Could the secret to true anti-aging be in our foods?

True anti-aging is not just about having a younger-looking outer appearance, it’s about keeping face, body and mind biologically youthful so as to defy aging at the cellular level. When your cells stay young and healthy, you stay young and healthy and the youthfulness comes from the inside.

Natural anti-aging is a fascinating field and we have only really scratched the surface of this multi-layered mystery. And living in the 21st century has its own particular challenges when it comes to anti-aging. Our minds and bodies are bombarded by external stresses that even our grandparents never had to deal with. For most of us, our granny didn’t have to deal with digital addiction or toxin overload from her foods. We are generally living longer now than we ever have in human history but we are not living healthier in our extended lives. Our ‘health span’ is not matching our life span anymore.

Natural Foods have Anti-Aging Magic

One of the ways we can counteract the damage done to our systems by modern living is being conscious about the food that we put in our bodies. When we understand the magic in many of the natural foods we have around us we suddenly find that we have an amazing, anti-aging toolkit that can keep us regenerating at the cellular level and we stay healthy and more youthful even as we go past middle-age.

The Key Secret: Combating the 2 Aging Super-Villains

There are 2 super-villain processes in the body that are responsible for aging more than almost anything else:

1. Chronic Inflammation – the fire that never goes out

Inflammation in itself is not a bad thing, in fact, we rely heavily on our body’s inflammation response to stay alive. If you cut yourself then more blood is sent to that area to deliver infection-fighting immune cells and repair materials which causes temporary redness, heat and swelling. This is acute inflammation and, once the site of damage has been cleaned-up and repaired, the inflammation goes away and the body returns to normal. However, in the modern world many of us are suffering from chronic inflammation, where your whole system is continually in a low-level state of inflammation, and this state underlies many of today’s major chronic diseases such as heart disease, dementia and cancer. Doctors can do a blood test that will tell you whether you have systemic inflammation and this is called the C-reactive protein test. Results should ideally be 3mg/L or lower and higher values indicate a level of inflammation that can lead to disease and accelerated aging and will definitely undermine any anti-aging measures that you are taking (no amount of expensive face cream can counteract the ravages of rampant inflammation!). However, we can put out the fire with the right foods.

Top 5 Anti-Aging Foods that Fight Inflammation

  1. Anti-Aging FoodFatty Fish such as Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna, Sardines
    These fish are high in the key Omega 3 fatty acids – eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA and DHA) – and these are both potent anti-inflammatories. However, sometimes it is beneficial to take a supplement to get the concentration of Omega 3s that you need and krill oil capsules are currently very popular as, being further down the food chain, krill are considered purer than fish.
  2. Turmeric
    Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic and the Chinese medicine for centuries for its strong anti-inflammatory properties. The active part of turmeric is a compound called curcumin and it is so powerful that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs. It may be necessary to take the supplement to get an effective dosage if you are using it medicinally but otherwise use the spice in curries, drink as a tea, add to rice or toss it with roasted vegetables.
  3. Blueberries
    Blueberries have many amazing anti-aging properties and certainly deserve their reputation as a superfood. They help control inflammation with their flavonoid component called quercetin. Have a handful of blueberries as a part of your breakfast, add to smoothies and add to some Greek yoghurt with maple syrup as a dessert.
  4. Anti-Aging Food that fight inflammation Garlic
    In laboratory studies garlic, which is high in sulphur, has been shown to work similarly to NSAID pain medications (like ibuprofen), shutting off the pathways that lead to inflammation. Use in sauces, butters, stir-fries, and garlic soup is surprisingly nice.
  5. Ginger
    Ginger is an often undervalued food which has so many health-enhancing actions including being a powerful anti-inflammatory. The oil Gingerol is the main bioactive compound in ginger, responsible for much of its medicinal properties. Add it to your stir-fry, drink as a tea or add the essential oil to your bath.

2. Oxidative Stress – internal ‘rusting’

Oxidation is a natural process within the body which happens as our bodies metabolize the oxygen that we breathe and our cells produce energy from it. However, this process produces unstable molecules called free radicals which can be damaging to other cells if they are not neutralized. Free radicals have lost an electron which makes them frantic to replace it and they will rob other cells of their electrons which damages the target cell. When we are well and young our body can repair this damage and stop it from becoming a chain reaction that will start ‘rusting’ our body from the inside. Living in the 21st century means we experience even higher levels of oxidation in our bodies through factors like stress and pollution which makes it difficult for even a healthy, young body to manage the free radicals. This state is called oxidative stress and it is very aging.

However, there are anti-oxidant foods that have a high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) score which protect cells from free radicals reducing risks of aging and disease.

Top 5 Anti-Aging Foods that Fight Free Radicals

  1. Colourful Berries
    All the red/blue berries are high up on the ORAC scale. Raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, cherries and cranberries are all amazing for quenching free radicals but goji berries are the super-hero for this. Add to smoothies, toss in to salads and cereals, make in to compotes and drizzle on yoghurt/ice-cream.
  2. chocolate-968457_1280Dark Chocolate
    Eating cacao (unsweetened) and good quality dark chocolate is one of the most enjoyable ways to reduce your oxidative stress. A good way to add this to your diet is to add a scoop of cacao powder to your daily smoothie which tastes especially good if you throw half a banana in there too. (Try the raw cacao and banana drink from the TotalWellness.club video channel: http://tinyurl.com/ztuphd9)
  3. Pomegranate
    It used to be difficult to find pomegranates but now they are very common in the supermarkets as a juice, molasses and seeds. Mix half pomegranate juice and half orange juice with a little sparkling water for a refreshing drink. Add the seeds to your salads, rice, couscous and fruit salads.
  4. Cinnamon
    Cinnamon is surprisingly high on the ORAC scale (20,000) and is a delicious way to get your antioxidant quota. Think of adding it to your porridge, smoothies, cereals, desserts, pancakes, and chai tea.
  5. green-tea-692339_640Green Tea
    Green tea provides polyphenols which are powerful anti-oxidants. If you drink 3 cups a day, you add about 300 mg of polyphenols to your daily diet but be aware that green tea does have some caffeine so use in moderation. It often tastes better with a slice of lemon added.

In many ways anti-aging really isn’t a secret or a mystery, it’s about enabling the body to repair and regenerate itself which it can happily do if we give it the right materials and conditions. Natural foods are often loaded with powerful, anti-aging materials that have been beautifully wrapped-up in to tasty packages for us. Let’s make the most of them!

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Summer Bourne is a mind-body health researcher, studying for over a decade. She is currently researching and writing a book on natural anti-aging which empowers people to take care of their own health. For more information about Summer please click here