Many of us fear waking up on a beautiful, sunny morning, full of life energy and great life expectations, only to realize that the person looking back at us in the mirror has those terrifying first signs of aging. In this moment, we may start to feel lost, tired, exhausted, even disappointed, and certainly unhappy. In this moment, our mind is overwhelmed with fear, the fear of aging.
There are many reasons why both women and men feel the fear of aging, and those reasons are deeply rooted in our traditions, or wrong comprehension of the aging. Today, it seems our culture prizes and worships youth. Everyone may feel the fear of being alone or “becoming a burden” from time to time. Moreover, uncertainty about the future and the feeling of uselessness are also something we fear.
Wrinkles, grey hair, dry and wrinkled skin, and so on, are all common fears today. The impact aging has on our appearance is usually the main obsession. Why is it an obsession? The understanding of aging is not all about appearance, and when it is, it misunderstood, thus it can become an obsession. Many other aspects of life that aging affects on should be of our concern.
Aging is a natural process, we are all aware of that, yet, we also feel stressed when thinking about it. What many of us do not take into consideration is our own power to slow down the aging process, and our own wrongdoings and unhealthy habits related to accelerating aging.
It is, without any doubt, true that we need to value ourselves not for what we look like, but for who we are. Moreover, it is important to understand that our body is changing with years. So, how can we overcome our fears?
We need to nurture our body, as it is aging. We need to be fearless, because only without fear we can keep pursuing our dreams. With fear, we could never accomplish anything, because fear keeps us prisoners, not allowing us to leave our comfort zone. We also need to embrace the aging process, and use it as our advantage, because every period in life has its wonders and beauties.
We need to love our aging self. Above all, the most important thing is that we need to be healthy.
Because when we are healthy, we feel good, and when we feel good, we look good as well. We need to embrace healthy life choices, and those choices imply that we need to think seriously and consciously about our life. Healthy food and regular exercising is what we need to feel good about ourselves. Our greatest ally in this fear-fighting battle is healthy food.
These foods can help us improve our overall health and vitality, and protect us against illness and disease.
We have created a guide about a healthy anti-aging food, collecting all necessary information about the food that is our greatest hope. If you are already keen on healthy diet, you will find this guide very useful. If you are not, this guide will show you the way. The guide contains information about healthy food that is especially good at preventing and reducing the effects of age-related problems and aging in general.
So, Which Food Can Help Us Counteract The Negative Effects Of Aging And Keep Us Healthy?
BERRIES – THE VERY POWERFUL ANTIOXIDANTS
What is all the fuzz about antioxidants? When we are exposed to pollution, or when our body breaks down the food, certain unstable molecules are produced. These molecules are known as harmful free radicals that damage our body’s healthy cells, and can play an important part in developing heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Antioxidants protect our body against free radicals, and that’s why we need them.
All berries are loaded with antioxidants, such as flavanols and anthocyanins. Blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, blackberries, strawberries – they all promote cell growth and protect against disease. Blackberries, in particular, are rich in anthocyanins.
All berries are great; however, those that are black or blue in color have the highest concentration of antioxidants. Some studies revealed how blueberries can improve memory, reduce inflammation and restrict the growth of cancer cells.
Big, blue and round berries have the highest level of phytonutrient called proanthocyanidins that has the benefits of protecting body’s DNA and decreasing free radicals that cause wrinkles. Blueberries also have quercetin, which is beneficial for conditions that have an inflamed response. Due to a great source of vitamins K and C, and manganese, blueberries improve the immune system.
The antioxidants in berries are not damaged, or reduced by freezing; however, they are reduced by cooking, so eat them fresh.
BEANS – THE SUPER FOODS FOR HEART
Why we need super food? We know what term super food means, and due to all the benefits beans have, they deserve to be called super foods. We know super food benefits the body in numerous ways, and these foods help us satisfy our dietary needs in several ways. The food that in time got the epithet super, are rich in essential minerals and vitamins, becoming at the same time powerful anti aging food.
Beans may have a bad reputation (because they can make a person gassy); however, they are great dietary source. For those who do not eat meat, they are a perfect substitution due to the low-fat proteins. Fiber in beans helps lower the cholesterol and beans are rich in antioxidants, and a good source of vitamin B, potassium and iron. All necessary nutrients for our overall health.
