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Is Your Diet Aging You?

Simple strategies to keep you young, inside and out.
By
WebMD Feature

Yes, what you put on your plate might be affecting what you see in the mirror. But how?

“Poor-quality foods, like trans fats, cause inflammation -- and aging is basically a chronic inflammatory state," says Timothy Harlan, MD. He is assistant professor of medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine. "Can you look older because you’re eating crap? Absolutely."

For example, eating too much sugar and processed carbohydrates (like pasta, bread, and baked goods) can lead to damage in your skin's collagen, which is what keeps your skin springy and resists wrinkles, says Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD. She is a nutrition policy consultant for the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

What’s more, these inflammatory things called AGEs -- advanced glycation end-products -- put your overall health on the line. They are tied to diseases like heart disease and diabetes, she says.

Other foods, like fruits and vegetables, are good for your skin. Here's what you might want to cut back on and what you should eat more of.

Foods to Limit

1. Potato chips and French fries. Anything that’s deep-fried in oil can add to inflammation throughout your body. Especially avoid trans fats, which can raise LDL "bad" cholesterol and lower HDL "good" cholesterol. Check food labels on baked goods and crackers, and avoid “partially hydrogenated oils” and “vegetable shortening.”

2. Doughnuts and sugary pastries. They’re packed with sugar, which is linked to inflammation. And they produce those wrinkle-generating AGEs Giancoli talks about.

3. Hot dogs, bacon, and pepperoni. Processed meats are usually high in saturated fats and have nitrates in them. Both of those can lead to inflammation.

4. Fatty meats. The key with meat is to keep it lean. Tenderloin cuts tend to be leaner. Look for ground beef that is at least 95% lean. Ground turkey breast or chicken breast are other lean options.

5. Alcohol. Moderate drinking may be good for your heart, but heavy drinking can rev up the aging process. "Moderate" is one drink per day for women (such as a 5-ounce glass of wine or 12-ounce glass of beer) and two for men.

Foods to Favor

Go for a Mediterranean-style diet, says Harlan. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein can help fight inflammation and keep you looking your best, he says.

Eat whole foods that are closest to their natural state as possible, says Giancoli. For example, instead of apple sauce, try a fresh whole apple.

Here’s a list of five foods that are examples of the kinds of foods to eat more of:

1. Romaine lettuce. It's high in vitamins A and C, which curb inflammation. Also try broccoli, spinach, arugula, watercress, escarole, and endive.

2. Tomatoes. They're rich in a nutrient called lycopene. So are watermelon, grapefruit, guavas, asparagus, and red cabbage.

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