Talk of “staying young” and “slowing down the aging process” is everywhere, and all that talk can get overwhelming—especially when you’re trying to decipher what’s true and what’s not.
Most of us have probably heard by now that what you eat can affect how you age. But what exactly does this mean for us, and how can we build eating habits that help us age healthily?
To get a clearer picture, here’s what science says about eating habits and how they can slow down the aging process. Read on, then check out The Best Breakfast Habits for a Faster Metabolism After 50.
You’ve probably at least heard of the Mediterranean diet, especially in conversations about healthy aging. This diet draws inspiration from Italy and Greece and includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and healthy fats such as olives and olive oil. Sometimes fish is included, but it is mostly plant-based. This diet also greatly limits the consumption of processed foods and added sugars.
The Mediterranean diet has been lauded for its effects on slowing cognitive decline, but what does the research actually say? in 2015 Advances in Nutrition Journal published a systematic review of the relationship between diet, dementia and brain aging.
According to this review, adherence to a Mediterranean diet as we age is associated with fewer cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as slower cognitive aging. This is based on multiple types of studies (cross-sectional and longitudinal), trials and meta-analyses.
This review attributes some characteristics of the Mediterranean diet, such as antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids, to its effects on brain aging. These dietary patterns are thought to help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which are major factors contributing to dementia and cognitive decline.
When it comes to aging, science shows that inflammation can be a major culprit in speeding up the process. According to a meta-analysis by Aging Studieschronic low-grade inflammation may be a factor in many of the chronic diseases that commonly occur in old age.
This review also found that eating or taking omega-3 supplements can significantly help reduce inflammation as we age. Another study published in The British Journal of Nutritionshows that along with omega-3s, things like whole grains and fiber, as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables, are also helpful in reducing inflammation as we age.
It’s always possible for your doctor to recommend adding certain nutrients as you age, especially if there are specific areas of health that need attention. However, much of the research on diet and aging shows that a balanced diet that includes multiple nutrients is more effective than supplements.
According to a recent article published in International Journal of Molecular Sciences, the intake of all important macro and micronutrients through a wide range of foods such as whole grains, lentils, nuts, vegetables, fruits, etc., can have a significant impact on the pursuit of a healthy life as we age. With that in mind, they also note that a balanced diet that supports healthy aging also focuses on limiting consumption of added sugars and highly processed foods.
So while supplements may be a good idea if recommended by your doctor, focusing on a whole, balanced diet full of beneficial macro and micronutrients is key to slowing the aging process.
Your skin and its rapid aging are affected by both internal and external factors, but many people are so focused on solving the external factors (buying the right skincare) that they may not realize the extent to which their complexion is affected from internal factors as well (their diet).
According to a report published in nutrients, there are many different nutrients, vitamins and minerals that play a unique role in slowing down the aging process of the skin. For example, protein helps repair skin tissue, vitamin B helps reduce inflammation and pigmentation, vitamin C helps with collagen synthesis, and water is critical for skin hydration and reducing inflammation and signs of aging.
This report also notes that things like smoking, alcohol, a diet high in fat and added sugars are linked to faster aging and skin damage. But even though your diet plays a key role in your skin’s aging process, we still recommend wearing that SPF!
If you have questions about your diet and healthy aging, talk to your doctor or nutritionist about a helpful plan.