Have you plucked out a grey hair or said to yourself that you don’t understand Millennials? Telltale signs of aging! Really, if you’re an adult, you’ve starting aging and it would benefit you to have some tips in your back pocket.
This is our second issue in the Power of Plants. The first one covered the plant that sent us on this journey, Camellia Sinensis. This post doesn’t highlight one specific plant, but introduces the idea of plant-based essentials for health aging.
Stress is a big one – mental, physical and environmental stress. Inflammation and oxidation is thought to be two of the main causes of chronic illnesses seen with aging. What you eat your entire life also plays a major role. The plant world can help us in all these areas.
You know the biological process of aging, but do you know that traditionally in Asian countries, aging is believed to be caused by a reduction of vital energy in the body over time. This vital energy is both the mental and physical energy.
Look for ways to add tonifying herbs to increase vital energy. Some tonifying herbs are:
Siberian Ginseng – a classic adaptogen that helps make our stress reaction less severe, our resistance phase prolonged and long-term stress better handled. Siberian Ginseng allows us to better handle long term stressors like work load, emotional stress, environmental toxins.
Goji berry – High in antioxidants, boosts the immune system, helps maintain youthful, healthy skin, with a long history in Chinese medicine.
Rhodiola – protects the nervous system, heart and liver through antioxidant effects and increased the body’s resistance to stress.
Chaga – a medicinal mushroom with antioxidant and healing properties.
Schizandra – An antioxidant and adaptogenic berry that promotes vitality, increases memory, cognition and stress resistance. More on schizandra here.
Cordyceps – A fungi with powerful antioxidant properties, promotes health and longevity and restores energy.
Want glowing skin? In addition to adding the tonifying plants above – goji berries and cordyceps, look for foods rich in beta-carotene. People who eat diets high in beta-carotene have a healthier glow. Fill your plate with dark leafy greens and vegetable (fall back in love with kale) and yellow-orange fruits and vegetables (like cantaloupe and sweet potatoes).
We’ve all heard it before, antioxidants. A lot of the plants and herbs we’re talking about here are high in antioxidants because oxidants don’t just cause wrinkles, they cause a whole slew of chronic illnesses. Avoiding free radicals is impossible – we’re exposed to them everyday through the environment and breathing, eating and exercise can all cause some free radical damage. What you can do is limit exposure and counteract by adding high-antioxidant herbs, spices and foods.
You'll be happy to hear that our biggest recommendation here is to drink 3-4 cups of tea a day - matcha, other green teas, and also black, white and oolong tea. Add berries to your breakfast and choose the nourishing herbs we talked about for increasing vital energy. These are almost all incredible antioxidant sources. Read about antioxidants and one in particular, EGCg.
Basically, what you eat can speed up or slow down aging. Aging has its external physical effects like wrinkles and fatigue, but it also has internal effects on your bones, brain, etc. So, it should go without saying that changing your diet can make a big difference in how you look and feel.
Phytochemicals and fibers in plants may be the two categories of nutrients that have the highest health benefits and disease fighting potential. These nutrients are not found in animals.
Phytochemicals play the roles of antioxidation, anti-inflammation, cancer reduction, immunity enhancement and protection against diseases such as osteoporosis and muscle degeneration.
Did you know that 90% of adults and children in the US do not get the minimum recommended dietary fiber. 90%! Fiber supports gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and immune systems.
The second week of March features a guest post on introducing a plant-based diet with simple steps. Don’t freak out, you don’t have to become vegan! It’s more about introducing more plants and making it easy to do so.
Reduce inflammation by adding turmeric, ginger and cinnamon to your meals and lattes, drinking more tea (green, white, oolong and rooibos), adding basil, thyme, oregano, sage and rosemary to your dishes. Variety is essential – include a variety of inflammation fighting plants for highest benefit.
Eat less omega 6 fatty acids and more omega 3 fatty acids and saturated fats. Studies have shown that people with the highest levels of omega 3 fats age much more slowly. An optimal level of omega 3 fats also lessens the aging effects of the sun. Lower levels of omega 3s can lead to faster telomere shortening (explained below).
How much nuts and seeds?
Nuts – 1-2 oz/30-40g per day
Seeds 2 tbsp per day
Anti-aging is more than just prolonging life. Anti-aging these days is more about healthy aging and better quality of life, as we get older, no matter our age today. Although minimizing wrinkles and maintaining healthy glowing skin is certainly a part of this, people are beginning to look more internally and seeing healthy aging in a more holistic way. This includes a greater focus on prevention.
You can prevent a lot of your body’s aging by making lifestyle changes like choosing more plant-based meals and adding specific herbs and superfoods to your daily routine.
Getting more positive human interaction is helpful too. I’m sure you’ve seen a ton of articles and books in recent years advocating for eliminating negative relationships and “breaking up” with those that are bring you down. This practice can actually lengthen your life.
Lifestyle changes and plants can be your primary form of prevention and treatment, not crazy expensive skin products or surgery.
A Nobel Prize Winner for anti-aging research, Elizabeth Blackburn, and psychiatrist Elisa Epel, believe we can slow aging by actually changing our DNA – lengthening something called telomeres, the caps at the end of each strand of DNA. They state that “longer telomeres are associated with having a longer ‘health span’, which really means more high-quality years”.
Their book, The Telomere Effect, says we’re actually in control of our aging through healthy lifestyle changes, healthy habits and a healthy state of mind. All the things we’re talking about in this post.
Missed our first issue of Power of Plants? Learn about the tea plant here. Learn more about turmeric and its science-backed benefits, or see how matcha can help with weight loss and controlling cholesterol. Or, add matcha and coconut oil to your diet with this tasty recipe.
Plant-based Diets: A Physician’s Guide, Julieanna Hever. 07/06/2016 dw.doi.org/10.7812/TPP/15-082
Anti-aging herbal medicine – How and why can they be used in aging-associated neurodegenerative diseases? Yuen-Shan Ho, Kwok-Fai So, Raymond Chuen-Chung Chang. www.elsevier.com/locate/arr
The Top 101 Foods That Fight Aging, Mike Geary & Cathering Ebelling