Have you ever woken up and looked in the mirror and thought, “more wrinkles, more grey hair, am I getting that old?” Perhaps not. It may just be that you, like so many people, have succumbed to premature aging. This is very prevalent in our day largely due to diet.
Contemporary eating patterns can include as much as 30% of total calories in the form of polyunsaturated oils. In terms of what our nutritional needs are this should not be more than 4%. These oils are derived mostly from corn, soy, safflower and canola through a refining process.
We are not referring here to naturally occurring polyunsaturated fats that have not been refined. Rather the culprits are principally commercial vegetable oils, which form the basis of a multitude of processed foods in our supermarkets ranging from crackers to pastries, not to mention margarine and other spreads.
Here’s the thing, these polyunsaturates become rancid when subjected to heat, oxygen and moisture when they are processed or used for cooking. This process of decomposition produces free radicals. Free radicals are atoms or clusters of atoms that have an unpaired electron. Hence, the terminology, free radical.
Free radicals have been described as “tiny hand grenades that devastate body tissues, leading to degeneration and early aging.” The damage is a result of the sub-atomic instability of these little rascals. They, like forlorn lovers, do not like to stay unpaired. Hence, they are prepared to grab an electron from wherever they can.
Because these radicals attack the cell membranes and red blood cells in search of electrons to complete their pair they cause damage to our DNA. This can trigger mutations in our skin, tissue and blood cells. It is these mutations, which cause wrinkling and premature aging.
A study of consumption of vegetable oils by a plastic surgeon demonstrates the extent of this damage. He first recorded the regular diets of his patients. He then studied the correlation between facial wrinkling and diets high in vegetable oil consumption.
The results of the study are startling. He discovered that his patients whose diets included a high volume of vegetable oil had 78% more facial wrinkles. Not only that, he remarked that some of them appeared 20 years older than they should have!
Another culprit in this issue of premature aging is none other than sugar. Recent studies have shown that sugar causes us to age more rapidly. When we ingest sugar or, for that matter, many highly processed foods such as white flour, they are rapidly broken down by the body to glucose, a blood sugar.
The problem with this is the burden it puts on our pancreas. Our pancreases have to produce enormous amounts of insulin to convert the glucose to glycogen for storage. Other than the more well know results of this stress, namely diabetes, this also causes aging.
So, other than cutting out sugar and paring down vegetable oil intake to 4% of total caloric intake, what can we do about all this? We can eat foods with antioxidants. Here are a few suggestions:
Vitamin E, which is found in dark green leafy vegetables and legumes, unrefined vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, grain and butter appears to retard the aging process.
Sulphur is an essential element in several amino acids, which block harmful effects of pollution and radiation, which is perhaps why it slows down the aging process. Sulphur is consumed in eggs, milk, other animal products as well as cruciferous vegetables (including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, cress, and similar green leaf vegetables).
Tea, especially green tea, which can be found with much lower concentrations of caffeine than black tea, is rich in polyphenols, which have potent antioxidant properties. Antioxidants provide the answer to free radicals by inhibiting the oxidation process, which produces them.
It may take more of our time to find and prepare wholesome, natural foods, but, then again, if we do we will have more time by virtue of aging less rapidly.
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