“Don’t dig your grave with your own knife and fork.” – a good olde English proverb that reminds us that we are what we eat…

We all know that following a healthy lifestyle, staying active and eating nutrient rich foods can help you stay looking and feeling younger, and even slow the ageing process by fending off age-related disease such as heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes, but what exactly does this look like?

Well, there are some very simple guidelines that are certainly worth considering.

Eat normal, uncomplicated foods which are unprocessed, unrefined and wherever possible, organic.

This means replacing convenience foods such as ready meals, breakfast cereals, and sugary or salty snacks with wholefoods such as brown rice, buckwheat, oats, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, fresh herbs, healthy proteins, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Organic food is very often more expensive, but allegedly, the benefits of eating organic are numerous, so if you can replace even some of your regular weekly shop items with organic, it would be a great place to start.

Leading dietician and naturopath Elizabeth Peyton-Jones lists 5 of the most ageing foods that we should be eliminating entirely or replacing with healthier options.

Sugar is now considered by the experts to be worse than smoking, and the refined, processsed kind that you find in convenience foods, snacks and drinks should be avoided at all costs, but the slow release carbs (the type found in wholefoods) that the body converts to glucose (sugar) to use as fuel, are vital for our wellbeing. According to the experts, even when juicing, which I do alot, you should be apportioning your juice as 2 thirds greenery (kale, spinach, celery etc) and only 1 third fruit, as the sugar in fruit juice can be just as bad as having a can of coke apparently!

A high sugar diet slows the body’s ability to repair itself and speeds up the ageing process. It’s also likely to cause aching joints, mood swings, puffy eyes, obesity, tooth decay and wrinkles!

There are some ‘healthier’ sugar alternatives out there, such as coconut palm sugar, rice malt syrup and agave nectar, but if you fancy something sweet, nibble on some nuts such as pistachios or almonds, as they are proteinous, meaning they’ll keep you fuller for longer and might stop you craving that chocolate bar (well you can still crave it, just don’t eat it). You can also try switching to whole grains and vegetables such as beetroot, carrot, tomato and sweet potato instead of convenience foods loaded with refined sugars.

Salt, the 2 components of which are sodium and chloride. Along with potassium, these are important minerals that we need in order to keep our muscles, and nerves and cells functioning well, but in excess, they can cause acidification, eliminative slowdown, hormonal imbalance and inflammation in our bodies. So the message is, don’t add extra salt to your food, and avoid processed foods, as according to the experts, we should be consuming no more than 3gm of salt (1gm sodium) per day. If you have to add salt to your food, use a good quality rock salt, such as Himalayan pink salt as it contains a higher mineral content than your regular table salt variety, or add more herbs and natural spices to flavour your food.

Cows milk – Did you know that despite the fact that its full of calcium, vitamins and protein, cows milk can trigger the same responses in the body that excess salt does, which can cause inflammatory bowel disorders and allergenic conditions such as asthma and eczema. I was diagnosed with an intolerance for lactose (naturally occurring sugar in milk and dairy products) a couple of years ago, which means my digestive system is unable to break down this particular sugar, so avoiding cow dairy is essential for me if I want to prevent stomach distress and a cotton wool head. As my dairy alternative, I can consume small amounts of goat or sheeps milk and yoghurt as it is comprised of different fat particles and smaller proteins making it better tolerated than cow dairy. Goats milk and yoghurt also contain anti-inflammatory oligosaccharides, which are not only easier to digest, but they boost the friendly bacteria in your gut. I also eat cereal with oat milk and take the odd decaf latte with almond milk or a good quality soya milk. In order to ensure you’re not compromising your calcium intake, make sure you increase your intake of nuts, seeds, grains, dark green leafy veg and nut milks, if you decide to eliminate cows milk from your diet.

Meat is not the only source of protein, and whilst protein is required to build muscles, skin and ligaments, meat also contains saturated fats 🙁 which can cause chronic inflammation in the body, irritating the gut, and encouraging free radicals. Processed meats such as bacon, sausages, burgers and ham are acid-forming, and are high in sulphites and nitrites, which have been linked to oxidative stress and the development of cancer in the body. The experts recommend no more than 100gm a week of organic chicken or turkey, and organic lamb once a month, so try switching to fish, or other proteins, such as quinoa, yoghurt, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds instead, as you will also need to ensure that your zinc and iron intake is not compromised. Meat production also impacts negatively on the environment 🙁

Bad fats or hydrogenated fats, such as those still widely used in processed foods like cakes, biscuits, fast food and ice cream, can interfere with cell function, causing inflammation, acidification, oxidation and hormonal imbalance. They have also been linked to depression, degenerative diseases, and raising bad cholesterol and lowering good cholesterol, which can increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease.

Research also suggests that olive oil, which we’ve all been told for years is good for us, morphs into a bad fat when used in cooking at high temperatures, so save it for dressings and anything where it doesn’t get heated and it will remain a good fat 🙂

However, fats are essential for maintaining cell structure, and help the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, which contribute toward healthy looking skin, brain function, mood and energy.

For the purposes of cooking, try swapping olive oil for coconut oil or rapeseed oil, as they have a higher ‘smoke point’, and make sure they are organic, cold pressed and unrefined – the less that’s been done to it, the better!

I’m also not a big fan of wheat or alcohol, but will cover the reasons for this in a future post.

Finally…

Eat slowly – take your time over a meal – the slower you eat, the better digested your food will be and the more nutrients you will absorb. You will also learn to understand and appreciate your food better.

And, whilst all of this makes perfect sense with the appropriate research to support it, it’s important to remember that there’s no substitute to eating a balanced and varied diet, with a little bit of what you fancy every once in while – for me it’s 70% dark chocolate and the occasional glass of wine, where I can offset the sugar content with the antioxidant properties 😉

So don’t get too hung up on what the experts say, and remember to exercise regularly and don’t smoke!

I’ll be posting some of my options for healthier treats and superstar antioxidant foods that can help you stay looking and feeling younger in a future musing 🙂