DARK CHOCOLATE – A SWEET ANTI-AGING ALLY
Do you know a person who does not like chocolates? Dark chocolate, due to the proportions of cocoa that is usually rich in flavanols, helps increase circulation, and preserves the healthy function of blood vessels. When blood vessels are youthful, the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, dementia and kidney disease are lower.
Have you heard about the Kuna people of the San Blas islands? People of San Blas islands have a rate of heart disease nine times less then the people of Panama. How? They drink plenty of beverages made with cocoa.
Dark chocolate is also very beneficial for keeping the skin youthful because it has the ability to retain moisture. Eating dark chocolate or drinking beverages made of dark chocolate helps protect the skin against the harmful effects of ultraviolet exposure. Keeping your skin protected during the warm months is very important.
The power dark chocolate has is all due to cocoa beans high antioxidant capacity, and high concentration of antioxidant flavanols that help reduce inflammation on the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Other chocolates are stripped of beneficial antioxidants during the refining process, so only dark chocolate has such a great anti-aging power.
TURMERIC – A SPICE FOR YOUTHFUL LOOK
Can you imagine delicious dishes without spices? Spices are a very important part of everyday diets, and some may say crucial in cooking and nutrition. Turmeric is one of the nature’s most effective anti-inflammatory spices. Many studies have confirmed turmeric’s ability to fight age-related disease and to reduce inflammation.
The key ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, an active compound with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as one study showed, moreover, more studies revealed that curcumin boosts body’s own antioxidant enzymes.
The importance of this compound stems from its ability to improve heart health and lowers blood pressure (reduces levels of triglycerides, fats that are linked with heart disease, and increases levels of nitric oxide that lowers blood pressure). One study showed the protective role of curcumin in cardiovascular disease.
As for the skin benefits, it is known that turmeric is used in beauty treatments to tighten skin and reduce inflammation. In Asia, turmeric is used for body skin treatment when mixed with flour and milk or water in a paste and scrubbed all over the body.
GARLIC – THE “STINKING ROSE” FOR ANTI-AGING
Why is garlic inevitable for healthy life? As it is known, and scientifically confirmed, garlic has numerous health benefits, and certainly is one of the most beneficial plants in the world. Garlic has been used widely in the folk medicine to fight various infections due to its powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. One of the biggest benefits of garlic is its natural way to boost immunity system, thus to improve the overall health. The component of garlic, called alicin, is an extremely effective antioxidant that produces sulfenic acid when digested in the body, a compound that reacts fast in reducing the dangerous free radicals in the body.
Garlic helps enlarge the blood vessels and improve blood flow, which can prevent conditions such as high blood pressure and heart attack and stroke. It also prevents cholesterol form becoming oxidized, a condition that may contribute to heart disease.
Some researches indicate that garlic can be used in weight control as well. Apart from all mentioned benefits, garlic also effectively fights yeast infections, and parasites.
In order to get all the benefits from garlic it is best to take it as a whole, because when crushed, or chopped the active compound alicin loses potency very quickly and can disappear completely whit in an hour. If you use powdered or dried garlic, you will not get all the benefits from it as well.
GINSENG – A HEALTH TONIC MORE VALUABLE THAN GOLD
Have you used this tonic recently? Ginseng has a long tradition of usage as a health tonic in ancient China, known as Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). Both species have similar effects; however, Asian ginseng is used more often. Hundred of studies supported the value of ginseng for heart health. The active compounds in ginseng, ginsenosides, reduce blood pressure and regulate blood coagulation. Another known benefits of ginseng is related to the immune system, that is, it is also proved that ginseng relieves fatigue and increases endurance.
As for the age-related illnesses, ginseng has a power to keep our mind sharp because it increases the blood flow in the brain and protects nerve cells from damage, thus improve memory and learning. One study showed that red ginseng root extract, mixed with Torilus extract and Corni extract, improves facial wrinkles and procollagen synthesis in human skin.
CARROTS: VEGETABLES FOR SKIN’S ELASTICITY AND INFECTIONS
Can you recall how many times your mother or grandmother told you to eat carrots when you were a child? There was a reason they kept repeating it. Carrots are rich in skin-renewing vitamins (vitamin A, B and C) that help restore skin’s elasticity and fight skin infections. To get the best from these vegetables opt to eat them raw and fresh, because when stored for longer time the vitamin content dwindles.
