Eat to cheat

WE'RE living for longer than ever before, but who wants to look their age? Fortunately, science is proving that the food we eat can put the brakes on the ageing process, both on the inside and the outside.

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Published: Sat 17 Feb 2007, 10:45 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:01 AM

Investing in a healthy diet now can help reduce the likelihood of suffering from ailments such as failing eyesight, arthritis and heart disease, as well as fatigue and lacklustre skin.

Many of the visible effects of ageing, such as wrinkles, and also those that we can't see, such as deterioration of the heart and eyes, are caused by free radicals -- Free radicals are hard to avoid, as they're produced naturally in the course of everyday life: factors such as smoking, pollution and overexposure to sunlight can accelerate their production.

But eating lots of antioxidantrich fruits and vegetables can be a powerful defence against them. Vitamin C-rich citrus fruit can also help to boost the immune system, promote healthy skin and reduce the risk of eye disease.

Growing old gracefully is an art that anyone can master — with a little help from the right foods...


FULL of fibre, rhubarb acts as a natural laxative, keeping the digestive system in good working order and helping to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Rhubarb is also high in calcium, which is good for bones, and potassium to keep blood pressure in check and protect the heart. It is also extremely high in water, which helps to keep the body well hydrated.


WATERCRESS is rich in vitamin C, thus aiding the regeneration of skin cells, keeping the liver healthy and defences strong. It also contains phenethyl isothiocyanate, a chemical that helps the liver to detoxify and is said to neutralise carcinogenic cells.

A useful source of iodine — essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid, and vitamin B6 to prevent memory loss.


BRAZIL nuts are about 70 per cent fat. Half of this is oleic acid, the building block for the omega-9 fatty acids that are excellent for the skin and have anti-inflammatory properties.

The rest is made up of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids, which promote healthy skin, glossy hair and a good memory. highly reactive molecules that damage cell walls and the genetic material within cells.


LOADED with vitamins C and E, avocados are excellent for keeping skin soft, supple and healthy, and for maintaining glossy hair. High in omega-3 fatty acids, they help prevent wrinkles, enhance brain power and treat arthritic pain. They contain the antioxidant lutein, which has been shown to protect against eye problems and cardiovascular disease.


RADISHES are rich in sulphur, essential for youthful, healthy skin, hair and nails, and also have anticarcinogenic properties. Assisting the body in ridding itself of toxins, radishes help to treat gall bladder and liver problems, which might cause premature ageing.


PEANUTS provide the most protein of all nuts, and they are high in monounsaturated fats, which reduce cholesterol levels and protect against clogged arteries and heart disease. They are also high in vitamin E, which maintains wrinkle-free skin and glossy hair. Because of their low glycaemic index score, the nuts help to prevent adult-onset diabetes.


BANANAS are high in potassium, which keeps high blood pressure in check and reduces the risk of heart disease. In conjunction with sodium they help maintain the fluid and electrolyte balance in body cells, thus maintaining healthy nerve and muscle function. They also contain tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin to aid peaceful sleep.


CONTAINING the powerful antioxidant betacyanin, which gives beetroot its deep red hue, this vegetable purifies the blood and has anti-carcinogenic properties. Research shows it boosts the body's natural defences in the liver, regenerating immune cells. Also contains silica, vital for healthy skin, hair, fingernails, ligaments, tendons and bones.


MUSHROOMS contain more protein than most vegetables, as well as vitamin E and selenium, which help maintain healthy skin and hair and protect against heart disease. They also boost immunity and have anticarcinogenic properties.

Shiitake mushrooms specifically boost immunity, the reishi variety combat high blood pressure and asthma, and maitake treat blood pressure and liver disease.


WHETHER red, green or brown, lentils are a great source of protein, which we need to keep our skin, hair, teeth and nails strong and healthy. Lentils also contain high levels of B vitamins, particularly B3, which protects against poor memory, and B12, which helps to prevent everything from arthritis to tinnitus.


PINEAPPLE'S main benefits come from bromelain, an effective antiinflammatory, making it exceptionally good for joint problems. Rich in vitamin C, pineapple supports the immune system and defends against free radicals, which can cause premature ageing. An excellent source of manganese, important for antioxidant defences and energy production.


USED topically, cucumber helps to maintain a youthful appearance, thanks to its hydrating and antiinflammatory properties. When ingested, the high water and balanced mineral content makes it one of the best diuretics. Cucumbers are a rich source of silica, a mineral needed for healthy skin, bone and connective tissue.

Silica also plays a major role in preventing cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.


A FANTASTIC source of folic acid, said to prevent damage to the arteries that supply blood to the heart and the brain. Folic acid has also demonstrated anticarcinogenic properties. Asparagus contains asparagine, which, along with its high potassium and low sodium content, makes it an excellent diuretic and cleanser.


CHICKPEAS are a good source of protein, vital for the healthy repair of cells. Their high vitamin E content boosts the immune system, protects the heart and promotes healthy skin and hair.

