Aging is quite a complicated process where body systems begin to have functional problems and damage to cells and tissues starts to occur. Research shows that dietary changes and focus on important nutrients can make a major difference in helping one to live a long and healthy life. Genetics is a factor, but there are many other causes for the development of early health conditions and early death.
Through the years, Americans have become less healthy. In fact, the CDC has reported that there are 71.6% of American adults that are 20 years or older that are overweight or obese.
In the past measurements were taken to determine health risk factors. It showed that eating processed meals and snacks may be killing more individuals than cigarette smoking (Murray CJ et al, 2013). Although of the 2 evils, one is not better than the other (National Center for Health Statistics, 2017).
A few definitions to help you better understand the research.
- Senescence is the gradual breakdown or deterioration during the aging process, which includes the physical, characteristic changes that can be observed.
- Autophagy is a process where the body cleans out damaged cells and replenishes with new healthy cells. It causes a type of recycling, encouraging new healthy cells to be regenerated. It occurs in the cytoplasm.
If you have any health problems or are on prescription medication it is best to talk to your health care practitioner prior to starting any new diet or taking supplements.
Are you ready to make a change in your eating and exercise pattern?
You may be in the fast lane and as for your physical wellbeing, you may not be thinking about your long term health. Driving yourself hard also brings weariness and tiredness.
One may grab for caffeine or sugar sweetened drinks or processed food to bring your mood and energy levels up. Taking time to make changes in your diet and making improvements in your food selection can bring a victory now and health benefits as you age.
Some things that have been shown to help keep the body healthy and slow down the aging process are:
- Spiritual component
- Manage and reduce stress levels
Vitamins and Mineral Deficiencies can shorten life expectancy
By making some changes in your diet you may gain energy and improve your health conditions as you age.
When it comes to the diet, nutritional deficiencies can easily develop and cause early aging of the body. The typical American diet contains many empty calories and shoves out all the important nutrients necessary to maintain health for a lifetime. Vitamins, minerals, amino acids and specialty nutrients are key to help lengthen life span. Omega 3 fatty acids are also important.
Evidence shows that vitamin mineral deficiencies can shorten life expectancy and increase the chances of disease (Ames BN, 2018).
A research study shows that there are specific nutrients that are important during the aging process (Ames BN, 2018). They include the vitamins A, B 1, B 2, B 6, B 12, folic acid, biotin, niacin, pantothenic acid, choline, C, D, E and K. In addition, the essential minerals chromium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, chloride, cobalt, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium and sulfur. The other important nutrients include the omega 3 fatty acids and 9 amino acids.
Nutritional deficiencies can cause havoc to the body long term. Following a healthy diet will help you to consume a balanced nutrient level.
The Longevity Diet
If you have any health problems or are on prescription medication it is best to talk to your health care practitioner prior to starting any new diet or taking supplements.
The objective of the Longevity Diet is to set up your diet with a foundation of plant based foods and then add foods that are necessary to your individual health. It is important to consider adding in seafood which is high in Omega 3 fatty acids. You may choose plant sources such as flaxseed oil, chia seeds, or Omega 3 fatty acid softgel supplements.
A few helpful tips:
- It is best to make a plan and work the plan. Take a notebook and write out your Monday through Sunday menus.
- Try hard to reduce the amount that you are eating, especially high calorie, high carbohydrate foods and reduce saturated fats.
- Try not to eat boxed meal preparations.
- It is important to read your labels. It takes time, but it is worth it for your health.
- Try to avoid or reduce foods high in simple sugar: cane sugar (table sugar, sucrose), dried fruits, honey, corn syrup, maltodextrin, dextrose, molasses, and brown rice syrup.
- Say no to food prior to bedtime.
These tips will help you also to manage your weight, which is important for longevity.
Keep in mind that protein is important since it keeps your muscles, bones, blood, and body organs healthy.
The Plant Based Foundation
Plants are known for having a wide spectrum of bioactive nutrients that bring healing to the body.
