Foods to Stay Young
An Apple a Day ...
Oct. 10, 2001 -- Gray hair, achy joints, wrinkled skin. The
inevitable signs of aging. What if you could delay the onset of the infirmities
that come with aging? To be able to challenge white-water rapids in a raft
alongside your grandchildren. Or to not have to exchange your treadmill for a
Sound too good to be true? Well, you can do it. It will take
some work, though. Prolonging your life isn't about swallowing an herbal
supplement or vitamin for a few months. If you want to stay young, you have to
make a long-term commitment to eating right. The word from researchers: Tipping
the balance toward more nutrient-rich foods while you're still young can go a
long way toward keeping you healthier longer.
Sure, you've heard it before, probably from your mother when
she urged you to eat more greens and fewer slices of pepperoni pizza. A study
in the August 2000 issue of the journal Circulation shows that Mom had a
point. Young people can prematurely age, too. In fact, researchers found
cholesterol deposits in the arteries of teenagers and young adults.
Indeed, the effects of aging start sooner than you might think.
We age along a continuum, rather than all of a sudden, says Robert Russell, MD,
professor of medicine and nutrition at Tufts University in Boston. "You
don't wake up one morning to notice you've aged," he says. "The
age-related nutrition issues that confront seniors -- from osteoporosis to
heart disease -- begin in the early adult years."
You Are What You Eat
That means that the foods you may or may not be eating could be
laying the foundation for your health, or lack of it, during your senior years.
Of course, eating well is a difficult choice with the ever-present temptations
of fast food and junk food.
But take a look at what these foods are doing to you. Sour
cream-filled burritos and grease-soaked french fries provide fodder for
artery-clogging plaques. A fiberless daily menu of a beef patty nestled between
two slices of white bread promotes constipation, setting you up for
diverticulitis, a painful condition of the colon that afflicts half of all
Americans over 60. And forgoing milk and calcium-enriched juices for
super-sized sugary sodas only encourages the onset of osteoporosis and tooth
decay. Add decades of smoking, an inactive lifestyle, stress, and other
environmental factors and you will age -- early and quickly.
The alternate scenario is much more attractive. Minerals from
calcium-rich dairy foods and greens can strengthen your bones. Fiber from whole
grains helps to keep bowel movements regular. And the antioxidants from fruits
and vegetables help to prevent cancer from developing by fighting off free
radicals, the byproducts of the body's everyday processes that damage DNA,
cells, and tissues.