By the time we reach our mid-30s and early-40s, many of us begin to contemplate middle age and wish we had taken better care of ourselves during our 20s. Decreased energy and libido, the appearance of wrinkles, subtle weight gain, achy joints, changes in vision, trouble sleeping and moodiness—these are all signs of living life in the fast lane.
The good news is that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself and forge a new path of self-care and self-love to keep your youthful energy, sex drive, skin, figure and happiness for years to come. Here are seven lifestyle changes that may slow down the aging process, preserving brain and beauty.
1. Use healthy fats.
Once considered the enemy of healthy living, fats are essential to our well-being. Consuming good fats optimizes metabolism, supports positive mood and cognition, and benefits skin and eyes. Some of the highest-quality fat sources include coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, wild salmon, nuts and seeds.
2. Consume clean protein.
Protein helps build the hormones and neurotransmitters we need to feel awesome. It also encourages lean-muscle growth (and prevents muscle loss), promotes balanced blood sugar, enhances concentration and a positive mood, and supports healthy weight management. Plant-based proteins found in nuts and seeds and legumes, as well as wild salmon, sardines and grass-fed beef are all quality sources. Pay attention to your body, and notice what works best for you.
3. Lose the sugar.
Advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) form in your body when sugar reacts with proteins and fats in the body. The more sugar (glucose or fructose), the more AGEs. An increase of AGEs can damage cells and exacerbate inflammation, advanced aging and chronic degenerative disease. AGEs have been linked to diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. Stick to naturally occurring sugars in fresh, whole fruits—focus on berries and cherries. If you must indulge your sweet tooth, stick to natural sugars like raw honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar.
4. Skip processed carbohydrates.
As with ingesting too much sugar, consuming baked goods (cookies, muffins, cakes), pasta, potatoes, crackers, pretzels and chips can literally fast-forward the aging process. The body quickly turns these foods into sugar, which, as we noted above, is problematic. Higher intake of starchy carbohydrates can also increase risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and depression. Instead, choose high-fiber, organic grains such as brown rice, oats and quinoa.
5. Eat more dark green.
Dark-green vegetables include broccoli, collard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, kale and various lettuces. Antioxidants in these vegetables protect the skin, brain and cells from damage by unstable molecules. They also contain vitamin C, which fends off wrinkles.
6. Eat bright-colored fruits and veggies.
Orange, red and yellow fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C and carotenoids that support eye health, as well as healthy skin. Fresh fruits and veggies also provide fiber, which helps you maintain regular digestion, elimination and healthy weight.
Over the longer term, endurance training can actually fast-forward the aging process. Embrace high-intensity intervals, resistance training, walking, yoga, hiking, gardening, dancing and swimming. These forms of exercise increase lean muscle, improve mood, manage body weight and keep your brain sharp.
Dr. Debra Rouse is a licensed naturopathic doctor and member of the Institute of Functional Medicine. drdebrarouse.com