Back in 2012, Sara Gottfried found out that, at age 44, she had the genes of a 64-year-old woman. Through a simple blood test, Gottfried learned the somewhat concerning fact that her telomeres, or the protective capsules on chromosomes that reflect how fast you're aging, were 20 years ahead of her actual age.
"I decided to develop a protocol to turn back the clock, starting with my fork," she writes for MindBodyGreen, referencing the idea that sparked one of her books, Younger. "Since only 10 percent of disease is caused by your genes, and 90 percent is caused by your lifestyle and environmental factors, this gives you an incredible opportunity to change the course of your aging body … by tweaking your lifestyle, which turns on and off important genes." In other words, you are what you eat in more ways than one.
After re-testing her telomeres this fall and adding a full nine years back to her genetic lifespan, Gottfried has identified the foods that speed up our aging process. Below, read up on the unhealthy foods to be aware of and why:
It's safe to say this ingredient has secured its spot on every list of foods to avoid. "I advise eliminating all or sugar and sugar substitutes," says Gottfried. "If sugar is one of the first six ingredients [in a product], avoid it." In short, sugar triggers the reward centers in your brain, while also harming the hippocampus—the part responsible for memory and emotional regulation.
What to eat instead: Stevia, a sweetener and sugar substitute, has a glycemic index of zero.
While this list of foods will be different for everyone, gluten and dairy are the most common culprits. "Remember that inflammation is your body's emergency response system, a normal part of what your body does," adds Gottfried. "When your body is functioning properly, inflammation should stop after 72 hours. When prolonged, it's a problem that I call 'biochemistry gone wrong.'"
What to eat instead: Fill up on anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric, fresh veggies, and dark leafy greens.
Yes, hot dogs, sausage, deli meats, and bacon are all on this list. "We do know that a meat-based diet is linked to higher body mass index and that too much of the wrong type of saturated fat raises estrogen," she explains. Unfortunately, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and certain forms of breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer are all estrogen-dominant conditions.
What to eat instead: Stick to grass-fed, organic meat or try some of our delicious vegetarian recipes!
Head over to MindBodyGreen for more insight from Gottfried, and read up on the nine anti-aging foods to fill up on instead!