Dear Leah Renee,
Can certain foods help slow down the aging process? I realize eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is the right way to go both by a weight and health perspective, but can it also have an effect on my looks too?
We tend to hear in abundance about all the different foods and chemicals that are bad for us and the harmful effects and they pose to our health and bodies. Most of what we put in our bodies eventually has an effect on our exterior as well. When we eat foods we’re allergic to it will often show up on our skin, like in the form of a rash, telling us something is not right. Then there are those fun I’m nights we’re all familiar with full of fun and drinking. Come the next morning we can see evidence on our face of what we did. Eating a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients on a steady basis (90% of the time) will show on our face too, giving us nice skin and a healthy glow. In addition you’ll even be protecting yourself against all the other harmful pollutants we’re exposed to in our environment each and every day, like a coat of armor.
There’s a reason we have been told “take your vitamins” but how about aiming to get them through the foods we eat. There’s another bonus to focusing on that: weight loss. When we aim to get the most out of our meals nutrition-wise, those are the same foods that are healthy all around and will generally be low in calories and saturated fats.
What makes foods beautifying? The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they contain. The best way to recognize them: their bright color! Foods that make us beautiful tend to be pretty beautiful too au natural. “Eating the colors of the rainbow” may be a phrase you’re familiar with and means just that. Fruits and vegetables that are bright red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple contain so many beneficial nutrients that nourish us from the inside out.
Picture from ShareItFitness
When we cut an apple or avocado open, we can visibly see them change color rather quickly. That is because it’s exposed to oxygen, known as the oxidation process. We are watching it begin to spoil. If we want to slow that process down, we can add antioxidants to it and save it from aging rapidly. Want to slow down your process of aging too?! Add some antioxidants.
There are two ranking systems used to score foods and determine how beneficial they are in their nutrient and antioxidant values: ANDI stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index system and ORAC is an acronym that stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. You may be recognize the ANDI ranking system since Whole Foods has adopted this method to help consumers make more educated choices while they shop. Aiming for most of the foods we eat to be high on either or both scales will give us the benefits we’re looking to achieve for that external glow through healthier insides.
Determinants of what makes for a high ANDI score include how much vitamin E, C, B6, B12, Iron, Calcium, Zinc, Fiber, Folate, Carotene’s, and Selenium they contain. The higher the number, the more nutrient dense it is and the better it is for you. The ORAC value recognizes the strength and potency of antioxidants in a particular food (whether that’s a legume, fruit, vegetable, grain, spice, herb, or drink) because that determines how effectively it will neutralize free radicals (the antithesis and arch nemesis of antioxidants).
Here is the ANDI score sheet, a helpful list to keep in mind next time you shop:
(Chart by: Eat Right America)
Let’s not forget about a little seasoning! Here is an ORAC value chart of some conventional herbs and spices that are easy to add to any meal we eat to up the antioxidant value:
Now it’s your turn! Time to try out a healthy, nutrient dense, antioxidant-packed recipe for yourself. Here is one I found from Real Simple magazine that looked delish. Anything including sweet potato is right by me!
Quinoa with Mushrooms, Kale, and Sweet Potatoes
Hands-On Time: 15m | Total Time: 30m
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 10 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 bunch kale, stems discarded and leaves torn into 2-inch pieces
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce)
- Place the quinoa and 2 cups water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add the sweet potatoes and mushrooms and cook, tossing occasionally, until golden and beginning to soften, 5 to 6 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the kale, wine, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, tossing often, until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Serve the vegetables over the quinoa and sprinkle with the Parmesan.
Tip: Sprinkle some Goji Berries on top for an extra antioxidant kick, and replace button with shiitake mushrooms for even more nutritional benefits.
Now go get your glow on!