Beauty from within - Nutrients for Anti-Aging
Protecting your vital organs with the right nutrients is a vital key to longevity and anti-aging. Longevity is less about adding years onto your life than about ensuring those years are healthy ones. And getting your fix of the right nutrients could just be your insurance policy in this arena.
As you age, so your body’s demands for nutrients increases to help fight off disease, ageing and decay. Many of your body’s systems, such as the digestive, excretory and circulatory, become tired from years of use, and this is why they begin to function less efficiently.
You need to make sure the foods you eat are wholesome, have as many vitamins and minerals in them as possible and are rich in both fibre and antioxidants.
Just look at the role-models for longevity – the Okinawans. Research shows that this small Japanese community eats 30-40 percent less kilojoules than people of the Western world, while their flavonoid consumption is up to eight times higher, and their daily exercise programmes are moderate to high. It is not unusual for the Okinawan people to live to 100 years and beyond.
People who keep a healthy weight throughout most of their life span and have a healthy, balanced, primarily plant-based diet live longer, healthier lives.
One way to ensure all-over body protection, is to consume a diet rich in antioxidants (found in fruits, veggies and whole grains), as these help to prevent free-radical destruction of cells and the oxidative damage that promotes ageing. These antioxidants work best when they are taken from food sources, rather than the supplements form. While all nutrients have very specific functions, they work together in the body, and are often dependent on one another for optimum functioning. By focussing on single nutrients, we are ignoring the complexity of the role of food in disease prevention and treatment.
With this in mind, individual anti-ageing nutrients need to be taken into context, and if you are going to supplement, make sure you do so wisely and always read the labels on your packaging. If you are not sure about which added nutrients you require, speak to a reputable health-care expert.
Focus on the Brain
Your brain is a complex system that is the object of much research, and scientists believe that they have just scraped the surface in understanding how the brain works and what it needs for optimal functioning. What is known is that besides being the centre of the body’s mechanical process, it is also our centre for reason, emotion, learning and memory.
Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for optimum brain functioning, as the brain requires more omega-3 fatty acids that any other system in the body. Two important fatty acids to look out for are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which play vital roles in development and functioning of the brain, including the transmission of nerve impulses and protection from oxidative stress. Omega-3 levels in membranes of the brain are affected by the type and amount of fatty acids in the diet, and change with life stage, increasing with development and decreasing with ageing. With sufficient quantities of EPA and DHA in the diet, the membranes of the brain can function well.
The best natural forms of these fatty acids come from oily fish, in particular salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, snoek, trout, sardines and pilchards.
Other vitamins and minerals to include in your diet include:
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- Folic acid (found in bananas, orange juice, fortified cereals, lemons, strawberries, leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas) this plays a key role in the metabolism of the long-chain fatty acids in the brain.
- Vitamin B12 (found in eggs, meat, fish, poultry, milk and dairy products) as this aids and maintaining healthy nervous tissue.
- Vitamin B1 (wholegrain and grain-enriched products and pork) vital for healthy brain and nerve cells.
- Pantothenic acid (meat, poultry, fish, wholegrain cereals legumes, milk, vegetables and fruit) helps in the transmission of nerve pulses.
- Vitamin B6 (chicken, fish, pork, liver, kidneys, wholegrain cereals, nuts and legumes) as this plays a role in the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin, a vital brain chemical.