Due to beta-carotene, carrots help slowing down the process of cell aging. You need to know that the nutritional value of beta-carotene increases when carrots are cooked, mashed or steamed.
Carrots are also powerful antiseptics thus prevent infections effectively. It is known that carrots help protect the skin (due to the vitamin A and antioxidants), and they are very beneficial for glowing skin because they prevent blemishes, pigmentation, uneven skin tone, dry skin and acne.
LEAFY GREENS – BOOSTING ANTI-AGING VEGETABLES
What is so great about leafy greens? Everything! The talks about eating vegetables may seem boring a bit, however, we really need to eat it, if possible raw.
Let us start with spinach, that powerful vegetable that improves short-term memory. Due to folate in spinach, risk of heart disease and cancer are lower. Due to its ability to destroy free radicals that cause damage to our bodies, spinach is great for detoxification and skin as well. Due to vitamin K, spinach is great for blood clotting and strong bones, and it prevents Alzheimer’s disease.
Similar to spinach, kale is rich in antioxidants, vitamins C, A and K, and beta-carotene. Due to vitamin K, kale helps blood coagulate and prevents internal hemorrhaging. For just 35 calories, kale is fighting symptoms of aging. Due to high concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin, kale fights age-related macular degeneration and helps preserve eye health. Vitamin A in kale is crucial for immune system, and is a great help in fighting chronic disease.
Collards are similar to kale, but with stronger cabbage-like taste. A serving of collard greens have more calcium than a glass of milk, for instance. These vegetables are great for lowering cholesterol because they are packed with vitamins K, C and A. Collard greens have great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits as well, while a half cup of these greens have only 25 calories. Apart from these benefits, collard greens are great support for the cardiovascular system and digestive system.
Turnip greens are low in calories and loaded with vitamins A, C and K. Their main benefits come from rich content of calcium, and their noticeably bitter taste. In comparison to cabbage, turnip greens contain about 4 times more calcium. The phytonutrients called glucosinolates have great cancer-preventing properties.
Turnip greens also contain beta-carotene and manganese, and due to these compounds have good antioxidant properties. Vitamin K is responsible for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Recently, turnip greens are used for digestive and detox support.
Similar to collards and turnip greens are mustard greens. With their peppery taste, and mustard smell, they are a necessary addition to diets due to cholesterol-lowering abilities and digestive support. Recent studies showed their benefits related to cancer protection as well. As a great source of vitamin K, they provide a good anti-inflammatory protection.
Vitamin A, C and E, and manganese in mustard greens are necessary for antioxidant support.
Swiss chard, a beet-like taste vegetable, has at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants that offer special benefits for blood sugar control. Many of the phytonutrients provide anti-inflammatory and detox support. This vegetable also contains an excellent source of vitamins C, E and A (in the form of beta-carotene), mineral manganese and zinc.
All together, they contribute to great health benefits in preventing oxidative stress. Swiss chard contributes to decreasing the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and several forms of arthritis. Due to good supply of calcium and magnesium, they are excellent bone health support as well.
Cabbage, as most of us already know, is a great source of vitamin C and cancer-fighting compounds. Red or green, cabbage is a powerful immune system booster. With only 33 calories in a cup of cooked cabbage, it is great for weight loss (low in fat and high in fiber). Vitamin K in cabbage helps improve mental function and increase concentration.
This vitamin also prevents nerve damage, and improves defense against dementia. Due to sulphur, cabbage is necessary for healthy hair, skin and nails. Vitamin C and sulphur help remove toxins, and potassium helps with blood flow. Red cabbage has great anti-inflammatory properties.
Romaine lettuce is commonly used in green smoothies and with good reason. It has a mild flavor, but it has great nutritional benefits. One head of romaine lettuce has 206 mg of calcium, and 167 % RDA of vitamin C. It is rich in B vitamins, and it has additional benefits due to iron content (one head or romaine lettuce has 6mg of iron).
One head of romaine lettuce provides 165 of daily water needs, and due to vitamin A and K, it is a great antioxidant. It is also rich in magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, potassium and zinc.
It is a common misconception that iceberg lettuce has no nutritional value. In fact, it is a great source of fiber, potassium, calcium, vitamin A and C and iron. Moreover, it has a relatively few calories (10 calories per cup of fresh leaves), and it is high in water content.
