You can do a variety of simple things – from eating protein at every meal to taking a regular whiff of lavender – to help slow the aging process and maintain health and vitality as long as possible, says Penny Kendall-Reed, a naturopath and director of natural therapies at the Urban Wellness Clinic in Toronto.
Kendall-Reed believes that being happy and as stress-free as possible are the keys to living a longer, healthier life. And feeling healthy, energetic and stress-free translates into a more youthful appearance.
10 tips to start slowing the hands of time
1. At every meal, eat foods high in protein, such as fish, turkey, egg whites or tofu. A gram of protein for every kilogram of body weight is a good rule of thumb. (That's 22 grams/0.8 ounce of protein per meal for a woman weighing 65 kilograms/145 pounds. That's equal to about 150 millilitres/two-thirds of a cup of cottage cheese, an average protein shake, three egg whites, a medium chicken or turkey breast or 125 grams/four ounces of low-fat tofu.)
Kendall-Reed says you should choose protein-rich foods that are low in fat. Protein slows insulin levels, which you want to keep in balance to avoid weight gain and risk of disease. Eating protein also promotes stable blood sugar levels, which reduces stress, which in turn helps keep that pesky stress hormone, cortisol, in check.
2. Ease stress with extracts from the magnolia flower, green tea or milk peptide, all of which are available at your local health food store. Kendall-Reed says you should talk to a health-care professional before you try any of these. Massage is another way to calm stress.
3. Take 100 to 200 milligrams each of vitamins B6 and B12 daily to reduce cortisol and increase levels of serotonin, a chemical in the body that helps ease depression and anxiety.
4. Lavender, a natural relaxant, helps keep cortisol levels stable and smells terrific. Put this essential oil in the bath or rub it onto your face and body, or tuck a sachet of the dried flower under your pillow.
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5. Exercise regularly. When you're physically active, you make more growth hormone, a key factor in remaining youthful. "Growth hormone plays a role in everything, whether it's skin, libido, weight gain, muscle mass or energy level – almost any sign and symptom you can think of related to aging," says Kendall-Reed.
6. Get nine hours of sleep each night, if possible; eight hours won't do it, says Kendall-Reed. When our bodies are in the repair mode of deep, restful sleep, we produce growth hormone. People who have trouble sleeping often have lower levels of growth hormone. As well, lack of sleep is a stressor.
7. Take a selection of antioxidant vitamins to target all 13 types of free radicals. Kendall-Reed says taking vitamins A, C and E and selenium (often available in one pill) daily helps clean up free radicals. She stresses that you should talk to your health-care practitioner, who can help you choose a supplement and proper dose. Of special note, don't take any of these agents if you are on blood thinners, she says.
8. To deal with wear and tear on the body, consider supplements that enhance the production of elastin and collagen. These include glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, MSM and hyaluronic acid.
9. To increase the strength of the immune system, take supplements such as plant sterinols, olive extract (a natural antiviral), zinc and denatured whey. Again, see a health-care professional first. (To find out about the 10 best-bet supplements, click here.)
10. Relax. Smile. "Be happy and stress-free," says Kendall-Reed. "What comes out in your body when you're unhappy and stressed wreaks so much havoc. Don't sweat the small stuff."
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