Age-old secrets to longer life
WORDS: Karla Gilbert PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied
Evidence shows that if we approach ageing with intention and purpose, we can indeed slow down or even reverse the body clock.
IT may begin with noticing the odd grey hair, struggling to read a restaurant menu or stiffness in the joints upon waking. Growing old certainly sneaks up but it doesn’t necessarily indicate a signal for further deterioration. There is evidence that if we approach ageing with intention and purpose, we can indeed slow down or even reverse the body clock.
The best anti-ageing secrets lie in the foods we eat and the habits we choose. In the ‘blue zone’, regions of the world where people tend to live longer lives, reaching up to age 90 and even age 100 and beyond is not uncommon. What is common is that blue zone residents have access to pesticide-free fruit and vegetables, processed foods/pre-made foods are non-existent and they nurture their bodies with healthful recipes. This can come somewhat easy to those living in remote, laid-back areas but what this does is provide us with ideas on how to translate these nutritional values to Australians.
On the flip side, there is a growing trend of ‘longevity hackers’, those who use the best scientific insights to help slow down ageing in order to improve their lifespan and health. By using themselves as guinea pigs, they try data-driven hacks or ‘biohacking’ to turn back the clock. Although this is an extreme way of looking at things, there is merit in the thought that we can slow down ageing to achieve body self-optimisation.
In order to find a balance between the two, I know living life into old age with vigour and vitality and being free of ailments sounds far more appealing than not. Health is wealth, so what are some simple ideas we can take into our daily lives that will help us live out our years with longevity and quality?
- Eat more plants
Increasing the number of plant-based foods in your diet has many positive effects. Not only does it crowd out the chances of consuming too much animal protein (prevalent in western diets), it is also our best ally against cancer and disease. Dark, leafy greens such as kale, baby spinach, beets, beans, sweet potato, fruits, nuts and seeds and wholegrains of the gluten-free variety (oats, barley, rice, corn) are all great examples of foods to eat more of.
- Limit meat
There is a safe level of meat consumption, with anything overwhelmingly excessive in our diets said to be harsh on the body and likely to increase our chances of disease. Opt for quality protein over quantity to aid in consuming a wide range of amino acids by choosing free-range chicken, lamb or pork. Game meats such as kangaroo and venison are low in fat, high in iron and are free-roaming, so are not dosed with hormones and pesticides.
Aim to keep servings in check by using your palm as a guide, so half a chicken breast and the height of a deck of cards. Put aside two days a week for meat alternatives such as fish, beans or lentils or tofu and avoid processed meats such as hotdogs, ham, bacon, sausages or fatty beef cuts.
Eggs in moderation (two to four a week) that are free range offer complete protein, minerals and vitamins. There are studies that show correlations to higher rates of prostate cancer in men and kidney problems in women, but I’ll leave this one to individual circumstances and research.
- Decrease dairy
Cheese, cream, butter and milk do not feature highly in blue zone diets for good reason. The human digestive system is not geared toward the consumption of dairy, with it being found that nearly 60 per cent of the population struggles to digest the ever-present enzyme lactose. For decades, we have been drilled by clever marketing. We need dairy to help meet our calcium requirements but if there is a focus geared towards plant-based alternatives this will cover our bases. An example of this is that ⅔ of a cup of tofu will give as much bioavailable calcium as a cup of milk.
Dairy alternative milk such as soy, almond or coconut matches regular milk for protein. Look to cheese made from goats or sheep when a craving hits.
- Sugar be gone
The World Health Organisation recommends consuming no more than six to eight teaspoons of added sugar daily (does not include fruit sugar). Quickly doing a tally of how much sugar you may be consuming daily could easily go into the high 20s or even 30s once a bowl of cereal is consumed for breakfast, a muffin for morning tea, sugar in your coffee and heavy sauce meals for dinner – not to mention dessert!
A good rule of thumb is to avoid products that list sugar in the first five ingredients. Softdrinks, smoothies and juices are high in sugar and will leave you feeling hungry not long after. Reach for fresh fruit to squash a sweet tooth or use honey in your tea. Blue Zonians enjoy honey sparingly for its anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antimicrobial properties but of course, it is eaten mindfully with intention.
Eating a diet that is focused on wholefoods, with minimally added sugars, being mindful of meat, dairy, and gluten and choosing products that contain no more than five ingredients if buying from a store will go a long way to providing energy and vibrancy to live a long life with health and intent.
Karla Gilbert OAM is a former professional athlete and helps individuals and corporates as a Nutrition and Health Coach. For more information on her Health Coaching Programs or eBook, Naked Habits. For healthy recipes, visit www.karlagilbert.com.au