At a fundamental level, we know sugar, fat, and salt is bad for us. When we are young, our body is up to the challenge. The challenge of offsetting the effects of eating too much of the bad things and rebounding. As we age, however, the wear and tear of every day life takes its toll on our body. Our reaction time slows and our body’s ability to counter the effects of poor eating habits becomes less successful. In time, the poor eating habits win over and we slowly succumb to the effects of what we eat. We become that which we do not want – a body of inflammation, insulin resistant, hormone fluctuations, and weight gain. Simply knowing that certain foods are bad for us may not be enough to convince us to change. However, knowing what these culprits do to our body and the long-term effect it has on us may be just the catalyst we need to change our eating habits.
We love convenience foods. Something that gives us extra time. While the convenience can be priceless at the time, the cost to make it that way comes with a price later. Ensuring shelf-life and stability requires the manufacturer to add chemicals to prevent the breakdown of the food item. Our body was not designed to tolerate the daily influx of chemicals. The constant onslaught creates an environment of inflammation, which is really a low-grade, systemic irritation that begins at our core and permeates throughout our body. The problem with inflammation is that it accelerates our aging process. While aging is a natural process, no one would say “Please make me age faster.” But eating processed foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils does just that. How? By eroding the protection on our genes that inhibit cell death. If the protection is gone, cell death (a natural process) occurs much faster than it normally would.
Having a sweet tooth and eating more of it than we should also ages our body by slowing the body’s repair mechanism. It also creates oxidative stress which leads to a build up of toxins. Eating too many refined carbohydrates is another culprit to aging us because in essence, refined carbs are really sugars. Meals that are laden with refined carbs cause a spike in our insulin. Inevitably the pancreas miscalculates how much insulin it needs so too much is then circulating in our system. Once this happens, blood sugar drops and you find yourself hungry again a short time later. Insulin resistance develops which is a precursor to diseases like type 2 diabetes.
So what is the fix to prevent an acceleration to our aging?
- Reduce the amount of processed foods you consume. Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store when you shop.
- Eat the right kinds of fats that nourish the cell membranes. Fats that are high in omega-3 such as salmon, grouper, flax seeds, and sesame seeds are ideal.
- Increase your intake of leafy greens and berries. Foods that contain antioxidants and phytonutrients.
- Stay away from refined sugar as much as possible. Instead, to satisfy your sweet tooth, opt for foods made with honey or maple syrup. Don’t swap sugar for artificial sweeteners either.
- Choose carbohydrates from whole-food sources such as whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits, and seeds.
Be realistic with your expectations. Change in smaller increments if it’s easier that way. Don’t go in with the attitude of “all or nothing.” Removing the barriers to optimal health will help your body begin the process of healing and help to decelerate the aging process. Healthy aging should look and feel good.