What, when, and how much we eat impacts the rate of aging. Nutrition is the most powerful lifestyle intervention to live longer. Some general tips:
- Shy away from sugary foods, like soda drinks, sweets, candy, cake, pastries, doughnuts, cookies, candy bars, and chocolates. Be also wary of seemingly healthy products which contain lots of sugar, like low-fat yogurt, vitamin waters, sport drinks, health drinks (e.g. flavoured green tea), granola and health bars, ketchup, fruit juices, breakfast cereals, salad dressings, and vegetable milks (choose the low-sugar varieties).
- Reduce your intake of starchy, empty-calorie foods like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. These foods cause high and protracted glucose peaks in the blood, leading to cross-linking and the (over)stimulation of ageing mechanisms (e.g. insulin and IGF receptors). This also includes whole-grain products.
- Don’t consume too much animal protein (especially red processed meat). Too much animal protein accelerates ageing. If you do eat animal protein, eat white meat (poultry) and fish. Some scientists advise even to only eat fish and vegetable protein (e.g. nuts and legumes). If you consume fish, opt for species that have low mercury content and don’t eat too much high-mercury fish like tuna, swordfish, mackerel and halibut.
- Avoid unhealthy fats such as trans fats and omega 6 fats. In general, try to avoid fried foods, fast-food, and bakery products. More specifically, reduce your intake of crackers, cookies, cakes, and other baked foods, refrigerated dough products (e.g. cinnamon rolls, biscuits, etc), snack foods (e.g. microwave popcorn), fast-food (e.g. frozen pizza), ready-to-eat meals, various vegetable shortenings (made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil), french fries, and omega-6 rich oils and fats, like sunflower oil, corn oil, safflower oil, margarine, sesame oil, mayonnaise and many salad dressings.
- Consume lots of vegetables, legumes, mushrooms, fruits, nuts, seeds, white meat, and fatty fish.
- Consume foods that have been processed as little as possible, e.g. foods your great grandmother would recognize.
- Eat specific foods that improve longevity, like blueberries, pomegranate, broccoli, kale, salmon, chia seeds, dark chocolate, and many others.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol: that means maximum one glass per day, ideally more alcohol-free days.
- Drink lots of water. Drink green tea or coffee (yes, coffee can reduce the risk of various ageing-related diseases).
- Eat less. Try to eat two meals a day, with breakfast being the most important meal of the day. Eat within a 12-hour period, so your body can fast for 12 hours. Fast for ideally 3 days a few times per year, like at the start of every new season. If you are up to it, practice caloric restriction. We will discuss fasting and various longevity diets in upcoming issues.
So in a nutshell, consume lots of vegetables, legumes and mushrooms – instead of bread, pasta and potatoes. Eat little animal-based food, and if you do, try to eat white meat (poultry) and fatty fish instead of red meat. Consume healthy fats from olives, olive oil, walnuts, flaxseeds, or avocados. Don’t drink soda and animal milk. Be mindful of drinking too much alcohol.
Specific longevity foods are green leafy vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts), fatty fish, mushrooms, dark chocolate, blueberries, pomegranate, green tea, strawberries and walnuts.