They also contain zinc, which enhances immunity. A useful source of isoflavones, which mimic oestrogen and have anticarcenogenic properties.


AN EXCELLENT source of vitamin C, which is essential for the manufacture of collagen — a protein that helps to maintain the structure of the skin.

Vitamin C also plays an important role in healing wounds and can ward off gingivitis, the gum disease that affects three out of four adults. They also contain ellagic acid, a phytochemical with powerful anticarcinogenic properties.


RICH in lycopene, which neutralises free radicals before they can cause damage, therefore starving off everything from wrinkles to heart attacks.

Studies indicate that lycopene could have twice the anti-carcinogenic punch of beta-carotene. They also contain a little iron, which is well absorbed by the body when accompanied by vitamin C and prevents anaemia and fatigue.


BETA-CAROTENE, which the body converts into vitamin A, is especially important for eye health. It's also of great benefit to the skin, and the immune and digestive systems. Carrots are also loaded with fibre and water, which cleanse the liver, boost detoxification and plump out the skin to stave off wrinkles.


AN EXCELLENT source of protein, which helps keep energy levels steady as well as maintaining cells, they are also rich in folic acid, good for healing wounds and preventing heart disease. Kidney beans are full of fibre, vital for keeping cholesterol levels down. They are also a valuable source of iron, helping to prevent anaemia.


A RICH source of omega-3 fatty acids, essential for keeping skin looking young and radiant and also thought to help make the blood less liable to clot and so reduce the risk of heart disease. Sardines also provide selenium, a powerful antioxidant that helps to prevent wrinkles and heart disease. Selenium is anticarcinogenic and neutralizes toxic metals in the body.


A GOOD source of protein, contributing to the growth and repair of the body's cells, also rich in selenium, which helps to prevent wrinkles and keeps hair glossy.

Chicken contains iron and zinc to boost energy levels and immunity -- there is twice as much in the dark meat as in the breast. The breast is particularly high in vitamin B6, which protects the heart.


GINGER protects the digestive system against premature ageing, thus aiding the general absorption of nutrients.

The root helps regulate blood sugar, both by stimulating cells in the pancreas and by lowering cholesterol levels. Because ginger is such an effective anti-inflammatory, it is among the most respected herbs for the treatment of joint problems such as arthritis.


HONEY is 79 per cent sugar. The rest comprises water and small amounts of vitamins, including vitamin B6, which is good for the brain. It also includes calcium which helps strengthen bones. Used topically, honey is a humectant, attracting and retaining water, which keeps skin soft and supple.


OYSTERS contain vitamins B3 and B12, useful to prevent memory problems. They are a valuable source of zinc, which helps build resistance to disease, maintain youthful skin and prevent hair loss. Oysters also contain vitamin E, which is also good for the skin and for preventing heart disease, as well as conditions such as arthritis.


PROTEIN-RICH, eggs contain all eight essential amino acids, thus helping to make up the building blocks for the entire body, benefiting everything from skin to hair, and bones to muscles. Owing to their high lecithin content, eggs are an important brain food, contributing not only to memory and concentration, but also to a healthy emotional state.


THE malic acid content of apple cider vinegar helps dissolve calcium deposits in the body and eases arthritis. It also helps to balance the body's acid-alkaline pH levels and oxygenates the blood, thus aiding digestion and boosting the immune system. Enzyme-rich, cider vinegar contains the perfect balance of 19 minerals.


OLIVE oil contains vitamin E, which helps keep skin wrinkle-free and hair glossy. It is also rich in monounsaturated fat, which is believed to have anti-carcinogenic properties, and helps lower blood pressure and prevent diabetes.

A rich source of polyphenols, known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulant actions, it is thought to help stave off conditions such as arthritis.


HIGH in protein, necessary for the repair of ageing cells, lamb is also a rich source of B vitamins, including vitamin B12 which is vital for a healthy heart. The meat is also high in easily absorbed iron, which is fundamental for preventing anaemia. Selenium protects the eyes from disease and the heart from muscle damage, while sulphur is good for strong hair and nails.


THE richest herbal source of the mineral potassium, which stimulates the kidneys to eliminate waste matter and reduces high blood pressure -- the number one cause of heart attacks. Parsley has antiinflammatory properties, thus protecting against arthritis. It's also an excellent source of vitamin A for the eyes, and magnesium and calcium to protect bones and the nervous system.


FULL of powerful antioxidants, including astringent tannins, flavones and anthocyanins, grapes help to prevent 'bad' LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and blood from clotting, and so protect the heart and the circulatory system. High in both water and fibre, grapes are also a great aid for detoxifying the gut and the liver.


THE high level of vitamin C in lemons means they are vital for healthy skin and gums. Also a good source of bioflavonoids, such as quercetin, which boost the effects of vitamin C, and are particularly important for the health of blood vessels and to prevent varicose veins. Like other citrus fruits they contain terpenes, which are anticarcinogenic.

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