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The Truth About Anti-Aging Diets and Cleanses

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Gun to your head: Meat-every-day paleo or vegan for life?

Both diets have their proselytizers, according to David Katz, the director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Connecticut. We got all the details from him on the best way to eat to stay looking lean and young.

What are the best foods to eat for looking younger? “If your food is highly processed and doesn’t look like anything found in nature, then don’t eat it. That includes trans fats, chemicals in processed foods, and an excess of added sugar, all of which cause cell injury, inflammation, and the accumulation of fat in dangerous places, like the liver.”

If you could permanently eliminate one food from the world, what would it be? “Soft drinks. They have no redeeming virtues.”

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Do any diets stand out as healthier than others? “Michael Pollan pretty much captured it when he said, ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ Whether it’s the Mediterranean diet, an Asian-style diet, vegan, or vegetarian, they’re all variations on that theme, and they will all contribute to a longer, more vigorous life.”

Is one diet easier to stick to than the others? “Most vegans are vegans for ethical reasons that go beyond their own health, and that seems to keep them motivated. The other relatively easy plan is the Mediterranean diet, with an emphasis on nuts, avocado, olive oil, whole grains, beans, lentils, and vegetables. You can have some lean, nonprocessed meat.”

What do you think of superfoods? “The hype is overblown. If you eat açai berries in the context of a crummy diet, they won’t fix what’s broken. And if you eat a really wholesome diet that doesn’t happen to have them, you’re not going to miss them.”

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Is there any merit to a cleanse? “There’s value in doing a periodic reality check of what you are putting in your mouth, and a cleanse or detox can force you to think carefully. But your body is already a marvel of detoxification. The liver is a phenomenal detoxer, and the kidneys are not far behind. The best way to detox your body is to take care of your vital organs by eating well, doing moderate exercise, not smoking, sticking to a moderate alcohol intake, and getting adequate sleep.”

What else keeps us young? “The list is short: Don’t smoke, eat less, sleep well, exercise regularly, manage your stress, and then one more thing that’s critical—be in loving relationships. If you’re going to take two to three days to detox, don’t bother with smoothies or juices. Fix the strains in relationships that matter to you by reaching out to your friends and loved ones and working with them. There’s excellent evidence that social relationships are a good defense against premature aging.”

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