9 Ways To Slow Down Aging Through Your Food Choices

Written by Dr. Mitchell Gaynor

Want to live a long and happy life? Well, here's some good news: there are many simple steps you can take to promote longevity.

Researchers are beginning to understand how we age, and exciting discoveries point to telomeres. These structures are short, repetitive sequences of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes to protect chromosomal DNA sequencing during cellular division.

As the aging process progresses, telomeres become shortened to the point that cell division ceases and apoptosis, or cell death, occurs. In other words, "telomeric length" is a predictor for aging at the cellular level.

There's also a preponderance of data that shows that the telomeric enzyme, called telomerase (which restores the aging markers' length in immature cells only), is activated in cancer cells and renders them immortal.

It's never been more essential to take aging seriously. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there will be approximately 71 million baby boomers living in the US by 2030, making them the largest segment of our population.

So, living a long, healthy life is of utmost importance, and an ecogenetic diet is the answer to achieving it. Fortunately, for all of us, good health begins with making the right kinds of choices about food.

Here are my nine steps to help prevent premature aging:

1. Eat miso, tofu, and tempeh.

Soy is one of the most touted anti-aging foods and has been shown to decrease inflammation and promote healthy sex hormone levels — all on an ecogenetic level. I recommend both men and women include miso, tofu, and tempeh in their diet.

2. Add olive oil into your diet in a big way.

Many studies show that olive oil has a huge impact on maintaining good health. A staple in the Mediterranean diet, olive oil has been shown to have protective effects against diseases such as cancer.

Olive oil decreases the expression of pro-inflammatory genes in humans, which partially explains why there is a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, and cancer among people living in Mediterranean countries for whom olive oil is the main source of dietary fat.

Remember, however: Olive oil is sensitive to heat that changes the beneficial compounds in it, so don't use it for cooking. It's best on salads or in dips.

3. Put thyme oil in your anti-aging pantry.

Speaking of oils, thyme oil can certainly help give you more time. A 2010 Japanese study showed that carvacrol found in thyme oil is a potent inhibitor of COX-2, an enzyme implicated in inflammation and aging.

4. Get some frankincense, or boswellia.

Boswellia, an ayurvedic herb with anti-inflammatory properties, is essential to any anti-aging regimen. Two large randomized studies have shown boswellia improves joint function, pain, and stiffness in knee osteoarthritis.

Boswellia has also been reported to decrease symptoms of asthma by improving lung function and inflammatory bowel disease by decreasing inflammation of the gut. It should be a key ingredient for anyone with premature aging. Talk to your health care provider about the best way to take boswellia.

5. Know that bee pollen, royal jelly, and bee propolis contain some of nature's best anti-aging nutrients.

Want to study one of nature's longevity champs? Look to the queen honeybee. She lives 40 times as long as other bees in the hive, yet she is genetically identical. The only difference is the queen alone eats the royal jelly, which is used to feed larvae. Scientists have found that micronutrients in the royal jelly can cause genes associated with longevity to be activated, which is why I recommend it so highly to patients.

6. Support your mitochondria with the right nutrients.

The mitochondrion is a structure found within cells that serve as the "powerhouse" for producing the energy (ATP) that allows your organs to work. But, as the mitochondria produce ATP, they also generate oxidants, which expose the mitochondria to free radical damage over time.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley conducted an animal study in which they demonstrated the decline in mitochondrial function in old rats. The researchers found that supplementing the rats' diet with a micronutrient known as acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) helped to improve mitochondrial decay.

While ALCAR increased specific aspects of mitochondrial functioning, it did not decrease oxidant production within mitochondrial cells. By adding another supplement called N-tert-butyl-alpha-phenyl-nitrone (PBN) to ALCAR, researchers noted an improvement in function as well as a decrease in free radical formation in the mitochondria.

The bottom line? Talk to your health care practitioner about which supplements could be a fit for you.

7. Add plant sterols (found in pumpkinseed oil and chia seeds) to your diet.

Plant sterols are plant cholesterols (sterols and sterolins) that have been shown in minute amounts to maintain a good balance of T cells (killer cells), and enhance cellular immunity. Not sure what to do with chia seeds? Start here.

8. Consume nutrients that support joints and hair.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organic compound that contains sulfur and is found in a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. MSM has been shown to improve joint function and to help maintain normal joint cartilage because joints require sulfur and cysteine for healthy function.

9. Eat grapes.

Polyphenolic substances contained in foods such as grapes have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that protect brain health. The key to preventing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's is controlling inflammation.

One study, for example, showed that concord grape juice helps to reducedementia and improve cognition in older adults. Concord grape juice has been shown to contain a polyphenolic substance known as anthocyanins. Studies have shown that anthocyanins can cross over into brain tissue (the blood-brain barrier is semi-permeable and only allow selective materials access through), and is found in areas of the brain associated with regulating cognition.

Scientists also found that resveratrol found in wine and grapes helps to lower the risk of cognitive decline in mice; Resveratrol appeared to increase insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), which is involved in the production of new blood vessels and nerve cells in the hippocampus — a part of the brain that controls the formation of memories, particularly long-term memory.

To learn more watch Dr. Gaynor's video:

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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