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Is Your Food Making You Age Faster?

You’ve probably heard the old expression: “Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional.”

I like that idea, but maybe a better phrase would be, “Growing old is mandatory, but having your body deteriorate in your later years due to poor dietary choices is optional.”

Here on “Wellness Wednesday,” we talk about the “Eat Right” portion of our mission: “Move Right, Eat Right, Think Right, Live Right.” I want to combat some of the misconceptions about the food we eat and how it affects us.

Many people live every day with chronic, debilitating illnesses because they don’t understand that the food they are eating is hurting them. Not only does it give you indigestion and heartburn, it can contribute to:

  • Migraine headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Arthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Influenza
  • Blindness
  • Hair loss
  • Premature aging

That last one is the one I want to address today. What are the characteristics you think of when I mention aging? Maybe wrinkled skin, poor posture, grey hair, diminishing sight. The list goes on and on. Now that you have that picture in your mind, let’s look at a couple of foods that you can remove from your diet (or at least reduce) that can help you stave off some of these signs of aging.

Sugar

Have you ever seen an ad with a petite, youthful model taking a bite of some scrumptious-looking sugary desert. When I see that, I know that there are only two options available: 1) she is only partaking of that sugary snack because she is in the ad, but doesn’t eat it on a regular basis, or 2) she has a ton of makeup on.

According to dermatologist Jessica Wu, M.D., author of Feed Your Face, “a diet high in sugar” activates enzymes that “devour healthy collagen.” Collagen is the substance that keeps your skin smooth, tight, and healthy-looking on your face. As that collagen system breaks down, the depletion is literally “all over your face.”

Sugar also contributes to inflammation. Inflammation is a wide subject, but it may be best to summarize it as your body’s first response to infection, irritation, and tissue damage:

  • That scratchy throat you feel at the onset of a cold? That’s your body responding to a foreign invader with T-cells.
  • That rash? Your body has detected poison in your skin and it’s mobilized an army to neutralize it.
  • Swelling joints after work? Your body is working to repair the torn muscles.

While there are several environmental factors that contribute to inflammation, sugar is an important one, and the best part is, how much you consume is totally within your control.

Red Meat (and Black Meat??)

“Fatty meat generates free radicals,” says Ariel Ostad, MD, fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. Free radicals are unhealthy cells in the body that damage healthy cells by stealing electrons from them. Collagen is especially vulnerable to free radicals.

I’m not going to argue with you if you want to have a burger from time to time, but I always recommend you stick with leaner meats, like chicken and turkey. But more important is how it’s prepared: that black char on your steak may contain pro-inflammatory hydrocarbons, which accelerate aging in your outer appearance, as well as in how you feel.

We also need to remove all processed meats from our diets. The nitrates, nitrates and sulfates that keep your sausages from rotting in the package are some of the most toxic things you can put in your mouth.

Alcohol

There is an old expression that says, “Healthy liver, healthy skin.” The medical benefits of drinking alcohol are questionable at best (to say nothing of the emotional, spiritual, and relational benefits), but the negatives are obvious all over our world. Over-consumption of alcohol breaks down your liver, which is the most important filter for cleaning toxins out of your body. If those toxins aren’t properly eliminated from the body, your skin can develop a variety of issues, like acne, reduced elasticity, and wrinkles.

It has also been show to disrupt your sleep, and a good night’s sleep is an important contributor to longevity. Sleep is where the body replenishes, detoxifies, and resets your organs. We’ll talk more about sleep in a later article, but the most important thing to know is that you need it.

Wheat

This may be shocking to some people, but wheat can have devastating effects on your body. Much has been made of the effects of gluten commonly found in bread and other wheat products. One of the dangers of gluten is that it breaks down digestive enzymes in the gastro-intestinal tract.

Wheat also contains Amylopectin-A, a unique carbohydrate which has been found in some tests to spike your blood sugar higher than even pure table sugar. So it’s possible the toast you had for breakfast might actually be harder on your blood-sugar balance than the Fruit Loops you had with it.

I don’t mean to ruin your day by taking away all your favorite foods, but with knowledge comes power, and I want you to be able to make educated choices about what you eat. For some people, enjoying a steak, a glass of wine, or a candy bar is worth the discomfort they may feel later. But if looking and feeling young in your later years is important years is important to you, than you can do something about it. That’s up to you.

Incidentally, if you’re in Southwest Florida, I would like to invite you to our next Fundamental Food Event, tomorrow, March 5th, at our office in Naples. We’re going to dig deeper into our relationship with food. I’ve got some fascinating things to share with you. Bring a dish to share.

If this article was helpful to you, or you know someone who could benefit from this insight, please share it. Who knows? This might be the answer to a friend’s nagging health question.

Take care. I’ll see you here next week.

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