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Eating For Longevity written by Gauri Yardi
Hippocrates once said, ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’. But can choosing to include certain foods in our diet promote healthy ageing? Research suggests that micronutrients found in particular foods may reduce our risk of developing chronic disease as we age.
To understand how certain foods might positively influence ageing, we need to remember that inflammation is at the heart of many diseases associated with later life. Cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disease all have inflammation and oxidative stress at their centre. Oxidative damage to our body’s fats and to our DNA increases our risk of developing chronic disease as we age. For example, LDL (commonly known as ‘bad cholesterol’) can be oxidised in the body, contributing to plaque formation within our blood vessels and increasing our risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
Here are four tasty, easy to incorporate foods that have been associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The previous article in this series, ‘The Best Diet for Healthy Ageing’, describes the Mediterranean dietary pattern and its association with longevity. The Mediterranean diet is a plant-based diet which is high in fruits, vegetables, legumes (including nuts) and whole grains. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is also a component of this dietary pattern and is thought to contribute to its anti-ageing properties.
EVOO has healthy fats and micronutrients called polyphenols. EVOO polyphenols have shown anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in vitro and in animal studies. There is even evidence that EVOO polyphenols can bind to LDL and make it more resistant to oxidation. Additionally, EVOO polyphenols may reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer.
To understand exactly how EVOO can help with healthy ageing in humans, further research is needed. In the meantime, adding EVOO to your diet is an easy and tasty way to improve your health.
How to include it: Many delicious salad dressings contain EVOO and combining it with a veggie-rich salad will provide you with plenty of antioxidants. To make a basic vinaigrette, mix 3 tablespoons of olive oil with 2 tablespoons of white or wine vinegar and season with freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt. You can jazz up your basic vinaigrette with garlic, a shallot, or some herbs and spices.
In recent years green tea has attracted a lot of media attention as a weight loss aide. Obesity and an increased waist circumference are associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), is a polyphenol micronutrient found in green tea which may assist in reducing body mass. EGCG may inhibit fat absorption from the gut, reduce fat accumulation and reduce the growth and expansion of fatty tissue. Lower body mass may be associated with green tea consumption and there is some evidence that green tea consumption combined with an exercise regimen is particularly effective for fat reduction. However, some research has not found this correlation between green tea consumption and lower body weight. Like the polyphenols found in extra virgin olive oil, EGCG has also displayed antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in animal and in vitro studies.
How to include it: Swap your morning coffee for high quality, loose leaf green tea and add a second cup at afternoon tea time. If you have more than one or two cups of green tea per day, consider purchasing decaffeinated green tea to keep your caffeine intake in check. Like regular tea and coffee, green tea is best consumed away from meals as it may inhibit the absorption of essential nutrients like iron and calcium.
Resveratrol is a micronutrient found in grapes, red wine, peanuts and ground nuts. The Mediterranean diet includes a moderate intake of red wine and resveratrol may contribute to the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Like extra virgin olive oil and EGCG, resveratrol is a polyphenol that displays antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties so could help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity. It may also assist in blood glucose control and reduce fat accumulation, however most studies have been carried out on mice.
How to include it: Incorporate a handful of grapes into your daily diet as a snack and make your snack more substantial by including some nuts. If you choose to eat peanuts, eat organic. There are some concerns regarding aflatoxin, a carcinogenic compound produced by fungal contamination of peanuts. If you are in good health, consider adding a small glass of red wine (no more than one standard drink) a few times a week. If you’re not in good health, it’s best to consult with your health practitioner before increasing your alcohol intake.
Curcumin, the constituent of turmeric which displays medicinal properties, has been found to be anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and even anticancer in animal and in vitro studies. Curcumin may also reduce growth and expansion of fatty tissue, assisting in reducing the risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease. It may also help the liver to process fats. Some research suggests that curcumin may also reduce high blood glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides and liver inflammation.
How to include it: Ground turmeric may be added to scrambled eggs, roasted root vegetables and soups. You can also look out for Indian recipes which frequently include turmeric, especially as part of a curry powder. Eating ground turmeric with freshly ground black pepper aids in its absorption and therefore increases its health benefits.
Author of this article:
Gauri Yardi is a Naturopath with a special interest in treating stress and anxiety, digestive conditions such as IBS, bloating and reflux, and skin conditions such as acne and eczema. She is passionate about helping people shift towards a diet and lifestyle that will support and nourish them long-term. Gauri sees patients at South Yarra Osteopathy, South Yarra, Victoria, Australia. Phone +61 (03) 9994 8754. New patients are welcome.