Your diet affects everything from your skin and hair to your brain, bones and connective tissue. Keep yourself looking and feeling more youthful by avoiding these nutritional pitfalls (via Care2 Healthy Living):
- A weakness for fast food ages you because of its high content of trans fat, which causes chronic inflammation. This inflammation breaks down your telomeres, which are like caps at the ends of your chromosomes. When telomeres break down, the chromosomes fray and become shorter, making them less efficient and decreasing your body’s ability to regenerate its organs. To keep trans fat out of your system, avoid fast food, ask for ingredient lists at restaurants, and look for ingredients like “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils, which indicate trans fats.
- Giving in to a serious sweet tooth causes your sucrose intake to skyrocket, which strains your body’s system, as it wasn’t designed to process the concentrated amounts of sucrose that are so readily available today. If you eat too much sugar, it lingers in your blood stream and causes a process called “glycosylation,” which ages you by making your skin less elastic and more wrinkle-prone, and damaging your body’s mitochondria, which can affect your memory, hearing, vision and energy levels, and even increase your risk for cataracts. The more sugar you can cut out of your diet, the better. If you must eat something sweet, opt for natural sweeteners like honey, agave nectar and maple syrup.
- Carbo-loading–even when you’re not training can be detrimental to your appearance if you’re eating refined, starchy carbs because starch turns into sugar as soon as it hits your bloodstream, which causes your blood sugar levels to soar. Because evolution has not kept pace with the modern diet, the blood sugar surge causes your body to think you have just eaten a gigantic feast, and releases a ton of insulin and chemicals to help digest everything it thinks you just consumed. Because of the large insulin release, your blood sugar then drops dramatically and you are hungry again just 30 minutes later. This yo-yo effect causes insulin resistance, which is linked to type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease. To avoid it, choose 100 percent whole-grains and other complex carbs like legumes and vegetables.
- Waiting until you’re really hungry before eating leads to overeating, which leads to obesity. Here’s why: when you’re hungry, your stomach signals hunger to your brain by releasing the hormone ghrelin. The problem is that it takes 30 minutes after you start eating for your ghrelin levels to return to normal, increasing the chances that you’ll overeat. Instead of waiting until you’re famished, make sure you have a bit of food in your stomach at all times, and eat healthy proteins, carbs and fats at each meal to keep you feeling satiated.
- Eating at your desk, in the car, or while you’re stressed in any way has a negative impact on digestion because the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline push blood away from your stomach and into your extremities, hindering your body’s ability to properly digest food and absorb nutrients like vitamin B12. When digestion slows, food ferments and sends odd metabolites into the bloodstream. Eating while you’re stressed or busy can also lead you to eat more than you normally would, and to eat foods that are not as nutritionally rich. At mealtime, be sure to slow down and find a place away from your car or desk where you can relax and focus on your food and the pleasure of eating. At home, set the table and light a candle, and eat with those whose company you enjoy.