What we put into our body is clearly associated with longevity. Research has shown the health benefits of diets with large amounts of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains providing a good source of fiber; nuts and healthy fats. Also, reducing foods with sugar, red meat and processed food show tremendous health rewards and increased life span.
Processed boxed meals and snacks, fried foods and sweetened drinks have been linked to higher risks of chronic disease and death (Fuhrman J, 2018).
In one population study a large number of adults were evaluated and followed up for 18 years. The study showed that individuals who ate more plant protein had a lower total mortality rate (Budhathoki S et al, 2019). Substituting plant protein for animal protein (red or processed meat) was correlated with lower total cancer and cardiovascular disease related mortality.
Bottom line – The higher consumption of plant based protein may impact long term health and longevity.
Diet May Influence the Endocannabinoid System
There has been a great deal of research related to diet and the endocannabinoid system including how food could have an effect on CB1 and CB2 receptors and metabolic stress (DiPatrizio NV, Piomelli D, 2012). There are theories that there may be health benefits from following a cannabimimetic diet (Gertsch J, 2017).
There is some research that indicates that high calorie diets stimulate the activation of the CB1 receptors is correlated with obesity and metabolic syndrome (Mazier et al, 2015). It has been shown that in obese people there is a significant increase of CB1 receptor activity in fats cells, the pancreas and the liver which raises metabolic syndrome risk (Cable et al, 2014).
High carbohydrate diets have been considered to be a metabolic stress factor related to glycemic indexes. Epidemiology studies demonstrate that glucotoxicity occurs because of the high intake of sugar. Similarly, consuming a diet high in fat can cause lipotoxic consequences.
There is data that shows that consuming green leafy vegetables and spices may be what is what our bodies biologically require to keep body systems in homeostasis and healthy to extend life.
Different spices contain good sources of essential oils and terpenes that help modulate lipids involved in the endocannabinoid system (Gertsch J, 2017).
In the body, arachidonic acid is a precursor for some signaling lipids and when broken down can increase the level of inflammatory compounds called leukotrienes and cause blood vessel permeability. COX-2 is an enzyme that promotes inflammation.
Ginger is an example of a spice that contains phenylpropanoids to interfere with arachidonate signaling and targets COX-2 having an anti-inflammatory effect (Gertsch J, 2017). There are different spices that have compounds that promote ion channels like TRPV1 (capsaicin receptor and the vanilloid receptor 1), which sends signals to the endocannabinoid system.
It is believed overall that consuming a diet rich in green leafy vegetables and spices may be a natural biological effect to thwart metabolic stress caused from a diet high in carbohydrates.
Fruits and Vegetables – 5 servings+ a day
The USDA’s educational division recommends consuming 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day (www.wicworks.fns.usda.gov). The American Cancer Society recommends eating at least 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables a day. The reason is because they contain important vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants and they usually are low in calories.
The darker the color the richer in nutrient levels. This includes dark green, red, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables. It is also advised by the American Cancer Society to consume whole grain products over refined and processed grains and sugars. Grains include breads, pasta, rice, etc. They suggest limiting the amount of red meat from the diet, especially if it is processed and high in fat.
A plant based diet includes a variety of fruits, which provide a wide range of nutrients. Many vegetables and fruits provide a major source of vitamin A, vitamin C, some minerals, and a great source of fiber. They are lower in calories than junk food and contain water to help you to fill up and feel full reducing your need for foods with empty calories.
- Oranges, citrus fruit, strawberries and Kiwi are good sources of Vitamin C.
- Bananas are great to give potassium and Vitamin B6
- Carrots can help strengthen your immune system, skin, vision; help regulate metabolism and protect your cells
Eat a variety of vegetables…
Green beans, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, peas, tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers,. potatoes, alfalfa sprouts, azuki beans, peppers, bean sprouts, garbanzo and black beans, black-eyed peas. chickpeas, beet greens, cabbage.
