Is your diet ageing you?

We all know factors such as smoking, sun exposure and stress can age us, but eating the wrong food can add years
as well as kilos.

Find out if it’s your diet that’s causing those crow’s feet.

Too much sugar

The more sugar in our diet, the more advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) we make. These damage the surrounding proteins, such as collagen and elastin, resulting in wrinkles and sagging.

A study in the British Journal of Dermatology found these ageing effects start at about 35. AGEs also contribute to arthritis, Alzheimer’s and kidney failure.

To limit sugar intake, use a natural sweetener like stevia, avoid added sugars and processed foods, and beware of sugar in seemingly healthy or low-fat food like yoghurt.

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Eating junk food

As we age, inflammation can affect everything from joints to mobility. Foods that are rich in antioxidants can reduce inflammation, while foods that are pro-inflammatory can cause serious damage.

‘Eating junk puts your body into an inflammatory state,’ says Timothy Harlan MD and author of Just Tell Me What to Eat!.

‘Poor-quality foods like trans fats cause inflammation, and ageing is basically a chronic inflammatory state. Can you look older because you’re eating crap? Absolutely.’

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The main culprits are deep-fried foods, all laden with trans fats, as well as sugary pastries and biscuits, which pack an ageing double-whammy – they’re high in both trans fats and sugar, which also contributes to inflammation.

Processed meats are high in saturated fats and contain nitrates – both of which cause inflammation – and starchy, high-GI foods such as white bread and pasta trigger a pro-inflammatory release of sugar into our blood, causing us to store fat rather than burn it for energy.

Too little fat

But guess what, a strict low-fat diet is ageing too. Eating the right fats – found naturally in avocados, nuts and cold-pressed oils such as olive oil – will keep you looking youthful and feeling energised.

Omega-3 fatty acids are the ultimate anti-ageing fat, protecting your brain, heart, bones, joints and skin, while monounsaturated fat can lower bad LDL cholesterol, raise cardio-protective HDL cholesterol and decrease the risk of developing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

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‘Fats provide energy and are essential for cell rejuvenation and hormone production,’ says Christine Cronau, author of The Fat Revolution.

‘They also help us assimilate vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat is essential for converting carotene to vitamin A and many other processes.’

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