Keys to Successful Aging

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I’m sure you’ve heard the term “anti-aging” in the media at some point or another. The fact is, we are all aging, from the moment of birth, and throughout our life span, sometimes it picks up speed. So, I don’t know if I can really buy this whole idea of “anti-aging,” it seems like a waste of energy. However, what I can get into is aging optimally, or successfully. Of course, many of us don’t have a duplicate, unless we are an identical twin, so we don’t really know how we might have been or looked had we done other things in our lives.

Now, my father happens to be an identical twin. In fact, he and his brother, Jim, looked so identical during their teenage years that they used to swap classes in high school, and even dates. Now that they are in their 60s, there is a clear difference in how they look. My father lived his life as a Chicago police officer for 39 years, confronting lots of stress on a daily basis. My uncle was the brainy engineer with a nice cushy job at a well-known international laboratory. Two different scenarios, and now in their sixth decade, you can clearly see the differences between them. My father looks a bit more rugged and worn, with less hair, while my uncle still sports his cheery, full-face grin and head of curls.

Indeed, how we live will determine how we appear to some extent; this is the science of epigenetics, or the interaction of our genes with the environment. You, in this moment, are the culmination of all of your life choices.

What we now know is that food can play a large role in how we age. Even small amounts of vitamins have been shown to improve what is called “genomic stability,” or the ability of our body to have lower amounts of damaged DNA. Here are some top foods you can include for maximum effect:

• Cruciferous vegetables and fresh, leafy greens – Aim for greater than five servings per week. Choose alkalizing, bitter varieties such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress, bok choy, chard, mustard and turnip greens.
• Green tea – Allow an eight-10 minute brewing period. Aim for three cups daily. Choose decaffeinated versions.
• Garlic – Aim for five cloves weekly or more.
• Olive Oil – Aim for more than one tablespoon daily. Choose unfiltered (cloudy), cold-pressed variety.
• Cocoa – Dark cocoa rich in naturally-occurring polyphenols for heart function.
• Herbs and spices – Turmeric, rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, and cinnamon. Add to dishes (soups, salad dressings, pasta dishes).
• Tomatoes – Cooked tomatoes are best for lycopene bioavailability. Eat with some olive oil to maximize uptake.
• Berries – All types: Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries. Eating ½ cup once a day is the equivalent amount shown in animal studies to improve learning and memory.
• Citrus fruits – All types: Oranges, mandarins, tangerines, lemons, and limes for their vitamin C and bioflavonoid content, which helps with the body’s ability to detoxify toxins and to improve blood vessel integrity.
• Purple grapes – Smaller, organically-grown, dark-purple grapes best for their antioxidant and resveratrol content.
• Fish – Include three or more servings of low-mercury fish high in omega-3 fats such as salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel, and herring on a weekly basis.
• Coconut – In the form of fermented kefir, coconut oil for medium chain triglycerides for brain function.

Now, on the converse, since eating is such a spectrum, you may want to refrain from eating too many of these pro-aging foods:

• Overcooked meats – Limit intake to no more than three-four ounces daily. Choose leanest cuts available. Avoid consuming well-done, charbroiled, fat-laden meats. Don’t eat cured meats (bacon, hot dogs, etc.). Choose free-range meats or wild game such as grass fed beef or buffalo, venison and ostrich.
• Sugar – Sugar has many names: Fructose, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, invert sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn sugar, fruit juice concentrate, evaporated cane juice, Sucanat, Sucrose (table sugar), honey, maple syrup, lactose, maltose, raw sugar, brown sugar, molasses.
• Artificial Sweeteners – Acesulfame K, Ace K, Sunett, Sweet One, Aspartame, NutraSweet®, Tropicana Slim, Equal Canderel, Neotame, Splenda Sucralose, Sweet ‘N Low, Saccharin
• Soft Drinks – Try Zevia or carbonated water with fruit juice as a substitute.
• Refined flour – White flour has typically been refined and chemically bleached with peroxides or chlorine. High glycemic index.
• Unsaturated, high inflammation-potential liquid oils – Corn, safflower, sunflower, and soy oils, especially for cooking.
• Excessive alcohol – (Men >21 drinks/week; women >10 drinks/week).
• Foods high in net dietary acid load – Primarily animal products and processed grains.
• Foods with trans fats – Read the labels carefully for presence of “partially hydrogenated oils” which would denote some amount of trans fats. Trans fats are now listed on the Nutrition Facts Label.
• Foods with preservatives – Look for monosodium glutamate, nitrates, nitrites, sulfites, BHT, BHA.

And as my mother used to say, “Hey, I earned those wrinkles!”

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About Author

Deanna Minich, PhD, is a functional nutritionist and mind-body medicine health expert and author of "Whole Detox." See her website, www.deannaminich.com, and Facebook page, Deanna Minich, PhD, for more details.

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