Some good protein combinations:
- Whole grains, nuts, or seeds PLUS beans
- Whole grain wheat product and legumes
- Soybeans plus wheat plus sesame
- Pea soup with whole grain crackers
- Beans with a flour tortilla
- Rice and legumes
- Beans and corn
- Tofu and rice
- Beans or lentils with rice
- Garbanzos with corn bread
Calorie Restriction Helps to Extend Life
Reduce your food intake
Cutting down on the consumption of calories has been shown to increase longevity. Some investigators have actually stated that “it is the most significant dietary measure to lengthen lifespan and postpone changes to tissues that occurs as one ages (Anderson RM, Weindruch R, 2012).
A 15% reduction in calories showed that aging slowed down and protected cells against free radical damage (Redman LM et al, 2018). In the study individuals also lost weight. One will truly benefit by reducing daily calories by 10 to 30% to experience a longer, healthier life (Lee S-H, Min K-J et al, 2013).
Benefits of Calorie Restricted Diets
- Brain function
- Heart and blood vessel health including cholesterol and blood pressure
- Weight management
- Maintaining healthy blood sugar
- Supports the gastrointestinal gut barrier
One human study over a 2 year period included subjects that reduced calorie intake by 25% vs those that didn’t change their diet (control group) (Kraus WE et al, 2019).
The calorie restriction group were provided with 6 different meal plans and ate 3 meals a day. They had difficulty reducing 25% of their calories, but maintained a reduction of an average of 12% fewer calories. Those that reduced calorie intake had a significant reduction in LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Also, the inflammatory marker, C reactive protein improved. The subjects that reduced calories lost weight with 71% of the weight loss being fat mass.
Benefits of Calorie Restriction Mimetics
It is difficult for many individuals to cut back on calories from their diet so some investigators have performed research on potential caloric restriction mimetics (CRMs). These are compounds that initiate the metabolic pathway in the body that is similar to when individuals reduce calorie intake (Madeo F et al, 2019). The process is called autophagy, which is the way the body cleans out cells that have been damaged.
Regular exercise helps to increase longevity by increasing blood circulation to all body systems and is actually considered a calorie restriction mimetic to improve healthy aging (Mok A et al, 2019). There are lower risks of mortality and health conditions in those who consistently work out.
Two CRM’s that have been identified are resveratrol, which is found in fruits, plants and grape skin (Madeo F et al, 2019) and spermidine a component of wheat germ, soybeans and nuts.
Intermittent Fasting Aids in Increasing Lifespan
Many people turn the other way when you say, ‘fasting” since it is hard to give up food for a period of time. Although, knowing the health benefits of fasting provides an incentive even with short term food restriction. Some folks are unable to do any type of fasting because of a medical condition and/or are taking medication, or are pregnant. It is always good to check with your health care practitioner before you start a fast.
For a healthy person, one may try fasting on juices for a few days and eating for the rest of the week or fasting for 24 hours one or two times a month or one may try fasting by drinking only juices during the day and then consume a regular sized meal at dinner. Intermittent fasting is believed to lengthen longevity by having a positive effect on metabolic and stress resistant pathways.
Short term fasting allows fat to be used as an energy source. If a person fasts for 12 to 24 hours, blood sugar drops around 20% and also stored sugar (glycogen) is reduced (Longo VD et al, 2014). What is being used for energy? Ketone bodies and free fatty acids are being used from fat. For healthy individuals, that is a great benefit short term.
Research demonstrates that there are other benefits of fasting such as supporting blood pressure and insulin sensitivity and it helps reduce oxidative stress and inflammation (Longo VD et al, 2014). Fasting also promotes weight management.
Simple Plant Based Recipes
Check in with your health practitioner if you currently have a health condition or are on prescription medication
Chickpea or Black bean Salad Sandwich
16 ounces of chickpeas or black beans (preferably soaked and cooked in a pressure cooker until soft)
- 1 tsp of mustard or brown spicy mustard
- 1 tbs maple syrup
- 1/4 cup diced celery
- 1 tbs of agave nectar
- 1/8 cup diced onion
- 1/8 cup of sweet relish
- A little salt and pepper
Mash the chickpeas or black beans in a bowl. Add in and mix the mustard, agave nectar, maple syrup, onion, celery, salt and pepper to mixing bowl. Taste to see if you like the taste.
