Aging in great health

photo of Vesanto Melina

by Vesanto Melina

Getting older – showing it and feeling it – involves a build-up of toxic metabolites. These include reactive oxygen molecules (free radicals), and advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). AGEs are harmful substances that form when protein or fat combine with sugar in the bloodstream. They are implicated in diabetic complications, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and normal aging. We can also age faster if we have excess body fat.

How do we slow the aging process?

One recognized way to slow aging is to moderately restrict caloric intake. This involves eating slightly less than your caloric needs, and is not to be confused with anorexia or fasting. In Japan, the practice is known as hara hachi bun me. A Japanese proverb states: “eight parts of a full stomach sustain the man; the other two sustain the doctor.” Eating slightly less than we need lowers our temperature a little and slows our metabolic rate.

Many plant foods provide protective compounds that can reduce the formation of AGEs. A few examples are garlic, tomato paste, peanuts, green tea, mustard greens, and the isoflavones in soy foods. In fact, vegetables and fruits contain an army of protective phytochemicals.

Certain proteins in our bodies are linked to aging and cancer. These proteins have a seesaw relationship with so-called “longevity proteins” such as AMP Kinase. We now have some insights into how to elevate these longevity proteins: moderate caloric restriction, high exposure to phytochemicals, and exercise, are our best bets. Greens have particular phytochemicals that can slow aging – especially cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cabbage, baby bok choy, watercress, and arugula. Benefits include the lengthening of the telomeres that help protect strands of DNA in our chromosomes.

To prevent age-related conditions like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia, we need nutritional excellence, with all the essential proteins (preferably from plant foods), minerals, and vitamins present. We need a diet rich in protective phytochemicals and antioxidants that can vanquish free radicals. Nutritional excellence is a hundred times more therapeutic than pharmaceuticals. And it tastes better too!

Moderate exercise also has beneficial effects on the cells and organs. With activity, we increase longevity proteins and preserve bone mass. The greater oxygen demand strengthens the heart, lungs, and muscles, making them more efficient. It helps blood flow to the brain. Too much exercise can be negative and stressful; moderate activity is just fine. Avoid exposure to toxins (including glyphosate/Roundup) and alcohol.

Follow your doctor’s guidance, of course – but don’t simply treat symptoms or be satisfied with drugs as your main intervention with respect to illness. Get healthy instead! The result? Increased longevity, abundant health, and more time to play and enjoy life.

Lemon Tahini Dressing

A tablespoon of oil just adds 120 calories without much nutritional benefit. Instead, try this nutritious Lemon Tahini Dressing on salads, steamed greens and broccoli, and baked potatoes! Use 1/2 cup each of tahini (sesame seed butter) and water; plus 1/4 cup each of lemon or lime juice and of tamari or soy sauce; plus 2 cloves of garlic, chopped. Put everything in a blender and process for 30 seconds or until smooth.

Fast Food Genocide by J Fuhrman, MD. Harper One Publ.
Peng X et al. Naturally occurring inhibitors against the formation of advanced glycation end-products. Food and Function, 2011, 2, 289-301.

Vesanto Melina is a Vancouver dietitian and co-author of the award winning Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition and other books.


Sat Oct 19 , Sat Nov 16. Join Vesanto at Meatless Meetups related to prevention and reversal of chronic diseases. Free. Reserve your spot through


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