BROCCOLI: VITAMIN C BOOSTER
What food has therapeutic properties? Broccoli is loaded with essential nutrients. For instance, 100 grams serving of broccoli provides more than 150% of the daily-recommended intake of vitamin C. It is also rich in fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Phytonutrients in broccoli are linked with lowering the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Broccoli can also prevent skin against the effects of UV light and prevent skin cancer. A study led by researchers from the University of East Anglia revealed that broccoli has a compound called sulforaphane that may help fight osteoarthritis.
Broccoli is rich in vitamins A and K and B-complex vitamins, and good source of zinc, iron and phosphorus. Due to these nutrients, eating broccoli promotes the production of enzymes that protect heart blood vessels. Broccoli has a strong impact on our body’s detoxification system as well, and it can solve our vitamin D deficiency.
What you need to remember is that when overcooked broccoli can lose a lot of its nutritional value, so you need to steam broccoli lightly or eat it raw. With only 25 calories, broccoli is a must anti-aging vegetable.
GOOD FATS: THE ESSENTIAL HEALTHY FOOD
Do you know there is an excellent excuse to include your favorite nuts in everyday diet? Healthy fats support many functions in our body and organism. Monounsaturated fats are olive and canola oil, nuts, seeds and avocados, as for polyunsaturated fats, great sources are vegetable oils, poultry, nuts and seeds, all very beneficial for our overall health.
Omega-3s, a particular part of polyunsaturated fats, are essential for us because our body cannot produce them, which means we need to include them in our diets through food. Great sources of omega-3s are fish, walnuts, flax seeds and fish-oil supplements (though you should opt for food rich in essential fatty acids, rather than supplements). Poultry also contains a significant high level of omega-3 fats.
Numerous studies have confirmed the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for cardiovascular system. Eating fish, for instance, reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. Omega-3 reduces symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and protects against bone density loss and osteoporosis as well.
We know healthy fats are great for brain health as well; monounsaturated fats improve general cognition as we age, for instance. We also know that nuts are good source of unsaturated fats that are great for heart health. Vitamins and minerals in nuts help lower blood pressure, and vitamin E helps prevent cell damage, while calcium helps maintain strong bones. Although nuts are high in fat, it is a heart-friendly fat.
Sunflower seeds are especially good anti-aging food because they are great sources of vitamin E and selenium. Sunflower seeds can improve skin elasticity, and reduce wrinkles. Brazil nuts, as a rich source of selenium, are effective at stopping oxidative stress and cell damage caused by free radicals.
This mineral works well with vitamin E and slows down the aging process, however, more than two nuts a day is not an option given the high fat content. Almonds have long been considered as anti-aging food due to vitamin E; eating around a dozen almonds daily is of great help.
Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids – 3 ounces of the fish serves up 170% of your daily vitamin B12, another important nutrient for heart health, and more than 80% of daily vitamin D. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish a week for adults. If you cannot find fresh fish, opt for canned tuna and sardines.
RED WINE: WINE FOR YOUTHFUL LOOK
Is there a reason why you shouldn’t enjoy a glass of wine? A key ingredient resveratrol, which is found in the skin of the grapes, is one of the recognized anti-aging antioxidants. This antioxidant, as studies confirmed, may help prevent blood clots, thus, heart disease, by protecting the arteries and the lining of blood vessels.
An anti-aging antioxidant also reduces the risk of cancer, decreases inflammation and lowers bad cholesterol. One can also get resveratrol by eating grapes and drinking grape juice, however, there is a much higher concentration of this antioxidant in red wine because the skin and seeds are a part of fermenting process (they are removed in the process of making grape juice).
We also know that antioxidants help with harmful free radicals that play an important role in aging and age-related diseases.
Another component in red wine that helps with heart health is the alcohol content. Alcohol helps keep the blood clots from forming, increases good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol. However, one needs to balance alcohol intakes, and although a glass of red wine for women and two glasses for men is good for health and anti-aging, more glasses have dangerous effects.
White wines do not have many antioxidants, at least not as much as red wines.
WHOLE GRAINS: NUTRITIONAL POWERHOUSE FOOD
When you think about breakfast, what food should you think of first? Whole grains, or foods made from them, contain all essential nutrients. In comparison to refined grains, whole grains contain 96% more fiber, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins E and B6. This should be more than enough for everybody to opt for whole grains. With these powerful nutrients, whole grains help prevent heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and even obesity, all the illnesses that refined grains can cause.
