And a DELICIOUS chickpea salad recipe for you to try!
How long would you like to live? Until you are 80, 90, 120? If you aren’t sure you want to live so long, why is that? What does healthy ageing mean to you? Could it be that you want to avoid the changes we associate with age; chronic disease, cognitive decline, being unable to live the life you did in your younger years? Would you want to live to 120 if you could do so in full health?
Although growing older is inevitable, we have a lot of control over how we age. In truth, a decline in health is not predetermined. Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviour and environment can affect the way your genes work. This tells us that we have power over how the passing years affect our health. But what really works? I’ve sifted through the research to bring you practical advice you can incorporate at any age to help you live a long, healthy and active life.
CONTROL YOUR STRESS
It might surprise you that the first potent anti-ageing strategy is stress. We typically think of stress as a bad thing, and yes chronic stress is associated with health problems (high blood pressure, inflammation and increased cardiovascular risk factors). Chronic stress causes damage to cells, proteins and DNA, and as a result, contributes to ageing.
Short-term stress from exercise, breathwork, cold water therapy and fasting however, increases longevity. Short-term stress allows the body to repair after these periods of intensity.
When you are physically active, you turn on repair mechanisms within your cells, expending energy to deal with the damage you’ve caused. This activation increases resilience, stops cells from deteriorating and keeps us from ageing. Many studies have proven that 150 mins a week of moderate exercise is sufficient, but you can go one better. David Sinclair, author of ‘Lifespan: Why We Age – and Why We Don’t Have To’ advises that in order to achieve maximum benefits from physical activity, you need to be out of breath, for just ten minutes, 3-4 times a week. This hypoxia (lack of oxygen) increases blood flow to muscles and switches on longevity mechanisms.
- Resistance training – After the age of 30, we start to lose 1% of muscle mass annually. It makes sense to protect your muscle mass by lifting weights, your bodyweight (hello, yoga!) or using resistance bands. This has hormonal benefits for both men and women. It promotes healthy testosterone levels in men and bolsters bone health in women. This is important for women as many experience a decline in estrogen levels in perimenopause and menopause.
- Yoga for anxiety. Not only is it hard to worry about everyday stresses when you are stretching and balancing at the same time, but releasing your breath can act as a pressure-valve release and is great for both mental and physical health.
- The Yoga for Anxiety Course on Movement for Modern Life is a four week course to help you address your relationship to anxiety and uses the tools of Yoga, meditation, visualisation, breathwork and journaling to help.
- Green tea contains a compound called L-Theanine which boosts GABA – a calming brain chemical. Swap out your coffee for matcha (the whole green tea leaf which has been ground) to reduce stress levels.
- Magnesium is a nutrient which plays a special role in nervous system regulation and deactivates adrenaline. Include dark leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds every day, and consider taking a supplement such as Viridian High Potency Magnesium before bed if you struggle with sleep.
BE MINDFUL OF WHEN YOU EAT
When we fast, our bodies switch on autophagy – the process of removing old and defunct cells, allowing us to regenerate new, healthier cells.
Reducing how often we eat or the window in which we are eating, can give us both short- and long-term benefits and delay ageing.
Although there are many different ways to fast, it doesn’t have to be extreme to work – by committing to an eating window of 12 hours, and leaving 4 hours between meals, you will feel the benefits.
- A fasting app such as BodyFast to keep track of your hours.
- Stop snacking – a simple rule to decrease calories and increase time between meals.
- Brushing your teeth after dinner is a good practice to avoid snacking into the evening.
BE MORE BLUE ZONE
Did you know that there are places in the world considered to be longevity hotspots? In these places there is a lack of disease, it’s common to live to 100 years old, and stay sharp until the end. The five Blue Zones are in Italy, Japan, Costa Rica, Greece and Loma Linda (specifically, the community of Seventh-Day Adventists) in California. Geographically diverse, what are the common denominators that have put these places on the map, longevity-wise?
Rather than a specific list of foods (although, we will get to that), it’s more a series of habits and a certain lifestyle that make these places special. A low or non-processed, plant-based diet, typically high in legumes, fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, greens and herbs. This diet is in combination with a strong sense of community and sustainability at the heart of food production. This tells us that sense of purpose is also key – this is value in relationships and responsibility for the community for longevity.
- More plants and less meat
- Beans – and lots of them
- Greens, a variety every day
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil used cold (it damages at high heat)
- Seasonal fruit and vegetables
- Unprocessed wholegrains such as brown rice, oatmeal, wild rice, good quality bread, beans and legumes or grains such as quinoa. Buckwheat is a great alternative for those who are gluten-free.
- Drink only a little alcohol, and if you do, make it an organic red wine.
- Omega 3 fatty acids, crucial to the integrity of your brain. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring are the best sources – aim for 3 portions weekly if you do eat fish, as well as great vegetarian sources such as avocado, nuts and seeds daily. Topping up with a high quality supplement such as Bare Biology Omega 3 or Bare Biology vegan Omega 3 is a good idea.
- Good quality protein sources are essential – the amino acid tryptophan (a building block of protein) is converted to serotonin in the brain – a lack of this nutrient could lead to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Aim for around 20g of protein per meal from beans, legumes, oats, nuts, tofu, tempeh and protein powder or eggs, meat and fish.
- Connecting with people – studies show that those who engage with and help others live longer lives. Could you try volunteering or making social plans?
- Learning new skills – as we grow older we tend to do the same things repetitively, leading to a loss of speed and flexibility in brain cells. A commitment to lifelong learning and staying curious will stimulate your brain and stave off cognitive decline.
- Challenge yourself! Yoga is a wonderful way to gently challenge yourself and see progression in skill and focus over time. It also has the added benefit of lowering cortisol levels by releasing tension – thereby reducing inflammation and managing belly fat. Try this practice to cultivate kindness towards yourself and others.
We don’t need the latest face creams or diet- and fitness-fads to age well.
Keeping it simple, eating good produce that doesn’t have ingredients you can’t pronounce, keeping active at your own pace and connecting with people are the easiest ways to take care of yourself.
Every small decision you approach with compassion for yourself and others will take you a step closer to the fulfilled and happy life you deserve – start today and live life to the fullest.
RECIPE: Chickpea Salad
Tinned or fresh chickpeas or black beans
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ red onion, chopped
1 small bunch coriander, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon or lime (or use apple cider vinegar)
Salt, pepper and chilli flakes to taste
Either prepare your fresh beans or rinse tinned ones
Combine all ingredients in a bowl
Check the seasoning and serve
Chickpeas and black beans have a great nutrition profile: a fantastic source of vegan protein, they contain fiber and folate too. This is a good one to have in the fridge as it goes with anything. You could add cucumber or tomatoes – but leave these whole or add when you are ready to eat so that it keeps for longer.
Ready in 5 minutes
Lindsey Whistler MA, Nut. Dip.
Lindsey is a Registered Nutritional Therapist with ANP and also holds an MA from St Andrews University. Lindsey runs her own practice and consultancy in Bath and online.
If you would like any more information please feel free to contact Lindsey for a free 20-minute call. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or DM @lindsolovesfood
SPECIAL OFFER: 30% off an initial & follow up appointment with Lindsey when you mention MFML when booking