When it comes to Anti-Aging Medicine, I’m always on the lookout for the latest research on new methods, substances and thinking, that will help my over-50 patients (and my readers) stay younger and healthier longer. In the last decade or so, researchers have come to better understand the many anti-aging and immune-system boosting properties of nutrients found in the foods we eat. It’s becoming increasingly clear that maintaining good health and longevity may really just come down to eating optimal levels of these foods and/or getting the specific nutrients in supplement form. Let me tell you what these nutrients are.
The 7 Nutrients That Can Help You Live Longer
When I talk to my over-50 age patients about what they can do to stay healthier, younger-feeling and looking as they grow older, the first thing I advise them on is achieving a normal weight. Obesity is the #1 health issue in the “Boomer” aged population today as it can foster complications like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, even Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
Being overweight, even by only 20 lbs, creates a significant storage place for dangerous proteins, called cytokines that create inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation, researchers have also firmly learned in the last decade, is thought to precede many different diseases. So, if you’re “overfat”, and storing a lot of dangerous cytokines, the first thing you need to do is decrease your body fat percentage to a normal level. To do this, you must do higher fat-burning exercise such as interval aerobics; decrease/omit intake/omit refined sugars, possibly even wheat, to enable your hormone insulin to work properly and burn energy rather than storing it as fat.
In addition, you need to ensure that your diet contains optimal amounts of critical nutrients that will help your metabolism work better, decrease joint and muscle pain, help you sleep better, decrease the stress hormone cortisol (which also boosts inflammation), as well as recharge your immune system. Be sure your foods/supplements are giving you these 7 nutrients every day:
1. Antioxidants. As you get older, your body uses more antioxidants to fight disease-causing free radicals. Although researchers disagree on the amount of antioxidants that you need, I recommend about 20-25,000 mg. That may sound like a lot, but keep in mind that ½ cup serving of red kidney beans contains about 13,000; an apple contains about 5,000 and a plum about 4,500. So it’s not hard to reach a 20,000 mg goal. High antioxidant foods are berries, red beans, red and Granny Smith apples, cherries, plums, nuts. Also, good amounts of Vitamin C (250 mg a day), natural Vitamin E (400 mg a day), mixed carotenoids (precursor to Vitamin A, 15,000 IU a day), resveratrol 100 mg daily. Lycopene (9 mg daily) is found in cooked tomato products, pink grapefruit, and watermelon. Helps protect against prostate, colon, lung cancer. Dark, unsweetened chocolate contains flavonoids that also work like antioxidants.
2. Calcium. Necessary to maintain bone health and the proper functioning of your body’s electrical impulses that keep your heart beat regular. Foods that contain calcium are dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt), but is also contained in good amounts in almond and soy “alternative milks”. Vegetables that contain good amounts of calcium are broccoli, kale and other leafy greens. Almonds also contain calcium.
3. Green tea. The chemical compounds contained in green tea have been proven in research to be a powerful immune system booster and cancer fighter. Drink a few cups a tea. You can also take green tea extract in a capsule form, 500-1,000 mg a day.
4. Lutein/Zeaxanthin. Found in yellow/orange/red vegetables, egg yokes, the spice paprika and leafy greens like kale, broccoli, and spinach. Help protect your eyes against sight-damaging diseases like macular/retinal degeneration and cataracts. Recommended daily dose is from 6 mg up to 20 for lutein and about 6-12 mg for zeaxanthin, although the daily RDA needed for either has not been established. Keep in mind that 1 cup of cooked kale contains 23 mg of lutein/zeaxanthin. Higher intakes of these can turn skin yellowish but is not a serious side effect. Normal skin color can be restored by decreasing the dosage.
5. Natural Pain Relievers. If you have chronic joint and/or muscle aches and pains, you likely have inflammation in these areas and exercising may be difficult. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers chronically, like aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can have complications. Natural pain relievers are substances that reduce inflammation like cherry juice (unsweetened), olive, avocado and macadamia oils, nuts, pineapple, soy, and turmeric.
6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. These are also critical anti-inflammatory acids that can help relieve pain, decrease cholesterol buildup in arteries, and protect the brain against dangerous protein plaque buildup. Found naturally in oily fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, I still recommend taking about 1,000 mg a day in addition to your food sources.
7. Selenium. A special mineral antioxidant that research says may be seriously deficient in people in the Midwestern states from selenium-depleted soil. Boosts the immune system and protects against cancer at 200 mcg daily. Two large Brazil nuts contain about this amount.
The Boomer generation always maintained they would never be old even though they’re getting older. I believe you can realize that prophecy yourself by achieving a normal weight, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and getting the critical nutrients you need to stay youthful and active well into your advanced years.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.