The anti-aging diet is a dietary approach focused on consuming foods that may help prevent or slow down the aging process in the body. It typically involves eating a balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Additionally, some specific foods, such as berries, leafy greens, nuts, and fatty fish, are thought to have anti-aging properties due to their high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Eating Right to Live Healthier
The basis for diets that claim to extend life have one thing in common — they’re all healthy and lower in calories. We’re not going to push one diet (diet in the sense of what you eat rather than a diet to lose weight) over another. Our goal is to present information on a variety of diets, some supported by science, some not. One claim of anti-aging diets is that they, in conjunction with exercise, sleep, not smoking, etc., are healthy and to that extent defend against some of the negatives of aging. It’s pretty simple. If your diet reduces your chances of diabetes and heart disease, you could live longer and enjoy a more active, satisfying older age.
How What We Eat Affects How We Live
Free radicals, or oxygen molecules, play a role in heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. Foods that contain phytonutrients, members of the antioxidant family, consume these free radicals. As we age, we are more susceptible to the long-term effects of oxidative stress — too many free radicals — and inflammation on the cellular level. Antioxidants help cells ward off damage from free radicals and foods that fit in the anti-inflammatory category help to slow aging of the cells. At the other end of the food spectrum are what are categorized as pro-inflammatories that accelerate aging. You can guess what goes into this category: saturated or trans fatty acids, sugars and starches.
Rather than concentrating on what you can’t eat, here is a list of healthy foods:
- Fish, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon.
- Fruits and vegetables, at least five servings per day, selecting a variety of colors.
- Whole grains are high in soluble fiber, help lower cholesterol levels and contain phytonutritents equal to fruits and vegetables.
- Legumes are packed with nutrients and are low in calories.
- Yogurt contain all the benefits of dairy plus probiotics that add healthy bacteria to the intestines.
- Nuts contain B vitamins, good for your heart and brain. Healthy fats in nuts help the elastin and collagen in skin.
- Water, three to four glasses a day in addition to other liquids and watery foods.
A list of “super foods” with anti-inflammatory qualities:
- Acai fruit found in health stores, or its juice which is available most everywhere
- Allium vegetables like garlic, onions, leeks, scallions, chives and shallots
- Green foods such as wheat grass
- Beans and lentils
- Hot Peppers
- Nuts and seeds
- Yogurt and kefir.
America’s lifespan has increased over the years, primarily because of advances in medicine. But, there are populations that have always enjoyed long, active lives. Genetics may play a big role, but when you compare these healthy people with increasingly fatter Americans, you have to give significant credit to their diets.
We’ve often looked at Asia with diets rich in fish, vegetables, and grains and lower incidents of heart disease and cancer. Unfortunately, with the invasion of American fast foods, parts of Asia are becoming more American-ized in their rate of disease due to unhealthy diets. But, the one region, ironically known for its food, that has held strong are the Mediterranean regions of Greece and southern Italy and Spain.
This area has a much lower consumption of red meat and a higher consumption of fish, whole grains, nuts and legumes — the exact items on the anti-aging diet menu. In addition, our processed foods (think easy pre-prepared canned and frozen meals) hold little appeal in the Mediterranean. Rather, they start with whole foods, saute them in olive oil and enjoy. The medical benefits start with the fact that Mediterranean Diet foods are higher in nutritional value and lower in calories.
You end up carrying around less weight and easing the stress on your bodily organs. Cholesterol levels are lowered, reducing free radicals and other oxidation damage. Your metabolism rate is lowered, easing the stress on your organs, allowing them to work more efficiently and get more rest.
Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition Diet
Depending on where you look for information on Calorie Restriction Diets, they’re either just a leaner version of the Mediterranean Diet with a recommended BMI of 18-20 which is actually just at the low end of the normal, healthy range. Or, the diet is a radical departure from normal eating habits, reducing caloric intake by 30- to 40-percent, and requiring time to weigh and research everything we do, or don’t, eat resulting in the kind of obsessive behavior associated with anorexia nervosa.
The basis for the diet began with research done in 1934. Scientists at Cornell University realized that lab rats on a severely reduced calorie diet while maintaining vital nutrient levels doubled their lifespan. Later research in the 1980s, found that mice with restricted calories also maintained youthful appearance and activity levels longer and showed delayed onset of age-related diseases. By 2002, Washington University researchers conducted trials with 30 people with a mean age of 55 and concluded the subjects appeared to be aging more slowly. The group had a mean systolic blood pressure of 110, the level you’d expect in your 20s.
One theory as to why this type of diet could extend life, or at least extend non-aging characteristics, is the mitohormesis hypothesis. In essence, the diet imposes a low intensity biological stress on the body which elicits a defense response that helps protect it against the causes of aging. This may be an oversimplification, but it sounds like your body thinks you’re starving and goes into a defensive mode that protects it. Other scientists theorize that long-term adherence to a calorie restriction diet lowers your body temperature, changing your metabolism so your body absorbs the nutrients in food more effectively.
Another way to view a calorie restricted diet is the advice vets give for maintaining a healthy dog — don’t feed your dog until he’s sated, a dog that’s a little hungry is a healthier dog. Remember that post-Thanksgiving dinner stupor and you can see the value of reducing your caloric intake while maintaining your nutrient levels — for health reasons even if you’re at a healthy weight.
Anti-Aging Vegetarian and Vegan Diets
Many times, people look into non-meat or non-meat product diets and lifestyles for religious or ethical reasons, as well as health and weight concerns. With education and supplements, both diets can provide everything we need on a daily basis. Protein intake for both vegetarians and vegans is only slightly lower than in meat diets and supply daily nutritional requirements for anyone, including athletes and body builders. Vitamin B and calcium deficits can be compensated for by eating collard greens, leafy greens and tofu.
Whether you opt for a true vegetarian or vegan diet, healthy diets that have the potential to increase the quality of life revolve around the components of both.