Remember when you could stay out all night dancing and still be at your desk at 9am bright-eyed and bushy-tailed? Or when getting up early didn’t require a lunch-time nap to make up for the gnawing sleep deficit? Getting older is fabulous, and the wisdom that comes with age is particularly wonderful. But, unless you’re one of those people that is blessed with unicorn-rare genetics who somehow never seems to age, feeling less than youthful and lacking in energy as the years pass by can be a bit of a bore.
The good news is that there are scientifically-proven ways that you can feel younger and hack your biological clock to slow down time. We’re going to be looking at each of them over the coming weeks, but the first one on the list is avoiding glycation.
Glycation is a process which happens when refined sugar goes renegade and causes premature ageing on a cellular level, damaging the collagen and elastin under your skin, which outwardly results in thinner, less springy skin, dryness and all the things that none of us particularly love.
We have looked at it in depth here. If you want to lessen your chances of this thief of glowing skin sneaking up on you, consider getting your sugar fix in a healthier form. The ‘better than’ rule is one that applies here: Fresh berries are always a great bet when you’re craving sugar as they come packed with natural vitamins and antioxidants. Dried superfoods or brazil nuts are perfect to snack on, as they give you a steady source of energy throughout the day, as well as being nutritional powerhouses. And, there’s lots of great healthy diet swaps out there for people with a sweet tooth. Try putting an avocado, a dash of almond milk, a drizzle of raw honey and a couple of spoonfuls of powdered organic cacao in a liquidiser and whizzing until smooth, then serving topped with a few sliced strawberries, a sprinkle of chia seeds and a few blueberries and goji berries if you’re in need of a glazed donut (or three). The richness of the cacao means you will be satisfied after one smallish serving, and it really hits the spot mid-afternoon when you’d otherwise reach for choc chip cookies or ice cream. Failing that, you can’t go wrong with a probiotic packed portion of kefir, with a liberal smattering of fresh fruit.
Obviously though, sugar-free doesn’t always mean good for you (aspartame has been named as the most dangerous food additive on the market and, alarmingly, is an artificial sweetener that is often found in low calorie and sugar-free drinks that you want to completely avoid). If you’re a fan of sugary sodas, ditch them completely and opt for a naturally fizzy, probiotic kombucha instead of a “diet” drink, those grizzly additives are much worse for your health than plain old sugar.
As a rule of thumb, check the label and if it’s long and packed with words you don’t understand then don’t buy. There’s a guide to the top ten worst food ingredients that are bad for your health here, and after a quick glance, you’ll probably only ever want to eat meals that you have made yourself with food you grew in your own garden.
According to health gurus, the ideal is to eat the way we did before food factories ever existed. If you can shop at the local market and buy from farmers who don’t spray their crops with pesticides then wonderful. If not, a lot of organic shops are starting to do bags of inexpensive seasonal fruit and veg with the contents changing every week. A couple of springtimes ago, I did a course with Jen Aniston’s best friend and yoga teacher Mandy Ingber and she says to avoid eating anything processed that comes in a packet. It’s pretty sound advice as within 30 days of eating her way I had lost 4kilos (8lbs) and I felt incredible, plus my skin was totally clear, so if you feel that your diet needs an overhaul it’s worth trying just for a few weeks. (Worth noting: It takes 21 days for your brain to form a new habit, so once you’ve got a few weeks of healthy eating in the bag, you’re likely to stick to it).
Mandy’s fridge was packed with fresh green veg with lots of leafy greens like kale, as well as whatever else had caught her eye at the Sunday farmer’s market, some fruit (both frozen and fresh), tempeh, fresh wild organic salmon, almond milk, brazil nuts to snack on, and she shopped on Sundays for the week ahead to save time on prep in the week. (Think; home-made butternut squash soup, huge salads with baked salmon drizzled with oil and fresh lemon juice, green smoothies with frozen mango and banana for added sweetness).
Mandy’s advice was to eat small meals every four hours so your blood sugar levels don’t crash – meaning you’ll be less likely to feel tired and crave sugar, and to sip water all day long but to slow down after 4pm to avoid sleep disturbance. Her best tip was to treat yourself like you’re your own child and to carefully nourish yourself with the best, most nutritious food possible – explaining that self-care is self-love. And, when it comes to avoiding glycation, that’s the best advice of all: You wouldn’t let your child have an entire packet of cookies in one sitting, followed by an entire tub of ice cream, so why do that to yourself?
Intrigued? Here’s an easy hack to get kids (and adults) to eat their greens before lunchtime, or perhaps you’d like to know what Gwyneth and Victoria Beckham are drinking to get an antioxidant packed caffeine fix. Here’s top nutritionist Eve Kalinik’s prescription to stay happy and healthy and here’s a recipe for the energy boosting (sugar free) snack wellness gurus swear by.