Is 50 the New 30? Make Age Your Ally!

Does getting older mean that it is only a matter of time before you start to experience certain age-related difficulties? It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, as the cliché goes; “with age comes wisdom”. I remember when I was growing up, my parents made every effort to feed me nutritious foods and make me aware of eating healthy. However, with youthful exuberance comes youthful ignorance. I had a tendency to have my parents’ very sound advice go in one ear and out the other. I pretended to listen, but often what I was being told by them fell on deaf ears. So how did I come around? Well, I’m not really sure. But I do know that as I got older, I began to realize I didn’t know it all and sought out the advice from my parents, grandparents, teachers, and friends, among others. What did they all have in common? They had gained profound knowledge through experience!

I’ve proudly just entered my fifth decade on this earth. And, believe me, my road hasn’t always been a smooth one. But, over the past 50 years, I have been smart enough to understand the many resources that are available, and to use them to my advantage. We are definitely in an information age where an abundance of information can be accessed via a few keystrokes. Isn’t it great that we can leverage health information and put it to great use? There is evidence of great health success stories everywhere!

I am very thankful that at age 50, I can still run 26 miles, participate in triathlons and still have a relatively youthful look about me. I may not look like I’m 30, but I sure as heck don’t look like I’m 50 either! My Dad has always inspired me. He is 78 and has participated in senior softball leagues for decades. He has had 2 knee replacements! When he grew up, there was very limited health information available, but he always watched his weight, never smoked, and ate his veggies! In fact, he credits this lifestyle with prolonging his senior softball playing days.

Foods for Longevity

As my parents did with me, it’s important that I share what I have learned over the years with, most importantly, my 2 sons Nick and Noah, and also with all of you. With that said, the theme of the August issue is “Food and Nutrients – The Secrets for Longevity”. It is great to know that things haven’t changed over the years in what determines what are healthy foods. For years, the most beneficial diets for longevity rely heavily on fresh vegetables, fruits, and legumes — foods that are nutrient dense and are naturally low in calories. According to Paz Eilat, MD, the antioxidant compounds found in produce, legumes, and whole grains are largely responsible for that often elusive “fountain of youth”.

“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,” says Eilat. The body also produces free radicals when exposed to 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 many age-related diseases, including cancer, heart disease and inflammatory conditions,” explains Eilat. “And it doesn’t get better with age as aging increases free radical production.” Therefore, an increased emphasis has to be put on eating a healthy diet as you get older. And that is not easy with the proliferation of processed foods!

Anti-Aging Nutrition

The need for antioxidant rich foods for healthy aging is a great start when it comes to longevity. However, aging well means incorporating a comprehensive regimen of beneficial nutrients in the form of food and dietary supplements. You must also minimize dietary components often found in processed foods, which, (1) produce little enzyme activity, (2) contain little or no fibrous material, and (3) often contain saturated and trans-fats. These foods are devitalized food sources that are not fresh, have fewer nutrients, and may contain large amounts of chemicals and toxins which were added during their processing. Coloring agents, artificial flavors, and preservatives make the food appear more attractive and taste fresher, but are loaded with chemicals. Even non-processed foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, whole grains and meats, often contain chemical residues from pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and other substances used to make them grow.

Include the following foods (and, if needed, supplements) in your diet in an effort to promote anti-aging activity in your body.

Omega 3s
Most commonly found in fish, including salmon and tuna, these healthy fats:

• reduce the risk of plaque buildup in your arteries
• decrease blood triglyceride (fat) levels
• helps lower blood pressure

Fish is a great protein choice because it contains very little saturated fat and/or cholesterol.

Supplement Alternative – Fish Oil softgels: The most beneficial form of Omega-3 fats contains two fatty acids – EPA and DHA – which promote wide ranging anti-aging activity in the body. “Fish oil reduces systemic inflammation which is the key in preventing the development of some chronic illnesses including various cognitive problems,” says Exercise Physiologist, Dominique Clarke, MS. Be sure to buy fish oil products from companies that follow strict procedures to eliminate environmental contaminants. This will help to assure the highest purity of its fish oil supplements.

