In honor of September’s designation as Health Aging Month, Dr. Shad offers some tips for optimal aging and longevity. Here, he discusses food as medicine, blue zones and epigenetics as keys for a long, healthy life.
Food is the fuel for the body, but it’s also a messenger with information. Food informs our genes and can upgrade or downgrade our genetic software in a matter of weeks. Food is an epigenetic input. Epigenetics is the study of how the way we live, where we live and the relationships and environments we come into contact with literally make us sick or keep us healthy. These epigenetic inputs like food literally change our genes for better or worse. Rather than one being genetically predisposed to certain illnesses based on their family history, the idea behind epigenetics is that one’s behaviors, environment, diet and level of physical activity can determine how their genes work.
Food is medicine. How we eat, what we eat determines our sickness or health. Every bite counts! The right foods — including whole foods like fruit and vegetables, healthy fats like avocados, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds and wild seafood — can help people maintain and preserve their health well into their golden years. Proper nutrition is about filling up the body with the foods that will best serve it — giving the body the resources for overall wellbeing, energy and happiness. Certain foods can specifically help with various ailments, illness and more. For example:
Vitamin C for Skincare
Seeking youthful glowing skin? Look no further than the produce aisle of the local market. Vitamin C is a super nutrient capable of helping the body’s enzymes make collagen, regenerating skin cells, reducing wrinkles and event combatting skin damage as a result of overexposure to the sun. Stock up on fruit and vegetables containing vitamin C such as broccoli, red and green peppers, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi and citrus.
Go Nuts for Heart Health
Certain nuts have been credited for helping people achieve better health. When it comes to matters of the heart, literally, walnuts in particular are the heart heroes. In multiple studies, walnuts and pistachios have been shown to help lower total cholesterol (particularly LDL, the “bad cholesterol”) as well as help people maintain a healthy blood pressure. Walnuts also contain anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and can even help people prolong their cognitive health.
Beans and Legumes to Reduce Chronic Illness
These natural sources of plant-based protein have been credited for reducing the risk of major chronic diseases while promoting long-term health. Beans and legumes can also help stabilize blood sugar, reduce risk of certain cancers and help people maintain a healthy weight as they age. The high-fiber levels in these foods also aid in heart and gut health.
Heal with Herbs and Spices
Don’t discount these flavor enhancers as just add ins. Herbs and spices have incredible health and healing properties. Ginger, for example, has long been touted for its anti-nausea properties, but it also boasts anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric is another anti-inflammatory spice that can liven up vegetables, beans and legumes for an extra helping of anti-aging foods.
Seafood Saves the Day
Varieties of fish and seafood have been proven to provide a host of health benefits for the entire body including brain development and mental health, immunity, and reducing risk of heart disease, depression and dementia. Seafood is also packed with anti-inflammatory properties as well as high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
The concept of Blue Zones is another element to consider for optimal aging. Founded by Dan Buettner, Blue Zones identifies five places throughout the world where people live the longest and are the healthiest — including Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy, Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece and Loma Linda, California. Through the concept, people can use strategies from the residents of these areas to achieve optimal health (including lower rates of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and depression) through more energy and strength, more restful sleep, discovering and working towards their purpose and serving to improve their communities. Techniques from these original regions include eating more plant-based foods, spending time with family, enjoying an active social life, and staying physically active.
When it comes to optimal aging, longevity and wellness, Dr. Shad is a recognized expert who is available for speaking engagements, written articles and media interviews. Book Dr. Shad today. Dr. Shad also works with individuals to provide one-on-one coaching and Integrative Medicine consultations, so schedule an appointment today and start living better!
Dr. Shad (Farshad Fani Marvasti, MD, MPH) is a Stanford-trained medical doctor, associate professor in academic medicine, speaker, and author with expertise in nutrition and culinary medicine, wellness, public health and prevention.
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