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"Aging is often associated with the development of one or more chronic
diseases, but it doesn't have to be that way," says Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD,
professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts
It's not always just a matter of time before you have a heart
attack or stroke, get type 2 diabetes or cancer, break a hip
because of osteoporosis,
or develop Alzheimer's, even though these conditions are often associated with
aging, Blumberg says.
Your risk for disease and disability increases with inadequate physical
activity, genetic susceptibility, and poor diet.
Aging: Defy It With Diet
So what's the best eating plan for preventing, delay, or minimizing the
conditions associated with aging, including inflamed joints, flagging memory,
and failing eyesight?
"The most beneficial diets rely heavily on fresh vegetables, fruits, and
legumes -- foods that are naturally lower in calories and packed with
nutrients," says Bradley Willcox, MD, MPH, co-author of The Okinawa
Diet Plan and professor of geriatrics at the University of Hawaii.
Experts suspect the antioxidant compounds found in produce, legumes, and
whole grains are largely responsible for holding back the march of time.
Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, and other compounds, including
polyphenols and anthocyanins, battle free radicals -- unstable forms of oxygen
that damage cell function. Free radicals form from normal metabolism. Your body
also produces them in response to strong ultraviolet rays from the sun; air
pollution; smoking; and secondhand smoke.
The buildup of free radicals contributes to the aging process and to the
development of a number of age-related diseases such as cancer, heart
disease, and inflammatory conditions, including osteoarthritis.
What's worse, aging increases free radical production. That means your diet
should be healthier than ever with the passage of time.
The question, of course, is how do we do that?
Antioxidants generate a lot of buzz when it comes to longevity, but aging
well takes more. You must optimize a myriad of beneficial nutrients, including
protein, calcium, and vitamin D, and minimize detrimental dietary components
including saturated and trans fats.
While none of these foods is the "Fountain of Youth," including them
on a regular basis as part of a balanced diet can reduce the toll time takes on
Nuts are cholesterol-free protein sources, and are worthy substitutes for
fatty meats. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical
Nutrition found that in a group of nearly 35,000 women, those who ate
foods rich in vitamin E, including nuts, lowered their risk of having a stroke.