Fruits and Vegetables
As mentioned earlier in this article, many of today’s fruits and vegetables contain chemical residues from pesticides,herbicides, hormones and other substances used to make them grow. If possible, eat organic fruits and vegetables that provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals, as well as hundreds of anti-aging phytonutrients. According to Eilat; “People who eat the most produce have higher levels of antioxidants in their bloodstream, which often translates to better aging. People who eat the daily recommended value of fruits and vegetables every day also have stronger bones due to the magnesium and potassium levels.”

Supplement Alternative – Sulforaphane: This compound occurs naturally in broccoli. Many phytochemicals, including sulforaphane, may help explain why diets rich in fruits and cruciferous vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Sulforaphane has also been identified as a powerful antioxidant reducing the damage to cells that result from aging.

To be clear, whole food nutritional supplements are one step away from fresh foods. Medical Science reminds us every day that good nutrition and good health go hand in hand, especially when it comes to the health benefits of eating fresh, raw fruits and vegetables. Researchers continue to find elements in fruits and vegetables that:

• strengthen the immune system
• impede the development of degenerative diseases
• have anti-aging properties

Unfortunately, most people don’t eat nearly enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. And those we do eat tend to be over processed, overcooked, or too far removed from the field and lacking much of their original nutritional value. Fruit and vegetable extracts and concentrates allow you to increase your intake of raw fruits and vegetables in supplement form. These supplements are the next best thing to eating fresh, raw fruits and vegetables. Don’t get me wrong. Everyone should be encouraged to eat more raw fruits and vegetables. But is that realistic?

Legumes, such as black beans and soy beans, are loaded with complex carbohydrates and fiber to ensure more stable blood glucose and insulin levels. They also provide a cholesterol-free source of protein and are packed with antioxidants that promote longevity.

Supplement Alternative: Carbohydrate Supplements: These come in powdered form. There are two basic types: blends and pure. Blends are “weight gainers” that consist of mostly pure carbohydrates with proteins, fats and other supplements. Pure carbohydrate supplements are exactly that; 100% pure carbohydrates. At the end of the day, (for this type of nutrition), I recommend real food. Because good complex carbohydrates are readily available, inexpensive and easy to consume, carbohydrate supplements are not as common as protein supplements.

Whole Grains
Whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta, cracked wheat and wild rice, are typically not processed and retain more of their natural nutrients, particularly the anti-aging nutrients vitamin E, fiber, and B vitamins. Whole grains also contain a wealth of antioxidant compounds. As with legumes, I don’t recommend a supplement alternative for whole grains. The USDA recommends a minimum of three servings of whole grains daily, yet most adults average only one serving. Therefore most of us lack the critical nutrients whole grains provide.

Be Calorie Conscious!

Health professionals are also quick to point out that maintaining a healthy weight and watching your calorie intake will also have a significant impact on aging. “Being overweight stresses your cardiovascular system, including your heart and blood vessels, as well as your joints”, says Eilat. He also goes on to explain that being overweight is one of the accelerators which are positively correlated with getting older. Excess body fat also increases the likelihood of serious cognitive problems and certain cancers, among other age-related maladies. It’s as easy as simply cutting your caloric intake by 200 calories per day from your regular dietary intake. This will significantly increase your chances of living well into your 7th and 8th decades in relatively good health! Reduced caloric intake also lowers the body’s core temperature and insulin levels, two major indicators of longevity.

Getting older doesn’t mean your quality of life has too suffer. It just doesn’t have to be that way! Don’t be influenced by “old school” types who believe that getting old means a life void of passion and zeal. Although limitations begin to creep in as you age, remember, with knowledge comes power! Educate yourself! There are foods and supplements that will have a profound impact on longevity. And understanding this will position you for a much better quality existence that will accompany you well into your senior years!

About Mark Becker

Mark Becker has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 15 years. He has written more than 250 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor's in journalism from Long Beach State University and did his master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For almost 30 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 100 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement and homeopathic regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors.

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8 years ago

You said it all! Mum and dad were right after all =) It’s the choice we always make, whether it be the food we eat, the style of cooking, the exercise or the dull moments. As we age, wise choice is a must! Cheers.