I’ve been writing a lot about foods and lifestyle practices that slow down the aging process. Because in my opinion, age is just a number. In fact, I look and feel younger today than I did 10 years ago. That’s right! I’ve been following my own advice. I nourish my body with bone broth, collagen powder, and many other anti-aging superfoods. I make sleep a priority. I manage my stress. And, I avoid the following foods that accelerate the aging process inside and out.
I could go on and on for days about the harmful effects of sugar. It’s inflammatory. It affects your gut microbiome. And an excess can increase your risk of many diseases that diminish your quality of life as well as your lifespan.
But there’s more! If you follow my work, you know I’m always talking about how important collagen is for wrinkle-free skin and healthy joints among many other things. Well, sugar is capable of damaging your precious collagen. Yikes!
You see, sugar reacts with free proteins, fats, and nucleic acids (molecules that make up your DNA) to form advanced glycation end products (a.k.a. AGEs). And these AGEs cause damage by promoting inflammation and oxidative stress as well as altering the structure and function of proteins, such as your collagen. Thus, it’s not surprising that research has found a connection between high levels of AGEs and many diseases, including diabetes, dementia, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and cataracts to name a few. There is even evidence suggesting that AGEs may contribute to a loss in bone density as well as muscle mass.
So if you want to stay forever young, sugar is not your friend. Especially refined sugars, such as white cane sugar, powdered sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and so on. And it’s worth mentioning that white flours are just as bad. They quickly turn into sugar once they enter your body.
However, I’m not saying you can never eat fruit or other healthier forms of sugar like raw honey, molasses, and pure maple syrup. But you must keep it under control.
If you’re a sugar addict, I recommend my 21-Day Bone Broth Diet or my 10-Day Belly Slimdown to help kick the habit. And once you’re recovered, I have many delicious dessert recipes to keep you satisfied for a (long) lifetime.
Every cell in your body has a membrane made up of mainly fat. It’s called the lipid bilayer. And your body gets these lipids from the fats you eat. Thus, it’s important to eat a mix (saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated) of healthy, natural fats so that your cell membranes function optimally.
The problem with trans fats found in processed and fried foods is that the chemical structure isn’t natural. Because it’s chemically made by taking a natural liquid oil and hydrogenating it (adding hydrogen) to turn it into a solid fat.
So when your body assimilates trans fats into your cell membranes, they become too rigid and things begin to malfunction.
Your cells are no longer able to effectively communicate with the outside world, maintain a healthy internal environment and adapt to changing conditions to avoid damage. And cellular damage is one of the biggest factors involved in the aging process.
In fact, this meta-analysis found that trans fat consumption is linked to a 34% increase in risk of death for any reason, a 24% increase in risk of dying from coronary heart disease, and an 18% increase in risk of developing coronary heart disease. No, thank you!
But it gets even worse. Because trans fat affects cellular signaling, communication between neurons in your central nervous system can become impaired. And this can lead to the dreaded cognitive decline associated with aging.
Plus, trans fatty acids have been associated with an increased risk of dementia related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Possibly due to an increase in small dense particles of LDL cholesterol that we now know play a role in the pathology of dementia.
And I can’t neglect to mention that trans fats are also inflammatory. This is problematic because inflammation can lead to cellular damage as well as any of the diseases I mentioned above and more.
So to keep your cells youthful, avoid all trans fatty acids. This means skipping the french fries (and all commercially fried food) and carefully reading ingredient labels. Even if a food says it has zero grams of trans fat, it doesn’t mean you’re safe. Because manufacturers can get away with labeling a product as having zero trans fat as long as the trans fat content is below 0.5 grams per serving. And guess who sets the serving size? The manufacturer! So if the ingredient list has a “partially hydrogenated” oil, put it back on the shelf.
Some common foods with trans fats include “butter” spreads, ice cream, chips, and donuts. But like I always say…don’t sacrifice. Swap instead! Use real grass-fed butter instead of margarine. And have you ever tried kale chips?
First, let me get one thing straight. There is no such thing as “vegetable” oil. Because there are no oils made from vegetables. Canola oil is made from rapeseeds, corn is made from corn (a grain), and soy oil is made from soybeans. You see what I’m saying?
But when you slap the word “vegetable” onto anything, it sounds healthy. Again, another genius marketing ploy. But don’t let word vegetable fool you!
Canola oil, corn oil, and soy oil are heavily processed oils. Stripped of nutrients present in the original crop. And during this process, the oils are damaged and oxidized. This means that before you even cook with them, they’re rancid. But, manufacturers deodorize and bleach them so you’d never know.
So when you consume these oxidized oils, they have the capacity to promote inflammation and free radical damage. Two key players when it comes to accelerated aging.
This is why I don’t recommend cooking with vegetable oils or eating processed foods. Sadly, almost all processed foods contain vegetable oils along with sugar. It’s a double whammy!
Healthier oils come from olives, coconuts, and avocados. These “fruits” are all naturally rich in fats that can be cold-pressed and minimally processed. Plus, research has shown that diets rich in extra virgin olive oil are associated with lower disease risks and longevity.
Factory Farmed Meats
I believe eating an abundance of colorful vegetables and fruits is essential to radiant skin as well as a long and healthy life. However, I do eat meat and recommend my patients do as well. But quality matters!
I don’t eat factory farmed meat, which comes from animals raised in poor living conditions, administered hormones and antibiotics and fed an unnatural junk diet. Because unhealthy animals produce unhealthy meat. And this is the type of meat associated with health risks, including inflammation.
On the other hand, I stick to pasture-raised animals that are humanely treated, free to roam and fed a natural diet. For example, this means allowing cows to graze on grass. And numerous studies have demonstrated that grass-fed beef contains significantly higher levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats than feedlot beef.
Plus, I don’t eat 16 oz steaks. A portion of meat is 4 oz–about the size of a deck of cards. I then fill the rest of my plate with vegetables and suggest my patients do the same.
Unfiltered Tap Water
I don’t recommend bottled water because it’s packaged in plastic, which presents a problem for your health as well as our planet. But unfiltered tap water is also a no no.
Sadly, our water supply is contaminated with pesticides, medications, heavy metals, you name it! These are all toxins that can burden your system, slow things down, and cause cellular damage.
Thus, I recommend investing in a good water filter. It will actually save you money in the long run. And getting a stainless steel or glass water bottle for when you’re on the go is highly recommended. Because your cells need a steady stream of clean water to function at top speed as well as stay plump and juicy.
When plants are grown with pesticides, it’s almost impossible to fully wash them off before eating them. This means ingesting them is most likely.
Now, there are different classes of pesticides and their effects range from hormone disruption to DNA damage to oxidative stress to cancer and beyond. All risks that can significantly impact how well your body functions and for how long. And while some pesticides may be safer than others, you never really know which pesticides have been used. So I prefer to play it safe.
At minimum, I always recommend my patients buy organic when it comes to the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen. This is a list of fruits and veggies grown with the highest concentrations of pesticides. On the other hand, the Environmental Working Group also publishes a list of the Clean Fifteen every year. These are crops that are generally grown with very low amounts of pesticides. Which means it’s safer to buy conventional if you can’t find or afford organic.
To Sum it Up
Sometimes it might seem daunting when someone suggests you shouldn’t eat this or that. But what it really comes down to is eating more foods from nature and less from a package. When you do this, you will automatically be consuming less trans fats, refined carbs and sugars, and vegetable oils. And when it comes to everything else, invest in higher quality options like pastured meats and organic fruits and veggies. It may seem expensive now, but think of it as an investment in your future. Because I don’t know about you, but I want to thrive, not just survive, well into my golden years.
Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!