4 Diet mistakes that age you
What if the fountain of youth
were in your own kitchen? While we’ve come to expect certain
physical and mental changes as an inevitable part of getting older,
the fact is that the foods we eat—or don’t—may speed those
processes along, aging us before our time. The reason is simple:
“We eat too many processed foods,” says David Katz, MD, director of
Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. “They’re often high
in calories and low in nutrients such as vitamin B12 and omega-3s,
so we end up with islands of deficiencies in a sea of excess.”
These inadequacies can result in symptoms we tend to assume are due
to aging, such as the four below. Work with your doctor to
determine whether adjusting your diet or adding a supplement can
help you look—and feel—younger.
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Mistake #1: You avoid all animal protein.
Why it’s aging you: You may lack of vitamin B12. which is essential
Found only in foods that are derived from animals, this nutrient
helps regulate your metabolism and energy production and is key to
maintaining a healthy brain and nervous system. “Fatigue is a
classic sign of B12 deficiency, which usually occurs in people who
don’t eat very much animal protein,” says Danine Fruge, MD,
associate medical director of the Pritikin Longevity Center &
Spa in Miami. Chewing a lot of antacids to relieve heartburn can
also lead to B12 deficiency because antacids interfere with B12
Food Fix: Have two servings of nonfat dairy foods,
such as fat-free milk or nonfat yogurt, and 3 to 4 ounces of lean
protein daily. Good sources of B12 include seafood such as fish,
clams, oysters, and mussels, as well as lean beef and pork,
chicken, and fortified cereal.
Take 500 to 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12 in tablet form every day to
raise and maintain your B12 levels.
Inspiring chicken dinners that are
Mistake #2: You avoid supplements.
Why it’s aging you: You miss manganese and copper, which help
prevent joint pain.
Because manganese and copper are
both essential for maintaining joint cartilage and flexibility, “in
most cases, supplementing these nutrients reverses the joint
deterioration and eliminates the pain,” says Dale Peterson, MD,
director of the Comprehensive Wellness Center in Sapulpa, OK. “The
body can actually repair a significant amount of damage if it’s
given the proper support.”
Food Fix: Nuts, beef, and spinach are good sources
of these nutrients, but you won’t be able to eat enough to get all
your copper and manganese, so opt for a supplement, Dr. Peterson
advises. Take 2 mg of copper and 5 mg of manganese each day. Within
2 to 3 months, your joints should feel less painful.
Supplements that help you avoid
Mistake #3: You avoid fish and fat.
Why it’s aging you: Fish and healthy oils (like olive) offer the
best source of omega-3 essential fatty acids ,which help prevent
“These fatty acids are part of the brain’s
building blocks,” explains Andrew Weil, MD, director of the Center
for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. “If you’re
not getting enough in your diet, the architecture of the brain
becomes weak, and brain function, including memory, suffers.” But
it’s not only the amount of omega-3s that’s important; the balance
between omega-3s and omega-6s is equally crucial. “Our diets are
flooded with omega-6 fatty acids, mostly from processed foods,”
says Dr. Weil. “The more omega-6s you eat, the more omega-3s you
need to balance your levels. Most of us aren’t eating enough
omega-3s and are eating too many omega-6s.”
Food Fix: First, reduce your consumption of
refined and processed foods much as possible, and cook with olive
or canola oil. Then, eat 3 1⁄2 ounces of wild salmon and 3 1⁄2
ounces of herring, sardines, or halibut each week. Add 2
tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseed to cereal, whole grain side
dishes, or shakes daily, and garnish salads or cereal with 1
tablespoon of walnuts 5 days a week. Finally, enjoy 9 to 12 almonds
4 times a week.
Take at least 2,000 mg
of fish oil daily.
Look for 1,000 mg capsules of combined docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
A salmon burger non fish- fans will crave!
Mistake #4: You favor packaged foods over whole.
Why it’s aging you: Packaged foods are high in blood
pressure–spiking sodium—and fresh fruits and veggies contain blood
“Having too little potassium in your diet magnifies the toxic
effects of excessive salt intake,” Dr. Fruge says. Most processed
foods have added sodium but no extra potassium, so if your meals
come from boxes, you’re likely at risk. Worsening the situation,
when your kidneys try to flush out the salt, you lose even more
potassium. “The imbalance damages blood vessels, driving up blood
pressure,” Dr. Fruge notes. “Eating better can correct the
problem—I’ve seen people drop thirty points in three days.”
Food Fix: Cut your sodium consumption to no more
than 1,500 mg per day, and eat seven to nine servings of fruits and
vegetables every day.