Thursday, February 08, 2007

10 secrets of longevity

Eat the right foods and you could live to be 100.
By Dr. Maoshing Ni

1. Weekday vegetarian, weekend carnivore
Vegetarians generally suffer fewer degenerative diseases and cancers than their carnivore cousins. It's been estimated that a third of all cancer patients developed their disease as a result of insufficient whole plant fibre in their diets. However, you don't have to give up meat entirely to enjoy longevity -- limiting your intake or eating meat only on weekends is a perfectly balanced and healthy approach.

2. Stay alive: Stop eating dead foods
Ever wonder what Wonder Bread is really made of, or how many miles that head of limp lettuce has traveled? There's nothing like fresh, whole, organic foods to maintain your health and well-being. Farm-fresh produce and meats go directly from the source to your table, leaving little time in between for nutrients to be lost. Many foods at your supermarket have been picked or slaughtered weeks or even months before they make it onto the shelf. These items are preserved by nitrogen or other artificial means, making them appear fresh. Moreover, foods treated with pesticides and artificial fertilizers have lower nutritional value than foods grown organically.

3. Ginger gives you snap
Best known in the West for its antinausea properties, ginger has probably been in the longest continuous use of any botanical remedy in the world. The Chinese use it for both medicinal and culinary purposes, frequently in cooking seafood, since it acts as a detoxifier to prevent seafood poisoning. Besides its popular application for digestive distress, ginger has been found to contain geraniol, which may be a potent cancer fighter. It also possesses anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve pain, prevent blood clots, and inhibit the onset of migraine headaches. Since ancient times, Chinese physicians have regularly consumed ginger tea to keep their vitality fired up.

4. Brown rice for long life
White rice begins as brown rice. Once the outer coating of rice bran is hulled off, however, not a lot of nutrients remain. A thousand years ago, Chinese physicians discovered that eating only refined white rice, devoid of the B vitamins in the bran, led to beriberi, a deficiency in thiamine (B1). Modern research has identified a wealth of nutrients in the bran coating of brown rice. It is remarkably effective in lowering high blood sugar and therefore serves as an excellent food for diabetics. Rice bran contains more than 70 antioxidants, including the well-known age fighters vitamin E, glutathione peroxidase (GPx), superoxide dismutase (SOD), coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ-10), proanthocyanidins, and inositol hexaphosphate (IP6). It is no wonder that rural farmers in Asia, who eat brown rice because white rice is too expensive, live longer and develop fewer health problems than their city-dwelling counterparts, who eat mostly white rice.

5. Eat your sea vegetables
Seaweed and marine algae are vegetables from the sea that have long been considered to possess powers to prolong life, prevent disease, and impart beauty and health. Common types of seaweed include nori (sushi wrap), kombu, kelp, dulce, and Irish moss. Containing more calcium than milk, more iron than beef, and more protein than eggs, seaweed is also a rich source of micronutrients. Traditionally, its healing properties are said to include shrinking goiters, dissolving tumors and cysts, detoxifying heavy metals, reducing water retention, and aiding in weight loss. So eat your sea vegetables! They have more concentrated nutrition than vegetables grown on land.

6. Password to a treasure of health: Open sesame!
The most common oil consumed by Chinese centenarians, sesame oil is enjoyed for its refined, nutty flavour but possesses therapeutic properties as well. Chinese medicine lists sesame as a kidney and liver tonic, a blood builder, and a bowel protector and regulator. Sesame is rich in phytic acid, an antioxidant that may prevent cancer. The oil of one variety, lignan sesamin, was found to drastically reduce cholesterol levels in the liver and bloodstream of rats. To enhance flavours and improve health, sprinkle sesame seeds and oil in your food regularly.

7. The ultimate longevity food
In Asia, mushrooms are favoured for both their taste and their therapeutic value. Chinese legend is filled with stories of those who discovered the 1,000-year-old mushroom and became immortal. An underground stalactite cave museum outside of Kungming, China, displays a reishi or ganoderma mushroom that measures 4 feet in diameter and is estimated to be about 800 years old! There are more than 100,000 varieties of mushrooms, about 700 of them edible. Many mushrooms, particularly shiitake, maitake, reishi, and wood ear, have superb anti-aging properties. Depending on the type, they may contain polysaccharides, sterols, coumarin, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that boost immune function, lower bad cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, and protect the body from virus and cancer. And you don't have to dig for them in the mountains any longer -- they're readily available in your local health or specialty food store.

8. Sea salt for essential minerals
Before we were born, we spent nine months in a bath of amniotic fluid resembling the primordial saltwater from which life arose. No wonder the human body contains fluids closely resembling the composition of the ocean. Sea salt contains nearly 60 trace minerals essential for the formation of vitamins, enzymes, and proteins that keep our bodies going. Salt aids in general detoxification, and its alkaline quality helps balance the overly acidic pH environments that breed degenerative and cancerous conditions.

Common table salt, however, is refined to nothing but sodium chloride and is devoid of all other essential minerals. I suggest using only unrefined sea salt such as that found in the salt beds of Brittany, which has a slightly grey hue. Of course, salt is to be used only in moderation, especially for those with hypertension. It is also important to balance salt intake with potassium to ensure proper nerve and muscle function; potassium-rich foods include leafy vegetables, soy, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, and most fruits.

9. You eat naturally -- does your food?
Conventional meat, poultry and dairy products contain high amounts of pesticides, hormones and antibiotic drugs that are harmful to your health. Add the risk that your meat comes from diseased animals raised in stressful, inhumane conditions, and you have a good case for converting to vegetarianism. Commercial feed for animals is full of growth-stimulating hormones, colouring agents, pesticides and drugs. And that's not all -- of the 140,000 tons of poultry condemned annually as unfit to eat, mainly due to cancer, a considerable amount is processed into animal feed! More than 40 per cent of antibiotics produced in the United States is used as animal-feed additives. The ecological result, after we urinate and defecate the antibiotics, is the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains that can sicken or kill us. Whenever possible, buy only organic and free-range animals for your health, peace of mind and well-being.

10. Sugar's side effects aren't so sweet
The average American consumes nearly 240 pounds of sugar per year. Most of the excess sugar is stored as fat in your body, which elevates cancer risk and can suppress your immune function. When study subjects were given sugar, their white blood cell count decreased significantly for several hours afterward. This held true for a variety of types of sugar, including fructose, glucose, honey and orange juice. In another study, rats fed a high-sugar diet had a substantially elevated rate of breast cancer compared to rats on a normal diet. To live long, draw sweetness from other aspects of your life.

Excerpted from
Secrets of Longevity by Dr. Maoshing Ni.
Copyright 2006 by Dr. Maoshing Ni.

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