Busting Food Myths with Nicole Senior

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Myth: Staying young is skin deep as any wrinkle will tell you.

Nicole Senior

Fact: Despite the millions spent on lotions and potions, youth and beauty at any age comes from within.
Although fruit, vegetables, herbs, green tea and omega-3s are fashionable ingredients for skin care products, you’ll probably get better results by eating them. An Australian study comparing the habitual diets of mature women found those with the least skin wrinkles enjoyed a diet rich in vegetables, olive oil, fish and legumes. Eating prunes, apples and drinking tea also seemed to help. A large study of middle aged- American women found those who consumed the most vitamin C and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid found in vegetable oils) had the lowest skin-age appearance.

A common fear of getting older is ‘losing our marbles’ so we can’t talk about healthy ageing without discussing the brain. Besides exercising your brain with memory tasks, puzzles and problem solving, you can maintain a healthy brain with the food you eat. For example, foods rich folate may decrease levels of harmful homocysteine in the body – a trouble-making substance that may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s as well as cardiovascular disease. Folate rich foods include green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach), citrus fruit, legumes (e.g. lentils) and breakfast cereals and breads with added folate.

Having high blood glucose levels can also muddy the waters of the mind. Excess glucose forms an unholy alliance with proteins in the brain to produce AGE (advanced glycosylated end products), which are implicated in degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. A similar process can occur with proteins in the skin leaving you looking very much your AGE. Here’s where a low GI diet comes in: you can reduce the amount of glucose loitering-with-intent-to-age. Enjoy low GI foods such as grainy breads, oats, muesli, pasta, legumes, fruits and calcium-rich low fat dairy foods and your dedication to healthy eating will be written all over your face.

If all these protective foods are sounding familiar it’s because they also help maintain a healthy heart. While heart disease is often associated with men, it is still the biggest killer of women. Heart-friendly foods such as vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, fish and healthy oils are also brain-friendly. Ladies, your healthy ageing strategy is simple: eat for your heart and your head (and use sunscreen).

Dermatologists say the most important strategy for preventing premature ageing is staying out of the sun, so buying a good sunscreen is money well spent – and wearing a hat.

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Dietitian Nicole Senior is author of Eat to Beat Cholesterol available online at: www.eattobeatcholesterol.com.au/