Oh horror! Foods and drinks that age you
Eight ingredients that speed up the aging process .
There’s no dearth of information overload about skin friendly antioxidant and vitamin rich potions that promise eternal youth. Don’t deny it, you spend time and money looking for lotions, creams and supplements that promise a wrinkle-free complexion. But what about the foods you eat? Talk to any wellness expert worth her vitamins and she’ll tell you that what you eat and drink is equally, if not more important, than what you put on your skin. “It’s all about nourishing yourself inside out,” says clinical nutritionist Sneha Tyrewala. “It’s all about beating the clock when you nourish your skin from the inside out.” Conversely, there are plenty of things we unthinkingly feast on that speed up the aging process. Here’s a look at ten of the worst culprits.
There’s a reason it was considered a drug back in the 19the century. Highly addictive, this high calorie sweetener works sneakily, urging you to have more and more, settling around your hips and hastening the development of degenerative diseases. Nutritionist Naini Setalvad says, “Sugar clings to proteins in the body and clogs up your system literally, creating advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These substances speed up aging and cause the early onset of diseases like arthritis and diabetes,” she says.
Solution: Choose foods made with less heavily processed natural sugars, such as honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup or agave nectar instead of refined (white) sugar. Check the sugar quantity of your favorite cold coffee or cola. Don’t get fooled by ‘skinny’ and ‘lite’ in your fave foods and drinks. Low fat often means as much or more sugar than the original.
An occasional glass of wine is not going to give you wrinkles but regular consumption—two or more drinks daily—definitely will. The biggest culprits are those tasty margaritas and daiquiris that combine whopping amounts of sugar and alcohol. Alcohol ages you in two ways; one, it causes dehydration that can ages skin, and two, it overtaxes the liver which has to work double time to get rid of the toxins in alcohol.
Solution: Consciously drinking a glass of wine or scotch is okay but be aware of the hidden alcohol levels in creamy drinks, food and desserts. Combat the dehydrating effect of alcohol by flushing your system with plain water, green and herbal teas, and probiotic-rich drinks like lassi. Flushing with fluids hydrate skin cells, takes the load off your liver and allows your intestines to absorb nutrients. The result: clear, healthy skin.
In the last 75 years, traditionally used oils and fats like ghee and butter have been overtaken by vegetable oils made from corn, safflower and sunflower. Not surprisingly, there has been a corresponding increase in inflammatory diseases. Countless studies show that a growing intake of omega-6 polyunsaturated oil (PUFA) is associated with increases in cancer, heart attacks, arthritis, immune disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, weight gain, and aging. The reason these oils are linking to disease and aging is because most vegetable oils are highly perishable and when subjected to heat, light or moisture, undergo a toxic change called oxidation. Oxidation stimulates more than 60 diseases of aging and oxidized oils attack collagen causing skin wrinkles and age spots.
Solution: Go back to traditional fats such as extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil; butter, ghee and organic coconut oil. Also eat more healthy anti-inflammatory fats found in fish, nuts, seeds, avocado and olives.
Studies have linked caffeine with slower cognitive decline. That’s the good news. But the bad news is that downing cups of java to stay awake or cope with work stress ages you quickly. If coffee keeps you awake it means you’re a slow caffeine metabolizer. In that case restrict your coffee intake to mornings. “Be aware that caffeine raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol which keeps you awake,” says Setalvad. And if you didn’t know it already, soft drinks and energy drinks have scary amounts of caffeine too. Sleepless nights and high strung nerves are never a good combination for fresh, young skin.
Solution: Switch to decaf coffee or green teas which also have caffeine but in much smaller doses plus loads of skin loving antioxidants.
Another big cause for inflammation and aging is trans fats that raise LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease. “Trans fats clog and stiffen arteries and smaller blood vessels, that can make skin look old and wrinkly,” says Setalvad. Which foods are loaded with these deadly trans fats (also labelled hydrogenated oils and vegetable shortening)? All the stuff you pop into your mouth each time hunger pangs strike; muffins, doughnuts, pastries, cookies, chips, French fries, namkeen, packaged snacks, sausages, ham and pepperoni. “Trans fats increase the shelf life of foods but reduce the shelf life of patients,” says Setalvad.
Solution: Snack on unprocessed foods, dry fruit, low fat yoghurt, seeds, roast channa and khakhras. Opt for lean cuts of meat, turkey, chicken and fish that are naturally low in saturated fat.
Salt attracts water and a high salt diet draws water outside cells to dehydrate the body. When you’re dehydrated you feel tired, worn out and bloated, in short old! A study at Georgia Regents University in Augusta concluded that lowering salt intake can actually slow down the aging process of cells and halt the shortening of telomeres, the protective ends of chromosomes that protect DNA, a common side effect of aging. Excess salt is also linked to kidney disease, high blood pressure and interferes with bone metabolism.
Solution: Stop yourself from reaching for the salt shaker. Learn to make food tasty with spices and herbs. Pickles, papad, packaged snacks, processed cheese and even ready-to-eat cereals have higher than ideal levels of sodium. So it’s best to eat fresh any chance you get.
Like the ad once said, a swig can give you wings but rest assured that’s just a temporary effect. You might feel a jolt of energy but energy drinks don’t have such a youthful effect on your teeth thanks to the acid content. A General Dentistry study showed that teeth exposed to energy drinks fared worse than those exposed to sports drinks. In fact energy drinks damage teeth eight times more than soda does and the erosion makes teeth look yellow, unhealthy and old!
Solution: Don’t drink energy drinks! In any case those mega doses of caffeine are bad for your blood pressure. If you really need that energy fix, sip from a straw to minimize damage to teeth.
Let’s preface this by saying carbs are not bad! But refined carbs—maida, noodles, pasta and white rice—are simply sugars in disguise that set you up for insulin resistance over time, setting you up for a pattern of yo-yo blood sugar levels. You eat four slices of bread, your pancreas shoot out a surge of insulin but 30 minutes later your blood sugar levels drop and you’re starving again. This trend sets you up for age related disorders, Type 2 Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
Solution: Stick to complex carbs such as beans, vegetables and whole grains.