Turn back your age clock

Jayney Goddard argues that a plant-based wholefood diet could be the best way to keep premature ageing at bay

An anti-inflammatory diet can actively halt and even reverse biological ageing. The evidence overwhelmingly points to a plant-based, wholefood diet as the best means of reducing chronic inflammation – thus reducing susceptibility to premature ageing.

By “plant-based”, I’m sure you know that I mean foods that neither contain nor are derived from animals; and by “wholefood” I mean food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives and other artificial substances. This information comes from many sources, including the huge Adventist Health Studies (AHS 1 & 2), which began back in the 1960s and looked at the health of over 96,000 people; Seventh-Day Adventists were chosen for this study as they live generally healthy lifestyles and the majority are vegan or vegetarian. The data from these studies show conclusively that these people lived longer, were healthier and were largely protected from diseases of chronic inflammation. And this information is supported by many other large-scale studies, including The China Study by Dr T Colin Campbell and his son, which looked at the diets of people living in China and found a correlation between increased meat and dairy consumption and the development of the diseases of ageing.

Essentially a book about one of the biggest scientific research studies ever undertaken, The China Study is completely fascinating – I highly recommend it. The study itself has been criticised (not very convincingly) in some quarters, so Dr Campbell revisited it, clarified some of the elements that were refuted and published even more compelling data in a new book called Whole.

Among the many other proponents of a plant-based, wholefood, vegan diet are the globally renowned and highly respected doctors Frank Sabatino, Caldwell Esselstyn, Michael Klaper, Joel Fuhrman, Neal Barnard and Dean Ornish. In addition, the British Medical Journal, Harvard Medical School and the globally respected medical journal The Lancet have all gone on record in saying that the healthiest diet, long-term, is a plant-based, wholefood one. So it really is worth thinking about making this dietary change in your own life or at least start taking steps in this direction by beginning to reduce your intake of all meat, dairy and processed foods.

The benefits of a plant-based diet

Plants provide huge amounts of life-supporting micronutrients, including phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, with very few exceptions. Plants, when we use them in an unprocessed state, as close to “whole” as we can get, also provide us with all the macronutrients we need: healthy fats, complex carbohydrates – and even proteins! As all these health-supporting goodies happen to be lower calorie, it is easier to get all the nutrients we need without the extra calorie burden of heavily processed foods and animal proteins.

As a plant-based, wholefood diet avoids processed ingredients, focuses on whole foods, uses very little oil, includes virtually no salt and rarely includes added sugars, plant-based eaters tend to have better body composition than people who eat a conventional Western diet.

As a plant-based diet is also low in saturated fat, free of cholesterol, high in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, research reveals that following this type of diet will lower your risks of:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes (type 2, and the complications of both types 1 and 2)
  • Colon and breast cancers
  • Digestive disease
  • Obesity

Furthermore, studies show that a plant-based diet can help to reduce body weight and your total LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels – often thought of as your “bad cholesterol”.

Making the change to a plant-based diet

While a plant-based diet can be a varied, nutritious and delicious way of eating (contrary to what many people believe), making the switch means that you have to initially plan quite a bit more to ensure that all your nutritional requirements are being properly met.

It’s important to make sure that you get sufficient protein if you go plant-based, so be sure to incorporate at least some of the following protein-packed foods into your daily diet, allowing for any sensitivities or allergies as always:

  • Beans, lentils and split peas
  • Quinoa
  • Organic soy products, such as tempeh, tofu, soybeans and soy milk
  • Nuts and seeds

It’s also important to make sure that you get sufficient vitamins and minerals, because healthy bones rely upon adequate supplies of calcium, vitamin D and magnesium, so be sure to:

  • Eat plenty of dark green, leafy veggies and beans; both contain calcium.
  • Drink plant milks, including soy, almond, rice or hemp milk; these contain both calcium and vitamin D (needed to absorb the calcium).
  • Eat mushrooms and fortified cereals, which contain vitamin D. If you aren’t consuming fortified foods on a consistent basis, take a vitamin D3 supplement.
  • Get out into the sunlight as often as possible or take a vitamin D3 supplement.
  • Get enough zinc and iron by eating whole grains, beans and fortified cereals.
  • Eat soy products and nutritional yeast for vitamin B12.

Optimism increases lifespan

Studies have proven that having a positive attitude improves your responses to daily stress, which can potentially increase both your health-span and lifespan. One of the best ways of creating a more optimistic outlook is by embracing the philosophy of “It’s not what happens to me; it’s what I make of it.”

Researchers in the Netherlands found that older men and women who had optimistic personalities were less likely to die over a nine-year period than those with pessimistic outlooks. An attitude of optimism seems to be particularly important in protecting against heart disease: optimists in the study were 77 per cent less likely to die of a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular cause than the most pessimistic group. And this was the case regardless of factors such as age, weight, smoking and whether the participants had cardiovascular or other chronic diseases at the start.

Taken from Rewind Your Body Clock. Text copyright © Jayney Goddard, Watkins Media 2019. Photography copyright © Watkins Media Limited 2019.

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