How to Slow Down the Aging Process
It’s time we start rethinking the concept of aging. Because the truth is, aging is optional. Sure, we all keep getting older each year. But that doesn’t mean we should all expect to experience joint pain, saggy skin, weight gain, memory loss, and fatigue JUST because we’re over 40. Thankfully, that’s not how it works! More accurately, the food you eat and the lifestyle you lead plays a significant role in the aging process. This means that YOU have the power to either speed it up or slow it down. And I choose to slow it down. How about you?
Stick to Nutrient Dense Whole Foods
Sadly, Americans are eating way too many heavily refined and processed foods. These foods not only lack the nutrients our bodies need to thrive, but they’re also packed with sugar, rancid oils, and many other nasty chemicals (i.e., flavors, emulsifiers, colors, preservatives, pesticides, etc.) that negatively contribute to the aging process. You see, when you eat these foods, you’re giving your body an unnecessary dose of free radicals. And an excess of free radicals leads to cellular damage - skin cell damage, brain cell damage, connective tissue damage, and so on.
If left unchecked, free radical damage leads to inflammation and oxidative stress, which are often at the root of almost every modern disease. Diseases that not only shorten your life, but also significantly reduce your quality of life. In addition, free radicals also reduce the length of your telomeres–the tips of your DNA. And the faster your telomeres shorten, the faster you age at the cellular level. Therefore, we must minimize our exposure to these free radicals in processed foods. And eat nutrient dense foods packed with antioxidants. This includes:
- Lots and lots of colorful vegetables
- Clean sources of protein (i.e., grass-fed and pasture-raised meats and poultry)
- Healthy fats (i.e., olive oil, avocado, coconut, nuts, and seeds)
Collagen is also a great anti-aging food. Because collagen is what gives your skin its elasticity. It also gives your hair, nails, joints, and bones strength. Thus, it fights wrinkles and allows you to move freely (without pain). My two favorite sources of collagen are bone broth and collagen protein powder (a.k.a. hydrolyzed collagen).
Move Your Body
When it comes to aging, you either use it or lose it. Specifically, the process of building new muscle and bones only occurs if you use them regularly. Therefore, if you live a sedentary lifestyle, your muscles and bones will waste away much quicker than if you stay active.
In addition, exercise has been shown to reduce inflammation associated with aging. Thus, it reduces your risk of developing a variety of serious health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. This doesn’t mean you need to spend hours in the gym each day. In fact, high intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of exercise that requires as little as 10 minutes a day to build muscle, strengthen your bones, burn excess fat, and get a cardiovascular workout.
In addition to HIIT, I recommend moving your body outdoors as much as possible. Take a walk, tend to your garden, or go for a bike ride. Essentially, do whatever gets YOU going! Spending time outdoors is also great because boosts your body’s production of vitamin D. As a result, you may heal faster and be less prone to anxiety and depression.
Minimize Toxic ExposuresIn addition to the toxins in our food I’ve already discussed, there are also toxins in our environment and personal and home care products that we must avoid as much as possible for the same reason (free radicals). Here are a variety of ways to reduce your exposure to toxins and support your body’s detoxification pathways:
- Quit smoking. Period.
- Minimize your use of plastics. Especially plastic water bottles. Stick to filtered tap water in glass or stainless steel reusable water bottles instead.
- Replace personal care and home products that contain sulfates, phthalates, and any sort of fragrance. If you crave a scent, seek out products scented solely with pure essential oils.
- Avoid using aluminum foil and cookware as well as drinking out of aluminum cans. Because aluminum has been linked to degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Opt for stainless steel, glass, and cast iron instead.
- Avoid processed foods packed with sugar, heavily processed “vegetable” oils, and many other artificial ingredients. These things just bog down the system and make it less efficient among other things.
- Limit your alcohol consumption. Stick to one glass and avoid sugary mixers to reduce the burden on your liver.
- Eat lots of cruciferous vegetables (i.e., kale, broccoli, and cabbage). These veggies specifically are an excellent source of sulforaphane. A compound that gives these veggies their pungent flavor, but also that acts as potent antioxidant. Sulforaphane also promotes the activity of glutathione, another powerful antioxidant AND detoxifying agent.
- Stay hydrated. An adequate supply of fluids is necessary to remove toxins from your cells as well as your body. I recommend filtered water, bone and vegetable broths, and coffee and tea made with filtered water.
- Heal your gut. Because a sick gut allows pathogens and large food molecules to “leak” directly into your bloodstream. Some my favorite gut healing foods are bone broth, collagen protein powders, and fermented vegetables (i.e., sauerkraut and kimchi).
- Eat plenty of fiber. Fiber feeds the good bacteria in your gut and helps with elimination.
- Practice mini-fasting (a.k.a. intermittent fasting). When you fast, your body efficiently gets rid of waste and generates new healthy cells. This process speeds up your metabolism and reduces your risk of disease.
Stress is a killer. Literally. Stress causes a chain of physiological reactions in the body that ultimately leads to inflammation, oxidative stress, and short telomeres. As if that isn’t bad enough, stress also prevents us from sleeping and eating well, which makes matters even worse. Therefore, if you want to slow down the aging process, you need to address your stress.
Start by getting rid of the stress you can. For example, learn to say “no” and stop biting off more than you chew. And for all other sources of stress, find better ways to cope. Meditation, yoga, journaling, reading, spending time in nature, deep breathing, and socializing with TRUE friends are all great outlets. And sometimes all you need is a shift in your mindset. I’m all about positive thinking, mindfulness, and gratitude. If you fill your head with good thoughts, there’s little room for anything else.
Make Sleep a Priority
Sleep is not just for resting. It’s when your body repairs damage and rebuilds–two essential anti-aging processes. The good news is, eating more nutrient dense foods, exercising, and reducing stress will all help to improve your sleep quality among other things. If you’re still having trouble, I recommend creating a bedtime routine. Pick a bedtime that will allow you to get at least 8 hours of sleep. Turn off your screens at least one hour before your bedtime. And consider taking a relaxing epsom salt bath.
The Bottom Line
Your daily diet and lifestyle directly affects the speed at which you age. When you eat like crap, don’t move, and stress out, you’re putting yourself on the fast track. However, when you eat a nutrient dense diet, exercise regularly, and manage your stress, you’re giving yourself the gift of aging gracefully. And by that I’m talking about staying lean, sharp, strong, disease free, and radiant well into your golden years. The choice is yours! Which road do you choose?