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Excerpt
The following is an excerpt from the book The Longevity Bible
by Gary Small, M.D. with Gigi Vorgan
Published by Hyperion; June 2006;$23.95US/$32.95CAN;
1-4013-0184-3
Copyright © 2006 Gary Small, M.D. with Gigi Vorgan

The Healthy Longevity Food Groups

To begin the Longevity Diet, familiarize yourself with the three major quality longevity food groups and the many food choices available in each of them. Each group has a list that includes several food suggestions, some of which you may already enjoy often, and some of which you may be less familiar with. Experimenting with various foods from the lists is a great way to expand your palate and increase your menu repertoire. I also encourage you to add other favorite healthy foods to your lists to help personalize your diet and keep it working for you for years to come.

Antioxidant Fruits and Vegetables

Just as metal gets rusty from being exposed to moist air, our bodies are vulnerable to oxidants, known as free radicals. We can't avoid free radicals, because they're everywhere -- in our food, water, and air, and they also come from within us, as the by-products of our own metabolism. Many experts believe free radicals are the true culprits of aging. Our bodies are constantly under attack by free radicals and these attacks, collectively called oxidative stress, promote aging and diseases such as cancer, cataracts, arthritis, Alzheimer's, and heart disease.

We can fight back against free radicals by eating foods containing antioxidants such as vitamins A, E, and C; beans, broccoli, and dark leafy greens, such as spinach; and colorful fruits, such as blueberries, strawberries, and apples. Eating tomatoes, which contain the potent antioxidant lycopene, may also lower the risk for prostate cancer. We can get additional antioxidant vitamins by taking supplements (see Essential 8). I also recommend taking a multivitamin as well as a 500 mg (milligram) vitamin C tablet daily.

The box on page 191 contains a list of some healthy antioxidant fruits and vegetables, which will help you plan your Longevity Diet meals and snacks.

Antioxidant Fruits and Vegetables 

Fruits
Apricots 
Avocados
Berries: blackberries, blueberries, cranberries,  raspberries, strawberries
Cherries
Citrus: grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, tangelos, lemons, limes
Dried fruits: apricots, prunes, raisins
Frozen juice bars
Grapes
Kiwi 
Mangos 
Melons: cantaloupe, honeydew 
Nectarines 
Papayas 
Peaches 
Pears 
Pineapples 
Plums 
Tomatoes: Tomato juice, V-8, tomato sauce

 

Vegetables
Alfalfa sprouts 
Asparagus 
Beets 
Bell peppers 
Broccoli florets 
Brussels sprouts
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Garlic
Green, leafy vegetables: cabbage, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard
Juices: from any vegetable
Kale
Mushrooms 
Onions
Winter squash
Zucchinis 

Proteins, Lean Meats, and Healthy Fats

This food group gives us long-lasting appetite satisfaction while helping us to achieve and maintain our ideal body weight. Healthy proteins and fats also help us avoid age-related illnesses such as Alzheimer's and heart disease. Proteins, made up of amino acids, are the major structural component of all the body's cells and the enzymes that keep those cells functioning. Of the twenty vital amino acids our bodies need to function, nine of them -- the essential amino acids -- cannot be synthesized by our bodies and must be gotten through our diet.

Animal proteins such as fish, poultry, meat, eggs, milk, yogurt, and cheese supply these nine essential amino acids, and are therefore considered complete proteins. Plant proteins such as nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains are often called incomplete proteins because they can be deficient in one or more of the essential amino acids. Soybeans, a type of legume, are unique because they contain all of the amino acids needed to make a complete protein, just like meat. They also contain isoflavones, a plant-based compound that may reduce the risk of some types of cancer. Many foods are made from soybeans, including tofu. Another way to get soy into our diet is through soy protein isolate powder, which can be mixed into a smoothie with fruit, or stirred into oatmeal. People on vegan diets can get adequate complete proteins by combining their sources of incomplete proteins, making sure they get all of the essential amino acids each day.

Milk and other dairy products are high in calcium and not only strengthen bones but also lower the risk of developing colon cancer. A recent analysis of ten large studies found that people who drank more than one eight-ounce glass of milk each day were significantly less likely to develop colon cancer than those who drank less than two glasses per week. Other studies suggest that increased calcium, particularly from lowfat and nonfat dairy foods, may not only help people lose weight, but may assist baby boomers in controlling the expanding waistlines that sometimes accompany middle age.

Many protein-rich foods contain fat, which is often mistakenly regarded as a dietary taboo -- just check out the numerous food labels highlighting fat-free this or lowfat that on the container. Many people don't realize that there are some health benefits to eating a certain amount of fat, as long as it's the right type of fat. Scientific evidence has shown that foods high in omega-3 fats, such as fish, olive oil, and soy products, reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease.

A study recently published in the journal Nature found that olive oil contains a natural form of the common anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen (marketed as Advil or Motrin), which could explain why eating olive oil may lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease. Our UCLA research team has found that ibuprofen and another common anti-inflammatory drug, naproxen soclium (marketed as Aleve), have the ability to actually dissolve the abnormal protein plaques that are thought to cause Alzheimer's disease.

