Although magazine covers and “miracle” cosmetics packages all proclaim the anti-aging secrets they contain, as long as we wake up each morning, getting older is an unstoppable fact. Perhaps a better and more attainable goal than “anti-aging” is “healthy aging” giving our bodies and spirits what they need to reduce the risks of physical or mental decline as our 30s become our 40s, then into our 50s, 60s, and so on.
Instead of dreaming about turning back the clock, you can help keep your body strong by equipping it with the biological equivalent of fresh batteries. “Why do you have to fight against aging if you have healthy aging?” asks Barbara Shukitt-Hale, PhD, a research psychologist and behavioral neuroscientist at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. That’s not just a the oretical question, no matter what your current age.
Reducing risk, one bite at a time
Oxidative stress is the cumulative, day-to-day assault our cells endure. The longer we live, the more oxidative stress our bodies experience. Dr. Shukitt-Hale and her colleagues have studied several foods that appear to repair the toll this stress takes and even protect against further damage. The foods studied also increase the number of brain cells we have and improve their functioning.
We can use such help. “As we age, our bodies are less able to deal with the oxidative stress we encounter,” Dr. Shukitt-Hale says. We also become more sensitive to inflammatory responses in our central nervous systems.
While some foods have been shown to support greater health, energy and mental strength in aging bodies, the biological mechanisms that produce those results aren’t fully understood yet. Many researchers believe the beneficial effects are created by the variety of nutritional components in real food, working in combination.
That means you should look in the produce aisles, not the drug aisles, to find what you need. “Very few disease processes or healthy outcomes are attained through taking vitamin supplements,” says Martha Clare Morris, ScD, director of the Center of Nutrition and Aging at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago. She cites bone loss and vitamin B12 deficiency as among the few conditions that current research shows can be improved with supplements.
By contrast, when vitamins and other compounds are obtained by eating certain foods, there are big benefits. “We think eating fresh fruit or vegetables, even frozen, is better than taking supplements, because supplements don’t have all the compounds,” Dr. Shukitt-Hale says. In her research lab, “we’ve broken down foods into families of compounds, and the individual families aren’t as effective” as when they function together.
You know that fruits, vegetables, whole grains and such are good for you, but some foods have been shown to be stand-outs for lowering problems linked to aging. You may want to include more of these on your shopping list:
That’s the nickname Dr. Shukitt-Hale and coauthor James A. Joseph, PhD, gave to blueberries and their cousins such as blackberries, cranberries and strawberries. Berry fruits are rich in antioxidant polyphenolic compounds that protect against the age-related deterioration of cognitive and motor functions. Eating about a cup of berries a day fresh or frozen reduces oxidative stress (hence the term “antioxidants”), lowers inflammation and improves brain cell signaling.
Blueberries top the list of beneficial berries, but if your tastes are a bit more eclectic arctic bramble berries, anyone?most berry fruits carry a lot of nutritional power for their size. You may want to read the label closely: A USDA study of blueberries grown in New Jersey showed that those cultivated organically for commercial sale had higher levels of phytonutrients (beneficial compounds) than did the berries grown under conventional methods.
Red peppers, oranges, pine nuts, roasted sunflower seeds, safflower oil:
Vegetables and fruits that are high in vitamin C help prevent skin appearance changes related to aging. Nuts and oils with high amounts of linoleic acid provide similar defense. Regardless of age, sun exposure or other factors, women who eat more foods that are rich in vitamin C and linoleic acid have fewer wrinkles, less skin dryness and less atrophy the gradual thinning of skin layers.
Berries in general have high antioxidant content. However, based on a research conducted in the University of Oslo, blackberries ranked the highest. It ranked ahead of blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, and raspberries.
The main antioxidant found in blackberries that helps with healthy aging is an antioxidant called polyphenolic compounds. What these compounds do is protect your cognitive and motor functions from any deterioration that may be associated to aging by reducing oxidative stress, helping ease the inflammation, and improving on how brain cells signal each other. In addition, research also suggests that a cup of blackberries already provides you at least half of your daily Vitamin C nutritional requirement.
