Ageing (in the physical sense) is a slowing down of the body and metabolism. In simple food terms, this means we need fewer calories, yet more nutrition â€“ i.e. vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Itâ€™s “quality over quantity” when it comes to the diet! This is because ageing is also a form of damage or decay. As awful as that might sound, the bodyâ€™s cells fail to regenerate fast enough from the onslaught of our internal and external environments. Ageing could be re-named â€œoxidative or free radical damageâ€, as itâ€™s the unstable, highly reactive molecules (free radicals) that often run riot in the body, causing damage to the cells. The most vital nutrients that help protect the body from free radical damage and disease are the family of antioxidant nutrients â€“ vitamins, minerals and the myriad of plant chemicals known collectively as flavanoids. Foods and drinksÂ springing to mind that are particular concentrated in antioxidant nutrients include blueberries, cranberries, pomegranates & other dark red/purple fruits, fresh green herbs and leaves, spices such as turmeric & cinnamon, walnuts, green tea, and red wine. Ageing, production and exposure to free radicals can be accelerated or decelerated by a number of factors. Sun, temperature extremes, chemicals, drugs, smoke, unhealthy foods, as well as physical and mental stress all age the body. Stress includes hard physical exercise too, which for the ageing athlete, must be well balanced with sufficient recovery time, AND a highly nutritious diet.
The real food nemesis to watch as we age is SUGAR, i.e. refined, unnatural forms of sugar – not natural sugars found in fresh fruits and veggies. Sugar is one of the fastest ageing foods! Eating too many sweet and sugary foods is, according to many skin experts and dermatologists, a major cause of ageing and damaged skin. Excess sugar also wreaks havoc on many systems of the body such as glucose & insulin metabolism, hormone metabolism (ladies take note!), energy levels, and the production, management and effective â€œburningâ€ of fat in the body. Therefore, to maintain a healthy weight and body composition as we age, as well as continue to run and race without injury or ill-health, sugar is the food to be vigilant of. For those concerned generally about the physical aspects of ageing, it would be very wise to look toward consuming natural food sources of vitamins minerals, and antioxidants in abundance! Foods rich in B vitamins are particularly helpful for overall energy metabolism, heart and hormone health, so eat plenty of dark green veggies (spinach, watercress, fennel, kale, brocolli, cabbage etc.), colourful and low-sugar fruits such as apples, pears, kiwis, all berries, peaches, nectarines, figs and plums, seeds, beans, nuts and wholegrains.