We want to avoid foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, and omega-6 fats, including many cuts of beef, poultry fat, butter, cream, whole milk, tropical oils (e.g., palm, coconut), and many frozen and canned foods (check the labeling for contents). Trans fats are often found in commercially baked goods (e.g., packaged cookies, cakes, and crackers), which also tend to contain high amounts of white sugar and flour. These unhealthy fats are known to raise "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, which increase the risk for heart disease and other ailments.

Eating foods containing small amounts of healthy fats helps our bodies absorb essential vitamins and protects our cell membranes. It also helps to satisfy our hunger so we consume fewer calories overall. It is recommended that we limit added fat to no more than six teaspoons for an average two-thousand-calorie day. However, if you are a small or inactive person, you will burn fewer calories each day and should consider consuming less fat and fewer calories. A recent study found that restaurant diners who dipped their bread in olive oil (omega-3) actually ate less total bread and took in fewer calories than diners who used butter (omega-6). I'm not encouraging the consumption of mass quantities of bread and oil; but a limited amount of olive or walnut oil for a salad or a bit of sesame oil in a stir-fry makes a tasty and healthy addition to a meal.

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week in order to get enough omega-3 fats. Fish-eaters tend to have lower rates of arthritis and may have a lower risk for depression and some cancers. Wild salmon, halibut, light tuna, cod, flounder, sole, sea bass, shrimp, lobster, scallops, and crab are excellent choices. Farmed fish should be avoided, since it has more total fat than wild, and the additional fat is largely omega-6. But eating too much fish may lead to increased body levels of mercury, which can cause fatigue, hair loss, and other symptoms. Larger fish such as shark and swordfish tend to have higher mercury levels per ounce than smaller fish such as salmon or sole, which may be wiser choices.

Use the following list of proteins, lean meats, and healthy fats to help plan your meals and snacks.

Proteins, Lean Meats, and Healthy Fats 

Beef (lean cuts) 
Chicken breast 
Cheese -- nonfat or lowfat cottage, cream (light), goat, mozzarella, ricotta, Swiss 
Eggs (egg whites preferred)
Fish: anchovy, bluefish, halibut, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, sea bass, trout, tuna, whitefish 
Milk: lowfat or nonfat (skim), soy milk (lowfat)
Nuts: walnuts, peanuts (actually a legume), almonds 
Peanut butter 
Seeds and oils: canola, flaxseed, olive, sesame, sunflower, walnut 
Soy proteins: soy protein isolate powder, soy meat substitutes, soy cereals, tofu 
Turkey breast 
Yogurt: high-quality lowfat or nonfat

Whole Grains, Legumes, and Other Carbohydrates 

Studies have found that whole-grain and high-fiber foods help control weight gain, lower blood pressure, prevent strokes, and reduce the risk for diabetes and heart disease. Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy, and this food group's multitude of choices are some of the most delicious and satisfying foods on the Longevity Diet. Steaming brown-rice risotto with seafood, a crust of fresh whole-grain bread, and a crisp vegetable salad is a meal that sounds good to me on any diet.

Whole grains, unlike many processed ones, contain vitamins, fiber, minerals, phytochemicals, plant proteins, and other healthful ingredients. They are absorbed by the body much more slowly than processed foods are. Whole-wheat bread, brown or wild rice, oatmeal, whole-grain pasta, and even popcorn are common sources of whole grains.

The fiber component of whole-grain carbohydrates cannot be broken down by the digestive system, so it moves through and keeps everything moving along with it in a healthful way. This is partially why eating fiber-rich whole grains and other high-fiber foods protect against constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulosis. High-fiber whole grains also lower our risk for cancer of the colon, rectum, stomach, pancreas, endometrium, ovary, and prostate. When food manufacturers process carbohydrate products, they remove much of the fiber, which increases the food's glycemic index. Processing also removes many vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

An easy way to get whole grains into your diet is to add them to recipes you already make without whole grains. Try adding wild rice or pearl barley to your next soup, stew, or casserole; add whole oats to cookies and other desserts; and if you like to bake, try replacing half the amount of white flour with whole-grain flour. Not only will the food taste great, you'll know that everyone eating it is getting a little longevity boost. You can also switch from white breads to 100 percent whole wheat, from refined cold cereals to whole-grain cereals, and from soda crackers to whole-grain wheat and rye crackers.

Whole-grain foods, including everything from a tasty array of whole-wheat pastas to long-grain rice pilaf mixes, are no longer specialty items for the very health-conscious shoppers with hours of time on their hands to seek them out. They are readily available, mass-marketed items accessible to everyone willing to take a few moments to notice what they're buying and eating. It is easy to shop and eat well, and the longevity benefits are tremendous.

Excerpted from THE LONGEVITY BIBLE by Gary Small, M.D. Copyright (c) 2006 Gary Small, M.D. All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold.