A lot of attention is paid to looking youthful and healthy on the outside.
What if you could improve how the body aged from the inside out by making a few dietary changes?
Judy Carr, a registered dietician at Saratoga Hospital, explained how that is possible.
Inflammations within the body are at the root of many chronic illnesses from diabetes, to arthritis to cancer, she said. There is a blood test available that measures the amount of inflammation in the body by measuring a protein called the C-reactive protein in your blood. The higher the protein, the higher the inflammation. There are ways— through diet and exercise — to reduce internal inflammation.
The key, Carr said, is to incorporate into our diets foods that contain anti-inflammatory compounds. Following is a list of anti-aging foods she recommends. If you can’t incorporate them all, try embracing a few of the suggestions at a time.
u Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in walnuts and raw almonds. Avoid dry roasted nuts, which typically contain nonpartially hydrogenated oils that counteract the benefit of the nuts’ natural oils.
u Soy-based products, including soy nuts, tofu and soy-based salad dressings. If you have had breast cancer, it is better not to consume soy as estrogen-like substances (isoflavones) in soy may stimulate the estrogen receptors of breast cancer cells and can accelerate tumor growth.
u Incorporate the spices turmeric and ginger into your cooking. “These spices are typically found in Indian and Asian foods,” Carr said. A simple way to ingest ginger is to drink ginger tea or add crystallized ginger to your favorite tea.
u Probiotics are good bacteria found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt. Carr recommends drinking Kefir, a cultured buttermilk, loaded with beneficial bacteria that is readily available at local supermarkets.
wine and chocolate
u Drink a glass of red wine a day.
u Enjoy a small amount of dark chocolate each day. “You want chocolate that has at least 70 percent cacao,” she noted.
u Overall, Carr suggested people decrease the amount of red meat consumed and instead eat more fish especially shrimp, mackerel, bluefish, scallop, salmon and sardines. All of these are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which are beneficial to the body.
u Add fiber. Fiber in the body can reduce inflammation, regulate insulin levels and give a feeling of fullness. Carr suggests eating fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain breads.
For fruits, people should consider berries, she said. Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are all high in anti-oxidants and fiber, which act as cancer fighters and help protect against heart disease, she said.
Pomegranates, papaya and kiwi are also rich in anti-oxidants, fiber and vitamin C. The general rule of thumb is to choose fruits with rich color. “The more color, the more nutritious they are,” she noted.
u Try stevia, a plant whose leaves are a natural sweetener. Stevia can be purchased at health food stores and used as a sweetener. Carr called stevia a great alternative to artificial sweeteners, which have come under fire as possibly promoting insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. Be cautious when purchasing foods — even those you believe are healthy — and select those without artificial sweeteners, Carr advised.
u For bone health, include calcium citrate with vitamin D supplements and get outside when you can. The best source of Vitamin D is the sun, she said.
A doctor can check your vitamin D level and determine if you are deficient, Carr said, noting that a deficiency mimics arthritis.
While it would be ideal to eat right all the time, including a few dietary changes at your routine and making them a habit has benefits, Carr said.