Bob Greene’s new book, 20 Years Younger, promises to “reverse the effects of aging” if you follow his plan. We don’t know about that, but the book does offer a good amount of solid health advice folks at any age could benefit from.
In addition to a 20 Years Younger Diet, which includes a list of healthy eating to-do’s, Greene highlights several foods–“killer compounds,” he calls them–that speed up the aging process. Most are found in fast food, simple carbohydrates like white bread and baked goods, and sweet and salty snacks.
1. Trans-fats. Trans-fats come mainly from partially hydrogenated oil–oil put through a chemical process that hardens it. While it was once thought that trans-fats were a healthier alternative to the saturated fat that comes from animals, trans-fats have been linked to higher LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol. Check ingredient labels for partially hydrogenated oil (ignore the trans-fat entry on the Nutrition Facts label, as foods with up to .5 grams of trans-fat can be labeled as having 0% trans-fat). Greene also suggests skipping restaurant pies and fried foods, and using butter or shortening made without trans-fatty acids in recipes that call for shortening or margarine.
2. Saturated fat. This type of fat is found in animal products–meat and dairy. It promotes inflammation that can lead to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and even cancer, and raises LDL (bad) cholesterol. Most experts recommend limiting saturated fat to no more than 10% of your daily calories. Greene suggests eating red meat no more than three times a month to avoid saturated fat, as well as choosing leaner cuts of beef and pork, poultry without skin, and no-fat or 1% fat milk and yogurt.
3. Sodium. In many people, sodium contributes to high blood pressure, as well as heart and kidney disease and cancer. Recent government guidelines severely restrict the amount of recommended sodium to 1,500mg/day, which Greene says is almost impossible to achieve if you eat out at all. His plan allows up to 2,300mg/day (the previous government limit). Cutting back on processed foods, eating fast food less and including more whole foods in your diet can make a big dent in your sodium consumption, as packaged goods and convenience foods are the primary source of sodium in our diets. When you do buy packaged goods, read labels and opt for the lowest-sodium food in every category. Greene also suggests limiting meals eaten at home to no more than 400mg of sodium on days when you do eat out to maintain a balance.
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