You are what you eat. A saying that most people have often overlooked given that most do not recognize the nutritional impact of food and how it directly affects their body in the long run. While starting a healthy diet may help in mitigating the consequences of poor eating habits and lifestyles, completely reversing its effects may be impossible. What many do not know is that certain foods contribute to aging, some of which are fried food, refined carbohydrates, and processed food. As expected, processed food is vastly favored over healthy food; it is more accessible, cheaper, and highly addicting, hence, this serves as a constant temptation for many. Even though it is known that toxic foods are one of the leading causes of diseases, it is still part of most people’s grocery list as it remains a crowd favorite.
Several studies have discovered the connection of processed food to aging–new research presented at 2020 European and International Obesity Congress claimed that highly processed foods loaded with fat, salt, sugar, and starch could contribute to premature aging. They also added that eating at least three servings of processed food a day is linked with shorter telomeres, leading to a higher risk of chronic illness. Telomeres “play a central role in cell fate and aging by adjusting the cellular response to stress and growth stimulation on the basis of previous cell divisions and DNA damage.” These chromosome structures that mark biological aging get shorter as we age. Stress, inflammation, and poor diet accelerate this process of aging.
On the other hand, the Mediterranean diet involves mostly whole food plant-based that are rich in fiber, unsaturated fat, and micronutrients. It has been known for having numerous health benefits such as lowering the risk of chronic diseases, protecting against type 2 diabetes, and increasing longevity. While aging is a natural part of life and cannot be avoided, having this diet will definitely help people age gracefully. The more they are aware of the importance of a nutritious diet, the earlier they can start eating healthy–avoiding early aging altogether. Aside from that, there are also certain foods that may prevent aging.
Extra virgin olive oil
Known as one of the healthiest fats on earth, extra virgin olive oil is a dietary staple in the Mediterranean diet. Most of their dishes include and/or are cooked with this oil in order to maximize the oil’s benefits or preserve the nutrients of the food they are eating. According to a study (2011), “virgin olive oil contains numerous phenolic compounds that exert potent anti-inflammatory actions. Of interest to this paper is the recently discovered phenolic compound oleocanthal. Oleocanthal is contained in virgin olive oil and possesses similar anti-inflammatory properties to ibuprofen.” Ibuprofen is recognized as an anti-inflammatory drug–explaining how extra virgin oil reduces inflammation. Moreover, extra virgin olive oil also reduces the risk of heart disease given that it reduces inflammation, oxidation of LDL cholesterol, improves blood vessel health, manages blood clotting, and lowers blood pressure. Consuming this regularly will certainly reduce one’s risk of acquiring any heart-related diseases.
Watercress is a dark and leafy green vegetable part of the cruciferous family. While they come light, they are certainly packed with nutrients that are high in calcium, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, vitamins A, C, K, B-1, and B-2. Medical News Today (2019) summarized its health benefits to preventing and treating cancer, lowering blood pressure, maintaining healthy bones, treating diabetes, providing dietary nitrates. With all of these, it can be easily considered as an anti-aging food given that it functions as an internal skin antiseptic and increases the circulation and delivery of minerals to all cells of the body causing enhanced oxygenation of the skin. It is also filled with vitamins A and C which may assist in neutralizing free radicals–helping to refrain wrinkles from developing.
Spinach is also classified as a cruciferous vegetable that is packed with antioxidants. It is rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K, magnesium, plant-based heme, and iron lutein. Given that it’s high in vitamin C, it may enhance collagen production–contributing to fair and smooth skin. Its vitamin A properties promote strong and shiny hair. Studies (2010) have also shown that vitamin K may improve bone density and lower the risk of hip fracture. Overall, spinach is a great and easy addition to one’s diet, it can be added to smoothies, salads, and vegetable stir fry dishes.
In a similar manner, broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that bursts with nutritional benefits. It includes vitamins C and K, various antioxidants, fiber, folate, lutein, and calcium. Given that it is rich in vitamin C, the enhancement of collagen production will certainly slow down the skin’s aging process. Broccoli is an easy vegetable to work with–it can be part of your vegetable stir fry, whole-wheat pesto pasta, or vegetable sandwich.
Red bell pepper
Red bell peppers are beneficial in lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart attack, reducing the risk of diabetes, and improving digestion. They are also rich in vitamin C and antioxidants called carotenoids. Healthline (2018) emphasized that “carotenoids are plant pigments responsible for the bright red, yellow, and orange colors you see in many fruits and vegetables. They have a variety of anti-inflammatory properties and may help protect skin from sun damage, pollution, and environmental toxins.” Red bell peppers are versatile, it may be eaten as a snack, enjoyed in a salad or vegetable sandwich, and much more.
Tomatoes are loaded with the carotenoid, lycopene, an antioxidant that fights free radicals that damage cells and affect the immune system. They also contain lutein–having both of these key carotenoids help in protecting the eye against light-induced damage. Aside from this, they are a great source of vitamins C, A, and K, improve heart health, boost digestive health, and help with diabetes management. As cited from Health (2018), “a 2011 study found that the combination of tomato paste and olive oil protected against sun damage, and boosted the production of pro-collagen, a molecule that gives the skin its structure and keeps it firm and youthful. Scientists believe that the lycopene in tomatoes is key. It’s at its highest concentration when tomatoes have been cooked, and olive oil boosts its absorption from your digestive system into your bloodstream.” Not only is it good for one’s health but also skin, this makes tomatoes a superfood when it comes to anti-aging.
Papayas contain high levels of antioxidants lycopene, vitamin A, C, and E. Given that antioxidants help with free radicals, it is evident how papayas can naturally boost one’s health. They are high in fiber–reducing the risk of heart disease and lowering cholesterol levels. In addition, they have anticancer properties, helps with inflammation, and improves digestion. They are also known to have great benefits for the skin; vitamin C and lycopene may assist in reducing signs of aging. Papaya is a tropical fruit that is not only rich in nutrients but also flavor which makes it even more enjoyable.
Another fruit that is high in antioxidants is blueberries. While they are rich in vitamins A and C, they also contain an age-defying antioxidant called anthocyanin which has strong antioxidants properties and supports collagen synthesis. All these nutrients contribute to fighting premature aging, improving heart health and circulation, promoting wound healing, and enhancing skin health. Blueberry is a delicious berry loved by many as it can be a great snack or addition to smoothies and yogurt–hence, their antioxidant properties are simply a plus.
Most of her patients know that Dr. Dominique Fradin-Read is “addicted” to blueberries and eat a good portion size three times a day!
Consuming more of these healthy foods instead of processed foods will certainly contribute to our overall well-being. In the same way with junk food, these nutritious foods can easily be found in the market, with some being cost-free as they can be found in nature. In addition, those healthy foods are naturally beneficial for the skin given that our internal health is reflected through our physical health. Hence, having a good relationship with the mind and body means taking control of what we eat; recognizing that food is an integral part of our health will allow us to make better dietary choices.