Toast 100% whole wheat or other whole grain bread add lettuce tomato and scoop your chickpea or bean mixture onto the toast. Include a piece of fruit with your sandwich to make it delightful!
Vegetarian Spaghetti – slow cook
What you will need:
- Crock pot or large pot to cook on stove
- 10 oz of whole grain spaghetti noodles
- 2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 red bell pepper
- 1/2 green bell pepper
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper cut up in small cubed pieces
- 2 garlic cloves chopped up
- 1 large tomato cut up/li>
- 18 oz can of tomato paste
- salt, pepper
- 1 Tbs basil
- 1 Tbs oregano
- 2 Bay leaves
- 1 bunch spinach, chopped
- 1 cup of water
Make your spaghetti according to the directions. Sautee garlic and onion in the olive oil until slightly brown and then add bell peppers and cook until tender. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper.
In crock pot or large pot to cook on stove add tomato sauce, paste, water, basil, oregano, Bay leaves and your sautéed mixture. Let it cook on high for 3 hours stirring occasionally, but check frequently so it doesn’t burn. If liquid is beginning to get low add more tomato sauce. Add spinach the last 30 minutes of cooking. Drain the pasta and place on plate, then add your vegetarian spaghetti sauce.
Supplements to Support the Aging Process
A foundational multiple vitamin/mineral may be necessary to add to one’s eating plan since we have a difficult time consuming all the important nutrients and at specific levels. The pros and cons of certain nutrients may need to be evaluated. For example, as one ages an iron supplement may not be necessary because of its pro-oxidant effects when over consumed. It is best to check with your health care practitioner for advice.
There are various dietary supplements that are considered anti-aging nutrients. Some are listed below:
- Antioxidants. The diet can be filled with various antioxidants that are critically important for health and longevity. Many of the nutrients mentioned above under vitamin and mineral deficiencies provide antioxidant support. Those shown to be important for the skin and are considered to be anti-aging nutrients are vitamins A, C, D and E. In addition, other important nutrients are the rich pigment of carotenoids found in fruits and vegetables, tocopherols and flavonoids, essential omega-3-fatty acids, some proteins and lactobacilli (de Barcelos IP, Haas RH, 2019).
- Coenzyme Q 10 is an important fat soluble, antioxidant nutrient that has been shown to be essential to health. It has been shown that with aging, coenzyme Q 10 levels decline, therefore it is important to add it as a supplement to one’s daily regimen (de Barcelos IP, Haas RH, 2019).
- Curcumin has research to show that it activates particular proteins to help delay cellular senescence (Kumar SSD et al, 2018). It also has an effect on sirtuins and AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK).
- Fiber: As metabolism begins to slow down the gastrointestinal track may become sluggish, therefore it is important to consume enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the diet. An additional fiber supplement may be necessary.
- Green tea’s standardized to an important polyphenol, Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG may assist in working in the pathways of the mitochondria of cells to help stimulate autophagy and adjust AMP-activated protein kinase signaling (AMPK). EGCG may help to improve senescence and promote life span through diminishing oxidative stress and inflammation (Zhang Q et al, 2019).
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a precursor to one of the most important antioxidants in the body called glutathione. Glutathione has been shown to decrease with age. NAC has been shown to increase glutathione levels (Šalamon S et al, 2019)
- Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a compound found in all living cells is essential for the conversion of food into cellular energy for muscles to contract and blood to circulate. It is utilized in repairing damaged DNA necessary during the aging process.
There are a number of ways to delay the aging process through dietary changes, fasting and adding nutrients to the diet. Calorie restriction, increasing nutrient dense fruits and vegetables into the diet and intermittent fasting have been shown to make a difference in helping one to live a long and healthy life.
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