced by a multitude of factors, including poor nutrition as well as environmental factors such as UV radiation, pollution, and pesticides — all of which lead to the breakdown of collagen and elastin, the protein structures that give the skin that youthful elasticity.

Ample research has shown that antioxidant super nutrients found in golden yellows, deep purples, dark emeralds and fiery reds neutralise the effects of free radicals and help preserve the skin’s youthful colour and fullness.

Monica Reinagel, nutritionist and author of The Inflammation-Free Diet Plan, agrees: “Stockpiling a strong antioxidant defence and minimising anything that generates free radicals helps slow or even halt free-radical damage to the tissues, thus helping prevent premature ageing and age-related diseases such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis and cataracts.”

 

Fruit of the sea: seaweed

The benefit of seaweed in your anti-ageing diet begins with the fact that the sea itself is a treasure trove of minerals. Deborah Enos, certified nutritionist and author of Weight a Minute! Transform Your Health in 60 Seconds a Day, says, “All these minerals lodge inside the seaweed, so when you consume it it’s like taking a great, highly available mineral pill.”

Abundant in iodine, calcium and zinc, and with antibiotic and antiviral effects, seaweed helps restore the skin’s youthful qualities by improving circulation and reducing the appearance of cellulite. You can also count on seaweed to alleviate respiratory problems and boost the immune system.

Seaweed as a form of nutrition dates back to prehistoric times. The anti-ageing and healing qualities of seaweed were widely acknowledged in Scandinavia and Japan and by our Mediterranean ancestors living on the coast. Seaweed has been used in Chinese medicine dating as far back as 300BC. Today, in Okinawa, Japan, there are 600 centenarians out of 1.3 million residents, the highest per capita in the world. Their diet is largely a combination of fresh local produce and seaweed. It looks like they are on to something.

 

Fishermen’s favourites

The foods to hold back the depredations of the years do not stop with seaweed. Oysters, salmon and shellfish are also part of your youth food diet. The sea is infinite in its healing properties and these fishermen’s favourites are high in zinc and copper, which, says Reinagel, are “essentially good for hair, skin and nails”.

They are also excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, an ingredient that has ridden high on the wave of public enthusiasm, and rightly so. Omega-3 acids are essential in keeping the walls of the skin cells watertight, thereby ensuring that the skin remains hydrated. One of the telltale signs of deficiency in these oils is wrinkled, dry skin.

Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 acids. In addition, fish provides high-quality proteins that enable cellular repair, as well as essential fatty acids (EFAs) that ensure healthy cell membranes, according to Dr Nicholas Perricone, author of the New York Times bestseller The Perricone Prescription. “EFAs hold water, so the stronger they are, the plumper and younger your skin,” he says. Vegetarian substitutes for sea products include walnuts, flaxseed oil, olive oil and dark leafy vegetables.

 

Farmer’s favourites

Beans, lentils and chickpeas are humble foods but they certainly pack a healthful punch. There are good reasons that beans occupy a high place in the Food Guide Pyramid. The multi-faceted nutritional powers of legumes make them a necessity in defence against outward signs of ageing as well as age- related illnesses.

According to Dr Vincent Giampapa, author of The Gene Makeover: The 21st Century Anti-Aging Breakthrough, beans and lentils are a potent source of anti-inflammatory antioxidants (flavanols) that help “protect against several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, lung and prostate cancers”.

Legumes are also excellent sources of protein and of increasing importance as you age in order to maintain muscle mass, reduce insulin resistance and repair DNA. Unlike animal proteins, these sources do not alter PH balance and do not accelerate the rate of bone loss for women over 50. The plethora of vitamins and minerals in beans such as chickpeas also keeps the digestive system and metabolism in great shape — an important element, since metabolism tends to drop with age.

 

The source

A frequently overlooked anti-ageing ingredient, although not officially in the food category, is actually the source of all life: water.

“It should be at the top of the list,” says Jennifer Kaye, chief operating officer of the world’s largest nutrition school, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York.“If your body is clean on the inside, your skin will be radiant and glow on the outside. Your body is 70 per cent water, so if you are not constantly hydrating and delivering fresh, clean water to your cells, you have the equivalent of murky, polluted, standing water in your body.”

Closely related to water in helping detoxify the body are food items such as citrus (eg, oranges and lemons) and foods that contain sulphur such as garlic, onions and eggs.

In the never-ending quest to look and stay young, we have come to disregard the treasures that are in plain sight. The natural world lies ready to assist us in attaining the elusive fountain of youth. These natural foods and ingredients function as “scrubbers” and cleansing agents for your vital organs, tissues, dermal tissues and cells while detoxing your body and keeping you disease-free.

So instead of slathering on expensive lotions or submitting to the surgeon’s scalpel in an attempt to cover up the visible signs of ageing, fortify your meals with foods that heal, repair and cleanse. No amount of products or outer grooming can give you the natural glow and bounce that comes from what Mother Nature has to offer us. Before you know it, you won’t just appear younger, but feel younger.

 

Top 10 foods to avoid

Modern dietary habits contribute to the acceleration of the ageing process. Dr Vincent Giampapa gives a list of the top 10 foods to avoid at the dinner table:

  1. Sugar
  2. Fried bacon
  3. Potato chips
  4. White bread
  5. White potatoes
  6. Corn oil
  7. Sugary processed cereals
  8. Sugary processed snacks
  9. Red meats and hot dogs
  10. Doughnuts

Handan T. Satiroglu is a freelance writer based in Fort Collins, Colorado. She practises what she preaches to the best of her ability.

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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