As we grow older, our bodies literally “rust”. This rusting is an oxidative process; our bodies must combine oxygen with other chemicals, such as iron, in order to survive. This is a natural part of our bodies’ metabolisms, but that doesn’t mean that it’s inevitable. There are a large number of anti-aging methods that are readily available and cost effective.
Fruits and vegetables are the most important part of the anti-aging diet, because they contain antioxidants which combat this oxidative process. Many processes, including our natural metabolism, create free radicals, which are unstable molecules which are greedy for an electron. They generally “steal” this electron from the first molecule they encounter, causing damage. The damaged molecule also becomes a free radical.
Fruits and vegetables counter this phenomenon, because they contain antioxidants. Antioxidants can destroy or neutralize free radicals. However, in order to get the full anti-aging benefit of fruits and vegetables, precautions must be taken.
First, you must not overcook fruits and vegetables. They are very sensitive to heat, and their antioxidant properties are easily destroyed. I don’t recommend that you go wholesale in favor of the raw diet; however, some simple precautions will protect the anti-aging properties of your fruits and vegetables.
To begin with, take care when cooking fruits or vegetables in the microwave. The cooking processes of microwaves destroys nutrients much more quickly than other cooking methods. Also, avoid boiling your food. For example, if you boil cabbage for an hour, and then dump the water down the drain, you’ve just destroyed almost all of its nutritional value. You might as well just throw the cabbage in the garbage after getting it home from the store.
Fruits and vegetables are also grouped by color. The color groups are:
Of these, blue-purple is the hardest to find, and often the most expensive. However, if you look carefully, you can find it. Foods like red onions, red cabbage, eggplant, raisins, blueberries, and any other food that appears blue, purple or black, is in the blue-purple group.
The general rule is, the brighter the color of your food, the more antioxidants it contains. You should consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, both raw and cooked, in order to get the best array of nutrients.
This doesn’t just apply to fruits and vegetables, either. Foods like salmon, tea, especially green tea, chocolate and red wine are extremely high in antioxidants that contribute to anti-aging. So it’s not just the “good” foods, but also the “naughty” ones that we love that have a positive impact.
There are some “super foods” you should know about. The Tibetan Goji Berry is one of the most antioxidant and nutrient dense foods available. Nuts are also super foods which contain very high concentrations of vitamins and minerals. So not all super foods are obscure, like the Goji Berry. They include any nutrient rich food, such as spinach, beans, blueberries, broccoli, oats, yogurt, tomatoes and soy.
Also, you should seriously consider a vegetarian diet. Animal protein has been indicated as a cause of bone loss, and animal fats have been found to be a significant cause of heart disease.
There has been some research which suggests that caloric restriction could slow the aging process. The diet includes eating fewer calories while still supplying all the nutrients the body needs. This diet has successfully prolonged the lives of test subjects such as worms and rats, but has yet to be studied in humans. However, the idea is catching on. This diet has fallen under scientific scrutiny. Its primary proponent, Roy Walford, a UCLA scientist and author of books such as “The Anti-Aging Plan” and “Beyond the 120 Year Diet.” He has been featured on programs such as PBS’s Scientific American. It’s difficult to know whether the diet benefited him personally, since he suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, and the low calorie diet did not appear to improve his condition or extend his lifespan. Walford died in April 2004, just shy of his 80th birthday.
As always, only whole grains should be eaten. Also, whole sugars, such as sucanat or honey should be favored and white sugar should be treated more like a drug than as a food stuff. It’s our tendency to think of white flour and white sugar as “normal” parts of our diets that cause a significant amount of the damage associated with aging.
Also, anti-oxidants aren’t just for eating. One of the biggest secrets to staying young looking is to apply antioxidants directly to the skin. There are hundreds of anti-aging commercial preparations available from companies like Neutrogena, Oil of Olay and Almay. But you can also apply food to the skin. Extra virgin olive oil makes an excellent moisturizer. You can assemble a mask of ground oatmeal, yogurt and olive oil to make the skin softer and help loosen dead skin cells, which can increase the appearance of wrinkles. Try creative combinations such as papaya and mango with avocado, or cucumber and yogurt. Apply to a small, inconspicuous area at first to make sure you won’t react. Then apply the mask and let it sit for at least thirty minutes. Your skin will absorb nutrients and moisture directly from the mask, and you’ll feel pampered like you were at a spa, only without the big bill that comes afterward.
Even if some of these anti-aging methods are suspect, there’s certainly no harm in giving them a try. We can’t stop the aging process. But in the end, there are a lot of things we can do to slow it down.
Uncredited, “Antioxidants and Free Radicals” Rice University Website. URL: (http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/antiox.html)
June Russell, “June Russell’s Health Facts: Free Radicals/Antioxidants.” Jrusselshealth. URL: (http://www.jrussellshealth.com/freerads.html)
Uncredited, “Understanding Free Radicals and Antioxidants.” Health Check Systems. URL: (http://www.healthchecksystems.com/antioxid.htm)
Uncredited, “Wolfberry.” Wikipedia. URL: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfberry)
Gina Shaw, “‘Superfoods’ Everyone Needs.” WebMD. URL: (http://www.webmd.com/content/article/81/96952.htm)
Mayo Clinic Staff, “Calorie restriction: Is this anti-aging diet worth a try?” Mayoclinic.com. URL: (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/anti-aging/HQ00233)
Rob Stein, “Spartan diet may slow aging.” MSNBC. URL: (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4894560/)