According to recent research, there are five food habits that age you. Besides adding unwanted fat, dietary demons like sugary, fatty, refined and highly processed foods also can subtract years from your life.
You’re the Chemist
Nutrition, not age, determines your body’s internal chemistry, and that chemistry helps determine the health, quality and resiliency of every cell, organ and system in your body. Determined in part by what you eat, everything from the quality of your skin, bones, brain and connective tissue is dictated by diet.
Can you break any of these bad habits to help you lessen the effects of food on aging?
Bad Habit #1 – Fast Food
Offender: Trans fat
How it ages you: Trans fat is to chronic inflammation as kerosene is to fire. Inflammation ages you from the inside out by nibbling away at your telemeres, the caps protecting the ends of your chromosomes. “Every time a chromosome divides, its telomere shortens. So telomere length is not only a sign of how old you are, but also a measure of how well your body is aging.” according to Care2.
Mehmet Oz, MD, a heart surgeon at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City compares telomeres to the tips on the ends of your shoelaces. If they break, the chromosomes fray. That’s bad, he explains, because the shorter the telomere, the less efficient the chromosome. How does that translate in the body? “If your telomeres are short, you lose your ability to regenerate your organs,” he explains.
The Fix: Stay away from fast food, read product labels and stay away from trans fat.
Bad Habit #2 – Having a Sweet Tooth
Big Offender: Sucrose (the refined, highly processed and crystallized version of plant sugars)
How it ages you: Our body’s evolved with a limited ability to break down sugar, and unfortunately most diets have way too much sugar. This puts a strain on our system. Excess sugar stays in the blood, which causes trouble by adhering onto protein molecules, an age-accelerating process called glycosylation that causes cellular aging in several ways.
The Fix: Quit processed sugar! Choose foods with less processed sugar and go for natural sugars such as honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar instead of white sugar.
Bad Habit #3 – Too Many Carbs
Big Offender: Refined, starchy carbohydrates.
How it ages you: Think of refined carbs as sugar in disguise. “Every starch turns into sugar the minute it hits your bloodstream,” says Lodge. Beyond glycosylation, refined carbs set the stage for insulin resistance. Your body produces too much insulin as a result.
The Fix: Eat complex carbohydrates, such as legumes, vegetables and 100 percent whole grain foods. Whole grains take longer for the body to digest, and the sugar is released in a slow steady stream.
Bad Habit #4 – Eating when you are Starving
Big Offender: Ghrelin (a hormone made by the digestive system that increases appetitive)
How it ages you: Waiting too long between meals is one of the surest ways to age the body before its time, says Oz. That’s because hunger pangs can lead to overeating, which may lead to obesity. Here’s how it works: A growling stomach signals “hunger” in the brain by releasing the hormone ghrelin. The problem is that it takes 30 minutes for ghrelin levels to return to normal once you’ve started to nosh. So odds are you’ll overeat.
The Fix: Don’t wait until you are starving to eat, instead keep a little food in your stomach at all times, advises Dr. Oz. Schedule regular snacks or meal breaks into your day.
Bad Habit #5 – Eating when Stressed
Big Offender: Corisol (a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands)
How it ages you: Stress hormones – automatically released by the body under stress, hurt digestion. First, the release of adrenaline and cortisol diverts blood away from your stomach and toward your limbs which inhibits digestion.
Second, stress throw off the stomach’s acidity and its ability to aborb certain nutrients such as B12. Cortisol suppresses the body’s repair mechanisms! “By eating when you’re stressed, it’s as if you are damaging your body and locking out the repair crews,” say Henry Lodge, MD, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller “Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit and Sexy — Until You’re 80 and Beyond.”
The Fix: Slow down at mealtime. Try not to eat when you are stressed, at work, or in the car. Instead, eat at a table where you can relax and focus on your food and the pleasure of eating.