By the time we reach about mid 30’s and early 40’s many of us begin to contemplate middle age and wish we had taken better care of ourselves during our 20’s. Decreased energy and libido, the appearance of wrinkles, subtle weight gain, achy joints, changes in vision, trouble sleeping and moodiness – these are all signs of living life in the fast lane. Whether you may have overindulged in sun, sugar, alcohol, tobacco, work, or all of the above it will eventually catch up with you. The good news is that you can keep your youthful energy, sex drive, skin, figure, and happiness for years to come.
It’s never too late to reinvent yourself and forge a new path of self-care and self-love. Here are seven lifestyle changes that may help slow down the aging process:
- Consume healthy fats
Once fats were considered the enemy of healthy living and we now know that healthy fats are essential to our well-being. Coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocados, wild salmon, nuts and seeds – these are among the highest quality fats we can consume. Better to avoid some of the vegetable oils like corn oil, refined canola oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil, all high in omega-6 fats, which are susceptible to oxidation and increase risk for inflammation in the body.
Among many benefits, the consumption of good fats actually optimizes metabolism, supports positive mood and cognition, and benefits the skin and eyes (dryness can be a sign of a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids).
- Consume adequate lean and clean protein
We are not suggesting a “high protein” diet per se, but protein (like healthy fat) helps build the hormones and neurotransmitters that we need to feel awesome. It also supports the building of lean muscle (and prevents muscle loss), promotes balanced blood sugar, helps support concentration and a positive mood, and supports healthy weight management. Choose organically raised and/or grass-fed lean meats, plant based proteins like pea, hemp, and rice, and whole fat organic dairy products or whey protein.
- Lose the Sugar
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) form in the body when sugar reacts with proteins and fats in the body. The more sugar (glucose or fructose) in the body, the more AGEs. An increase of AGEs in the body can damage cells, cause inflammation, advanced aging and chronic degenerative disease. AGEs have been linked to diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease.
- Increase Intake of Dark Green Leafies
Dark green vegetables include broccoli, collard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and various lettuces. The antioxidants in these vegetables help protect the skin, brain, and cells from damage by unstable molecules. They contain vitamin C, which helps to prevent wrinkles.
- Eat bright colored fruits and veggies (orange, red , and yellows).
The brightly colored organic fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C and carotenoids that support eye health as well as healthy skin.
**Fresh fruits and veggies have the added benefit of fiber, which help us to maintain healthy elimination and healthy weight.
- Spare the Starchy and Processed Carbohydrates
Similar to sugar, the consumption of baked goods (cookies, muffins, cakes), pasta, potatoes, crackers, pretzels, chips can literally fast-forward the aging process. The body quickly turns these foods (if we can call them food) into sugar, which we’ve already mentioned is problematic. Increased risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, depression – all are increased with higher consumption of starchy carbs. Instead choose the high fiber, organic grains like brown rice, oats, and pseudo grains like quinoa.
Exercise is interesting because endurance training, over the long run, can actually fast-forward the aging process. Embrace high intensity intervals, resistance training, walking, yoga, hiking, gardening, dancing, and swimming. These forms of exercise, increase lean muscle, improve mood, help us maintain a healthy body weight and keeps our brain sharp.
Bonus: STOP SMOKING – no explanation needed – all you have to do is observe someone who has smoked for 20 years and you’ll see the damage done (and what’s worse is the damage you cannot see – inside the body)