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How does my diet affect the way I age?

Your diet can affect the way you age. Oxidative stress is the cumulative, day-to-day assault our cells endure. The longer we live, the more oxidative stress our bodies experience. Studies show that there are 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. 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. Bone loss and vitamin B12 deficiency are 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. Experts think eating fresh fruit or vegetables, even frozen, is better than taking supplements, because supplements don't have all the compounds. Researchers have broken down foods into families of compounds, and the individual families aren't as effective as when they function together.

You may be able to eat to beat wrinkles. No, I am not kidding.... You may have heard the old wives tale that consuming vitamin C can help fight a cold, but what about wrinkles? A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition of over 4,000 women between the ages of 40 and 70 showed that routine higher takes of vitamin C-rich foods was significantly associated with a decrease in the prevalence of wrinkled and dry skin due to aging. The study also found that higher intakes of linoleic acid reduced the chances of developing not only the same age-related dryness but also thinning of the skin. While citrus fruits, juices and tomatoes are the leading sources of vitamin C in the American diet, green leafy vegetables, soybean oil, flaxseeds, and walnuts are ringers for linoleic acid.

Tip: Beautify your breakfast by topping your whole grain cereal with ground flaxseeds and chase your morning meal with a glass of OJ. Add spinach to your lunchtime green salad and sprinkle a spoonful of chopped walnuts to give it crunch. For a linoleic-rich salad dressing, combine balsamic vinegar and soybean oil to top it off.

Pick Berries for a Sharp Mind: Even though women live longer than men, eating berries can help them live “smarter”. A study in the Annals of Neurology involving over 16,000 women showed that those who consumed a greater amount of blueberries (1/2 cup or more weekly) or strawberries (1 cup or more weekly) were associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline (thinking, remembering, and reasoning) as they aged. Researchers speculate that the mind-enhancing ingredient may be the phytochemical and antioxidant, anthocyanidin, which gives berries their robust color.

Tip: Begin and end your day with berries. Add them to your morning cereal or yogurt and make them your evening dessert.

Foods That Fight Alzheimer’s Disease: A recent study in the Journal of the American Academy of Neurology suggests that eating omega-3 rich foods, such as fish, salad dressing, margarine, and nuts, may help lower a level of a protein in the blood that has been associated with increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Tip: To get triple Alzheimer’s disease-fighting potential at lunch, toss together tuna fish, chopped nuts, and a light salad dressing and stuff into a whole wheat pita.

Fighting the aging process can actually be quite delicious. ;)

Fueling your body’s engine with premium fuel helps fend off signs of aging in general, including wrinkles and dryness; eating well can even protect skin from sun damage. And let’s be honest: Stress so often does a number on our eating habits. As I trust you know from personal experience, when we are wired, fried, and moody, we are apt to reach for quick-fix foods (there’s a real reason for this, so let go of the guilt). Over time, all those mocha lattes and Mars bars will expand our weight and waistline, boost our risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer, and add to our skin woes. That’s a scenario for escalating stress, and more skin woes, if ever there were one!

From The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You by Amy Wechsler.

Continue Learning about Aging & Healthy Eating

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.