Is your body showing more signs of aging than the number of candles you blew out on your last birthday cake? While genetics does play a major part in how we age, our daily habits have a huge effect on visible signs of aging. This includes everything from how much exercise we get to how much time we spend in the sun and what we eat.
While there are many anti-aging foods and supplements available, there are also foods that age you, and can make you look (and feel) older than you are.
Today, we’ll talk about how foods can affect the aging process, and which foods are the worst culprits for making us look older than we are.
What Speeds Up the Process of Aging?
There are a variety of physical processes that can speed up aging and make us look older than we are.
Sun exposure is the most common. When we expose our unprotected skin to the sun, UV rays can cause changes to our skin at a cellular level. This is most commonly known as sun damage or photoaging. Some of the most visible signs of photoaging include sunspots, wrinkles, or uneven skin texture.
However, it isn’t just external processes that can speed up visible signs of aging. One of the most common internal processes that can make us look older is the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). When we consume certain foods that produce AGEs, it can lead to increased oxidative stress and inflammation, which have been linked to increased risks for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney failure, and more.
The Top Foods that Age You
There are many foods that contribute to increased AGE consumption, depending on their nutrient makeup and how they’re prepared.
Here are some of the foods that contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation, leading to more visible signs of aging.
Grilling meat may be a delicious way to add flavor, but it also contributes heavily to the production of AGEs. This causes inflammation that can trigger cardiovascular conditions as well as diabetes. Any type of meat that sits on a grill for a long time, from hotdogs to steak, is steadily increasing its production of AGEs.
Instead of grilling meat, why not try the sous vide cooking technique? This is a special water bath cooking method that only heats food to a specific temperature without going any higher. It offers precision cooking for meat and other ingredients and is a great way to help avoid overcooking your food.
While it may taste delicious, soda is typically high in either white sugar or high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup interferes with our body’s ability to process dietary copper, which is a key component of the collagen and elastin in our skin that keeps it supple. It’s also high in calories and can lead to increased weight gain which further increases our risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.
However, even if your soda contains real sugar, it still isn’t great to consume too often. Sugar is a major contributor to AGEs and can also lead to skin concerns like acne.
Energy drinks are a one-two punch of ingredients that cause increased signs of aging. They typically contain plenty of added sugar, as well as caffeine.
Caffeine is a diuretic, a type of substance that promotes the release of water. If we’re bloated, this can be beneficial, but if we’re not, it just leads to increased water loss, which robs us of much-needed minerals.
High Glycemic Index Carbs
Do you often reach for white bread, pasta, or cereal? If so, chances are you’re relying on high glycemic index carbs for their delicious taste and the extra kick of energy that you get from the processed carbs.
However, these foods can cause increased acne and rosacea, making our skin look less bright and smooth than usual.
Some of the foods that are naturally highest in AGEs include processed animal dairy products like cheeses, butter, and cream cheese. As much as possible, try to limit these ingredients in your diet.
In addition to being vulnerable to the increased production of AGEs during the cooking process, red meat is naturally quite high in AGEs. Try to limit your intake of red meat whenever possible, instead replacing it with natural proteins like legumes or tofu.
How to Avoid AGEs in Your Food
While many foods contribute to increased inflammation and oxidative stress through AGEs, there are ways to inhibit the production of AGEs in your cooking and food preparation.
How you cook food has a lot to do with how many AGEs are produced during the preparation process. Dry heat has been shown to increase AGE production 10 to 100 times more than the levels in uncooked ingredients.
Here are some quick tips for how to avoid the production of AGEs in your cooking.
1. Incorporate an acidic ingredient like lemon juice, vinegar, or even tomato juice. Even a small amount of this in your dish can help reduce the creation of AGEs by as much as 50%.
2. Avoid high and dry heat. Instead, choose a low-and-slow method of cooking like braising or steaming.
3. Cook on a ceramic surface instead of metal. A good example of this is a slow cooker, which offers plenty of heating surface that doesn’t add AGEs into your food.
4. Choose fresh, unprocessed ingredients whenever possible. Salads of raw, uncooked vegetables, fruit, and other unprocessed ingredients will always have fewer AGEs than anything that is exposed to heat.
In addition to making these changes in your diet, there are many lifestyle changes that can help reduce your body’s level of AGEs. Getting plenty of exercise and eating lots of antioxidant-rich foods and supplements can all help counteract high AGE levels.
Choose Whole, Natural Foods for Anti-Aging
One of the best ways to improve your diet and reduce the physical signs of aging is to choose whole, natural foods and eat them as unprocessed as possible. Salads are a great choice, but you can also steam or braise these ingredients, which can add more flavor and make sure that the production of AGEs in the cooking process is limited.
Want to know which foods will work best for your diet? You can explore how your genes interact with a wide variety of foods through GenoPalate’s dietary DNA testing.
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