by Dr. Sarah Brewer
A Nutritionist and Doctor
5 Foods for Healthy Ageing
The elixir of life that can turn back the clock and prevent ageing has been sought since time began. Scientists now realise the food we eat may hold the answer. The foods that provide the strongest anti-ageing effect are those that contain antioxidants which protect against free radicals. Antioxidants are found in all fruit and vegetables. Those featured in the top 5 anti-ageing foods here are a mere selection of those available. Also think carrots, pawpaw, avocadoes, kiwi fruit, strawberries, grapes ….the list of healthy, anti-ageing foods is endless!
1. Dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach are a rich source of vitamin C, carotenoids and anticancer substances such as sulphoraphane and genistein. They contain a variety of carotenoid pigments, including lutein and zeaxanthin which help to prevent age-related eye problems such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
2. Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene - a powerful antioxidant and anticancer agent that helps to prevent cell ageing. Cooking tomatoes releases five times more lycopene than is available from raw tomatoes. Increasing research suggests that, of the many types of carotenoids found in food, lycopene is the most beneficial for protecting against coronary heart disease and cancer. After accounting for smoking, people with the lowest levels of lycopene three times more likely to develop lung cancer than those with the highest intakes.
3. Garlic has antioxidant, antiseptic, antibacterial and antiviral properties, but its most important use is to help maintain a healthy heart and circulation. Garlic can reduce high blood pressure, lower levels of harmful blood fats (LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides), reduce blood stickiness, dilate blood vessels and improve peripheral blood flow.
4. Soybeans contain isoflavones – weak, hormone like substances that help to prevent ageing due to hormone imbalances. They are also believed to help protect against hormone sensitive cancers such as those of the breast and prostate gland. Aim to eat a soya product at least twice a week – if not every day.
5. Nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E, selenium, zinc and essential fatty acids. Aim to eat at least 30g daily eg sprinkled on salads, vegetables and cereals. Selenium is needed to produce antibodies, for healthy skin and thyroid function as well as being vital for the action of many important antioxidant enzymes in the body. The richest dietary source of selenium is Brazil nuts. Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and have been shown to help reduce a raised cholesterol level.
Your best anti-ageing diet:
- Choose organic fruit and vegetables as much as possible
- Eat fresh produce, consumed within a day of purchase
- Eat at least three servings of fresh fruit per day
- Eat at least three servings of raw or lightly steamed vegetables per day
- Eat a large raw-food salad per day, including as wide a variety of plants as possible eg fennel, chicory, mixed baby lettuce leaves, watercress, spinach, grated carrot, peas, tomato, cucumber, sweetcorn, grated beetroot, grated broccoli, nuts, seeds etc
- Aim for colour on your plate – mix dark green, orange, yellow and red vegetables as much as possible
- Consider making liquidised soups from raw vegetables and just warming through before serving
- Avoid foods that are smoked, pickled or salted
- Eat a low fat diet that provides few calories than you need so you slowly lose any excess weight
- Eat fewer foods of animal origin, especially red meat and replace with fish and soybeans
- Eat more wholegrain products
- Cut out all polyunsaturated fats, margarine, vegetables shortening and hydrogenated fats - only use olive oil or rapeseed oil
- Experiment with a semi-fast once a week in which you just eat small amounts of fruit/vegetables plus mineral water during the day
- Consider taking an antioxidant supplement