Raw Food: The ultimate anti-ageing tool?
Can healthy eating and raw food help combat the ageing process?
The sad fact is: no one gets healthier as they get older.
A woman will most likely start thinking about it seriously when she becomes ill or looks in the mirror one day and notice some unwelcome changes. At this point, how effective will any strategy be in prolonging youthful looks or energy levels? Is there a point at which it becomes too late?
Science is proving that the vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients in food are vital for the repair and maintenance of cells. Adopting healthier eating habits can help reduce illness, and there are studies to show that starting when you are 40 or over is still effective.
Healthy eating: age is not a barrier
One such study, involving adult males, showed that after only four weeks of a high vegetable intake, signs of inflammation were reduced (1). Inflammation is at the core of many age-related health issues – this doesn’t just mean painful and achy joints, but heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even cancer.
Another study, investigating the association of skin ageing and nutrition in women aged 40-74, concluded:
“Higher intakes of vitamin C and linoleic acid and lower intakes of fats and carbohydrates are associated with better skin-aging appearance.” (2)
As a foodie and nutritional therapist I’ve dabbled in most eating trends. The only thing I did that made a noticeable difference that I could actually see and had people commenting on my skin and glow was raw food.
Raw food refers to vegetables, in particular, and fruit. A number of anti-ageing gurus, such as Leslie Kenton, David Wolfe and Roy Wolford, relied on ‘nutrient dense’ diets, meaning one that is predominantly high in vegetables and preferably raw.
Adapting to this way of eating is difficult, plus (as with any diet that involves relearning and planning) it can reduce intake of nutrients in the short term. So, instead of committing to become 100% raw, I recommend that you investigate raw food meal options, finding new ways of preparing the foods you already use.
My own repertoire of meals expanded exponentially when I looked for ways to increase my intake of vegetables and I will now often have more than six cooked or raw vegetables in one meal.
Some of the big nutritional hitters are green, leafy vegetables. Kale, a favourite of some celebrities, justly earns a place at the top of the list. It can be lightly shredded, cooked and drizzled with olive oil. Serve casseroles on a bed of kale, or stir it uncooked into wholewheat pasta dishes.
It is worth rethinking how you use all green vegetables. Make sure that whatever you do to them they are under rather than over cooked – raw is best!
Use sprouted seeds regularly, such as broccoli or sunflower (both are understood to have potent anti-cancer properties). Eat them uncooked in salads, again stirred into pasta or rice dishes, sprinkled over soups or in sandwiches.
Green juices and smoothies
If chomping into lots of raw vegetables does not appeal to you then the easiest way to get a huge nutritional hit every day is juicing. Focus predominantly on vegetables with a little fruit to maximise the benefit. Alternatively, to make use of the fibre that can be wasted with juicing, smoothies are the way to go.
Celebrities such as Michelle Pfeiffer, Oprah (in her healthy phases) Gwyneth Paltrow, Alicia Silverstone, and Woody Harrelson (to name a few) are avid consumers of green smoothies and/or juices.
The combinations may seem bizarre, but they work. Some of my own that I enjoy are:
- strawberries, spinach and lemon
- kale and apple with lemon or blueberries
- Cavelo Nero kale, lime and cucumber, sweetened with dried figs
The secret to green juices and smoothies is to use either lemon or lime with green vegetables to soften the taste and aroma. There are plenty of books available that offer inspiration, recipes and advice. If the constituents are not organic, ensure they are very well washed.
So, if you are keen to manage how you age, look at what you eat as part of your plan. As to the question; is it ever too late to start?
The answer is, thankfully, no.
Be aware that in some countries raw sprouted seeds are not recommended for pregnant women, and the cruciferous family of vegetables (broccoli and the like) can be problematic for those with thyroid issues. As ever consult your doctor if considering upping your intake of these.