Walnuts are packed with antioxidants that even just eating 15 to 20 halves of it can give a whole load of it. However, that is not what makes walnuts a good choice of food if you want to age healthy. Based on a study, it is possible that walnuts have a bright future when it comes to improving your cognition.
This was the conclusion that scientist conferred to after they observed a marked improvement in the motor performance and thinking skills of aged rats. On the other hand, walnuts also contains a huge load of cholesterol, just like any kind of nut available in the market. So, try not to get carried away when consuming them.
As mentioned above, berries are chock full of antioxidants and although blackberries had the most, it does not mean that other berries do not have enough of them.Strawberries is just another example, and it is filled with fiber and vitamin C, both antioxidants on their own right.
Another berry to make it to the list, although often overlooked as a berry mostly relegated to becoming a muffin, blueberries are jammed with healthy benefits and antioxidants that will surely pique your interest if you are looking to age healthy. For one, a blueberry is another one of those that studies label as brainfood that helps prevent the development of neurological brain disorders which are commonly associated with aging.
In addition, it targets one of the most obvious signs of aging – the skin. Blueberries help prevent your skin from aging too quickly, especially at an age when any signs should not be showing. The anti-aging properties of berries are mostly connected to antioxidants normally found in plant chemicals, also known as phytochemicals. According to Moores, if you want to get a rich supply of these, you have to consume natural and fresh blueberries; not products which claim to be rich in them.
Orange has always been known to be filled with Vitamin C, which is fortunate because it is an antioxidant in of itself. This acts as the skin’s protection from any signs that may indicate aging. Additionally, this is regardless of how much exposure to the sun you are having and age. In fact, if you eat lots of oranges, or any fruit that is rich in vitamin C for that matter, you will be having fewer wrinkles, your skin will become less dry, and will prevent the skin from becoming thinner. Basically, it prevents from whatever will happen to your skin when you age.
Cranberry juice, just like any other berry on this list, is packed full of antioxidants, but unlike others, its anti-aging properties is more hidden because it focuses on the teeth. With the help of its bacteria fighting antioxidants, it prevents the growth of bacteria in the mouth that causes the buildup of plaque preventing the teeth from turning yellow in color; one of the signs that it is aging.
If you have been drinking tea for its antioxidant properties, and leaving a favorite childhood drink behind, then, you might want to reconsider going back because it has been found out that cocoa, the main component found in chocolate drink or chocolate in general, is also filled with antioxidant properties.
In fact, it has the highest amount of active antioxidants available, specifically phytochemicals that helps in preventing oxidative damage. Additionally, if you are a chocolate lover, then, you should opt to eating dark chocolates because among the edible chocolates available in the market, these are the ones which have the highest amount of antioxidants in them because of its cocoa concentration.
Fish has always been known to be a healthy food of choice, except for a few. However, among those, salmon tops all of them especially when it comes to antioxidants.
It ranks highest among marine food when it comes to the amount of omega-fatty acids and other essential fats that reduce inflammation in the body which is supposedly related to age related ailments such as arthritis, heart problems, and high blood pressure, just to name a few. In addition, the oils found in salmon has been proven, according to Moores, to help improve memory and other mental faculties which admittedly deteriorates as we age.
Green leafy vegetables in general are high in antioxidants, but this might be the best time to highlight one of those vegetables that is commonly passed over for other more popular ones. Kale is a vegetable packed full of antioxidants such as potassium and carotenoids that help reduce the chances of developing age related diseases such as heart related diseases and cataracts. Also, it has a high concentration of Vitamin A that has been shown to help reduce the incidence of cancer.
With the help of these foods, aging will not become a taboo anymore. Instead, it will be something to take pride in again. However, unlike the olden days, it does not mean having to deal with pesky age related problems. Rather, you can age healthy in the cheapest and most practical means available through healthy food avoiding the risk of catching chemical related problems from market based anti aging products available.
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