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Healthy Aging with Food

by Chrysanthi Kazantzis

The inevitable aging process plagues us all, however it can be slowed down by eating the right foods.

Anthocyanins are anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-cancer. They improve eye health, protect brain health, increase levels of vitamin C and support collagen production. Some foods rich in anthocyanins are all types of berries, beets, purple cauliflower and blood oranges.

Omega 3, 6 and 9 are fatty acids from healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, chia seeds, flaxseeds, salmon and walnuts. They are known to prevent a number of medical problems such as depression, cardiovascular disease, brain dysfunction, asthma and arthritis.

Similar to anthocyanins, carotenoids are antioxidants that protect against oxidative stress especially from sunlight. Carotenoids are the orange, yellow and red pigments found in fruits and vegetables. Some examples include carrots, sweet potatoes, squash and peppers.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body needed for the growth and health of skin, hair, tendon, cartilage, bones and joints. Our body’s collagen production naturally begins to slow down as we age leading to wrinkles, sagging skins and joint pains. There are multiple sources of collagen from bone broth to beef, chicken and fish collagen peptides.

Water is the vehicle for delivering essential nutrients to the skin cells. In fact, many people do not realize that they are dehydrated. People should aim to drink half of their body weight in ounces of water. For example, someone that weighs 100 pounds should drink 50 ounces of water. Any caffeinated beverage or beverage with sugar does not count towards hydration and is actually dehydrating.

Foods that age people

Advanced glycation end products (AGEs)

AGEs are found mostly in animal-derived foods that are high in fat and protein, for example pork, bacon and sausages, and can develop into new AGE formation during cooking. AGEs are known to increase oxidative stress and inflammation. AGEs are formed through a reaction between sugars and proteins or fats to cause the Maillard reaction, or that wonderful browning that we see after cooking food at a high heat. Some methods of cooking such as grilling, broiling, roasting, searing or frying can develop into new AGE formation. Studies confirm that consuming AGEs can lead to atherosclerosis, diabetes and other chronic disease. If using these methods of cooking, marinating food with lemon juice or vinegar before cooking showed decreased levels of AGE formation.

Sugar

Sugar is one of the most inflammatory foods linked to numerous diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and obesity. Sugar also causes the breakdown of collagen and elastin resulting in sagging skin and wrinkles. Avoid liquid sugar especially including soda, diet soda, lemonade and alcohol. Also stay away from hidden sugars such in ketchup, salad dressings, sauces and packaged cereals.

Inflammatory foods

Anything that is processed, packaged or fast food is loaded with harmful ingredients that leads to reactive oxygen species inside of the body. Foods that create inflammation are pro-aging.

A good rule to follow: Eat the rainbow. The more colorful a plate is from fruits and vegetables, the more antioxidants are ingested. Drink water; avoid sugar, inflammatory foods and cooking at a high heat.

Dr. Chrysanthi Kazantzis is a naturopathic doctor and also holds her master’s in nutrition. She is the vice-president of the RIANP and is practicing at Avena Integrative Medical Center, in Putnam, CT.