Life might be full of uncertainties, but one thing’s for sure – at some point in the future you’re going to die! Yet, although the overall life expectancy in the UK is currently 81 years of age, you could live even longer simply by adopting a healthier lifestyle. Of course your genes will always play a role in determining the age that you reach, but they’re not the only deciding factor – indeed, both diet and lifestyle can also affect your life expectancy demonstrably. It has been scientifically proven for example, that a sensible diet, such as one that’s rich in nutrient-dense superfoods, may even help to delay diseases for which you have a genetic predisposition. And, according to the US News & World Report, you can significantly slow down the aging process and help to prevent chronic contemporary diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, by adapting your lifestyle and eating habits, in order to combat the four main causes of aging.
Below you’ll learn more about the four main causes of aging, what you can do to avoid them, and finally, which powerful superfoods can help to keep you young.
The four main causes of aging
There are many conflicting theories about how to increase your longevity and stay young, but one of the most widely accepted concerns free radicals. Free radicals are aggressive chemicals that are created as a natural by-product of your metabolism and will ultimately harm your DNA. According to the theory, your DNA becomes increasingly damaged over the course of time. Eventually your body is no longer able to repair itself or function correctly and you become ill and die. Your body produces more of these free radicals in response to an unhealthy lifestyle – smoking, consuming large quantities of processed foods that contain trans fats and other harmful additives, or regularly coming into contact with pesticides, all increase your manufacture of free radicals, and thus your potential for premature death.
How to avoid free radicals
Try to minimise your exposure to harmful substances wherever possible. You can start by:
- Stopping smoking.
- Eliminating processed foods and trans fats from your diet.
- Going organic.
- Ridding your household of toxic cleaners, air fresheners and plant sprays.
- Avoiding soaps, cosmetics and other toiletries that contain aggressive chemicals.
- Limiting your exposure to the sun (UV radiation is one of the major creators of free radicals).
Superfoods that combat free radicals
Antioxidants actively seek out and destroy free radicals – a Japanese study revealed that those who regularly consume large quantities of antioxidants show less signs of the cognitive decline that’s typically associated with aging. Other studies link antioxidants to the prevention of cardiovascular, inflammatory and vision-related diseases, including age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma. You can therefore stay young and live longer, simply by choosing for a diet that’s high in antioxidant-rich superfoods, such as:
- Organic superfruits and berries – including organic goji berries, organic mulberries and organic acai berries. In fact, organic acai berry powder benefits from an unusually high concentration of antioxidants – it has a higher ORAC rating than blueberries, pomegranates and red grapes.
- Raw cacao products – including organic cacao powder, organic cacao beans and organic cacao nibs. Raw cacao products are especially high in anthocyanin and epicatechins and have a greater antioxidant capability than black tea, green tea or red wine.
- Organic matcha green tea powder – contains a special antioxidant known as epigallocatechin gallate or ECG, which is renowned for its cancer fighting properties and an ability to counteract the effects of free radicals from pollution, UV rays, radiation and chemicals.
- Organic coconut oil – rich in antioxidant vitamin E, which not only protects against heart disease; it also helps to delay the deterioration linked to aging, such as cataracts and wrinkles. A study published in the “Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine” journal suggests that the polyphenol compounds in coconut oil may even reduce the loss of bone density that occurs with osteoporosis.
Inflammation also plays an important role in the various diseases associated with aging, such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease. Inflammation is your body’s attempt at self-protection from damaged cells, irritants or pathogens.
How to prevent inflammation:
Scientific research indicates that you can reduce your risk of inflammation and protect yourself from the resulting high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, by doing some of the following:
- Taking regular physical exercise, such as walking, running or visiting the gym.
- Increasing your vitamin D intake, by enjoying sensible and controlled exposure to the sun or by taking a quality vitamin D supplement during winter.
- Reducing your intake of omega-6 fatty acids by limiting or eliminating trans fats from your diet.
Superfoods that combat inflammation
There are many superfoods that can help to protect against inflammation, including:
- Raw cacao products – such as organic cacao powder, organic cacao beans and organic cacao nibs.
- Organic coconut oil – an ideal replacement for cooking oil, margarine or butter that, thanks to its cholesterol-lowering properties, can help to prevent aging.
- Pure krill oil – an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids that helps to balance your omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid ratio.
Glycation occurs when sugars are combined with protein and fat to form so-called “advanced glycation end-products’, or AGEs. It is believed that AGEs accelerate the aging process by producing free radicals and triggering inflammation, thus activating your immune system. Macrophages – a type of scavenger cell that forms part of your immune system, have specific receptors that bind to AGEs and remove them – unfortunately, this process leaves traces in your body, such as plaque build-up in your arteries, which also explains why there’s such a strong link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
How to prevent glycation
You can help to prevent the formation of AGEs by:
- Reducing your cooking temperature (or switching to a predominantly rawfood diet) and thus avoiding the creation of harmful AGEs via the browning process.
- Reducing your sugar intake, and in particular, fructose, which is a major cause of the glycation and inflammation that accelerates aging. In fact, excess fructose consumption contributes to: insulin resistance, leptin resistance and obesity, raised blood pressure, elevated triglyceride and LDL levels, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, arthritis, and even cancer. Restrict your total daily fructose consumption to a maximum of 25 grams, including fructose from fresh fruit.
Superfoods that combat glycation
- Rawfood superfoods and snacks – these are never heated above 40 degrees and therefore don’t trigger the creation of AGEs.
- Natural superfood sweeteners – such as stevia extract powder, which despite its wonderfully sweet flavour, contains zero sugar.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, the lives of some 59 percent of UK adults are more stressful than five years ago. Stress produces hormones that speed up your heart rate and increase your blood pressure. In response, your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol, in an attempt to balance your endocrine system. If your body produces too much cortisol over a prolonged period of time, it may lead to inflammation, interfere with memory and learning, weaken immunity, decrease bone density, increase weight gain, raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and heighten your risk of heart disease, as well as depression and mental illness.
How to prevent stress
There are many ways to bring down your stress levels naturally. You can begin by:
- Taking gentle daily exercise, such as walking or yoga.
- Enjoying plenty of social interaction and making time for group activities and events.
- Employing simple relaxation techniques, such as prayer, affirmations or meditation.
Superfoods that combat stress
The following superfoods can help you to successfully manage your stress levels:
- Adaptogenic super berries – such as organic goji berries and organic Incan berries, which help to prevent stress by boosting your immune system and keeping your body strong. Organic Incan berries are incredibly rich in B Vitamins, which go a long way towards reducing stress, improving memory, boosting energy, combating fatigue and regulating metabolism, in addition to melatonin, which helps to regulate your biorhythm and promote a sound night’s sleep.
- Adaptogenic superfood powders – such as organic maca powder, a herb that produces a defensive response to stress, organic matcha green tea powder, which contains the amino acid, L-theanine, that helps to trigger a state of relaxed alertness and mental wellbeing, and organic ashwagandha powder, which can significantly improve the health of your adrenal system, the system that is directly responsible for managing your body’s hormonal response to stress and fatigue.