It is very important to include at least three servings of whole grains on a daily base due to their benefits for the digestive system. Fiber is also additional help for controlling appetite and lowering blood sugar. If you consume for instance brown rice, whole wheat or oats, you will lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Many avoid delicious whole grains because they do not know which one to choose, or do not know how to prepare them. Barley is a great addition to a healthy diet, rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, and great amount of potassium. With good amount of magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, calcium and phosphorus, barley is a great ingredient in soups, stews, salads, or in flour for baked goods and desserts.
Brown rice is a far better option than white rice; it has vitamin E that is important for immunity, skin and essential functions in the body and it is high in fiber. Brown rice also has tryptophan that helps with sleep. Brown rice can replace white rice in almost any recipe.
Kamut and spelt are high in protein, and packed with minerals such as manganese, magnesium and copper. Due to the high amount of B-vitamins (niacin, thiamin and riboflavin) they are great replacements for white bread and pasta.
Oats are great in numerous ways; they lower the cholesterol, help stabilize blood sugar, and are high in protein and fiber. The best option are those less refined oats, especially if you wish to substitute white flour with oat flour.
How can you include whole grains in every day nutrition? You can eat whole wheat bread instead of white bread, use brown rice as stuffing, and whole-wheat pasta and macaroni for macaroni and cheese, for instance. Use whole grains in mixed dishes, barley in vegetable soups; eat toasted oat cereal as snacks-on-the-go; when making cookies or other baked treats add whole-grain flour or oatmeal; eat popcorn as a healthy snack (without salt or butter);
You need to be very careful when choosing the product. Foods labeled with words such as “100% wheat”, “cracked wheat”, “stone-ground”, and ”multi-grain” are not usually whole grain products. Colors are also not a good indicator. Read the food labels, ingredient list and search for added sugars (sucrose, malt syrup, maple syrup, raw sugar, high-fructose corn syrup), and opt for those without added sugars.
RED BELL PEPPER: VITAMIN C BOOSTER
Do you know how to boost your body with vitamin C? Although red peppers are great anti-aging food, yellow and orange, or those warm-toned peppers, are also very high in essential nutrients.
Red bell peppers contain 60 percent more vitamin C than the green pepper, and it gives us up to three times daily requirement of vitamin C, and we know we need vitamin C for collagen production, and for the production of white cells that fight off bacteria and germs. High content of vitamin C in daily nutrition also helps with youthful look.
Bell peppers are also an excellent source of over 30 different members of the carotenoid family, but higher heat cooking can damage some of the phytonutrients and essential compounds. Peppers are also effective for digestive system and for reducing the cholesterol levels.
GREEN TEA: AN ANTIOXIDANT THAT WILL KEEP YOU HEALTHY
Do you wish for a perfect healthy drink? Green tea has a long history of being one of very important drinks, which help maintain our health in many ways. Green tea contains antioxidant called catechins that can help protect against heart disease and decrease the risk of breast cancer.
Another compound in green tea called epigallocatechin-3-gallate blocks an enzyme needed to digest starchy food and by blocking it, it becomes a potential aid in fending of type 2 diabetes.
Green tea improves memory by stimulating neuron growth in the hippocampus, a region of the brain that is related to memory.
We hope this guide will help you improve your health. If you have any comments or have experienced the benefits of the foods we mentioned in this guide, feel free to share it with us. Below you will find a list of interesting and informative literature related to this subject.
Aggarwal, B.B. & Yost, D. (2011). Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease. Sterling.
Chopra, D. & Simon, D. (2002). Grow Younger, Live Longer: Ten Steps to Reverse Aging. Three Rivers Press.
Grotto, D. (2010). 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. Bantam.
Morris, J. (2012). Superfood Kitchen: Cooking with Nature’s Most Amazing Foods. Sterling Epicure.
Villacorta, M. & Shaw, J. (2013). Peruvian Power Foods: 18 Superfoods, 101 Recipes, and Anti-aging Secrets from the Amazon to the Andes. HCI.
Your Body Can Heal Itself, over 87 Foods Everyone Should Eat. 2008. F C & a Pub.
Zak, V. (1999). 20,000 Secrets of Tea: The Most Effective Ways to Benefit from Nature’s Healing Herbs. Dell.
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