Face-lifts, Botox injections, and other anti-aging procedures are all the rage—yet doctors still have not developed a surgical procedure that will add years to your life (angioplasty doesn’t count.) “With enough money, you can always look good on the outside,” says Ralph Felder, MD, Ph.D., coauthor of The Bonus Years Diet. “Reversing the aging process internally is much more difficult.” And, while a healthy diet won’t necessarily make you look like Demi Moore, it can extend your life.
To get some perspective on what proper nutrition and diet can mean for your health, think of your body as an engine—if you will—a machine. The higher the octane of the fuel you put into it, the better it’s going to run. Now, consider what might happen to your internal machinery after ten years of fueling up on double burgers, high-fat cheese, grease-laden fries, and milkshakes: painfully slow blood flow, and hardened arteries. Not pretty.
Here’s the good news: By changing your diet and starting to eat right, we can increase the changes for enjoying a longer life. Here's how to start: Quit focusing on the obvious culprits (steak with saturated fat along the outside and béarnaise, buttery mashed potatoes, and full-fat ice cream) and start loading up-on healthful foods. Let’s try perhaps an egg-white omelet with veggies and some whole wheat toast for breakfast; a small apple between breakfast and lunch; a lean turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato, a small glass of V-8 juice and a dish of fresh cut-up fruit; some non-fat yogurt and chopped walnuts between lunch and dinner; a nicely trimmed skinless grilled chicken breast with sautéed onions, mushrooms and green peppers, coupled with some garlic mashed potatoes made with low-sodium smart balance butter, along side some applesauce for a healthy dinner. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, eating seven “super” foods daily (red wine, dark chocolate, fruits, vegetables, garlic, fish, and nuts) in the appropriate portion sizes can reduce heart disease risk by seventy-five percent and add an average of 6 years to your life.
Slash your calorie intake. Since the 1930s, studies have shown that calorie-restricted diets improve the health and extend the life span of rodents. Now researchers are learning that slashing calories may have similar beneficial effects in humans. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, for instance, found that 2 markers of longevity (fasting insulin level and body temperature) were lowered in humans through prolonged calorie restriction.
Nutrition professionals consistently report that a Mediterranean-style diet—including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and a daily glass of red wine—promotes longevity. (In my opinion, this does not give everyone a license to drink as much as they want.) In fact, studies show that this type of diet lowers conditions ranging from cancer to stroke. In 2 separate studies, researchers found that “going Mediterranean” not only protects against Alzheimer’s disease, but also enables people who have the disease to live an average of 4 years longer. The more closely participants adhered to the diet, the greater the benefit they saw.
Emphasize plant-based eating. I suspect that you’d be hard-pressed to find a dietitian expert who would argue against eating more fruits and vegetables. Plant foods are loaded with antioxidants, powerful disease-fighting chemicals that help counteract damage from free radicals, oxidations, stress, pollution and other environmental toxins. They are loaded with flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols, and thousands of other chemicals we have not even discovered yet, which help prevent disease. Make today the first day to extend your life the healthy way.