How to identify anti-aging nutrients

| March 5, 2013

Each of the food entries in the nutrition counter has information in the following categories: food name, portion size, calories, total fat, good fats, bad fats, fiber, sugar, beta-carotene, calcium, vitamin C, and B vitamins. Let’s look at each of these categories more closely.

Portion Size

This is the standard amount of food suggested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the food industry. Always check the serving size: it may be smaller or larger than you think.

Calories

This is the amount of energy provided by one serving of a food or beverage. You can use this value to help you plan your meals if you are trying to lose weight or restrict your total daily caloric intake.

Total Fat

The figure in the total fat category is the sum of saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats. We break down these four types of fat into two subcategories (bad fats and good fats) in other columns.

Overall, your daily fat intake should be 20 to 25 percent of your total daily calories. Based on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, that translates as 2,000 calories x 20% (or 25%) = 400 (or 500) / 9 (calories per gram of fat) = 44 (or 50) grams, which = 396 (or 450) calories. You can use this column to find foods that are low in total fat. Generally, such foods include fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, soy foods, fish, some poultry, and low-fat dairy. Highly refined or processed foods, meats, whole-milk dairy, baked goods, and snack foods typically have higher total fat (and usually high bad fat) content.

Good Fats

The “Good Fats” category includes the known values of monounsaturated and/or omega-3 fatty acids in the food or beverage. These are the healthy fats that benefit the heart, help lower cholesterol, and protect against insulin resistance. This value can help you choose foods that provide these advantages. Your intake of good fats should be 10 to 15 percent of your total daily calories. Based on the 2,000-calories-per-day model, your good fat intake should be 200 to 300 calories, as follows: 2,000 calories × 10% (or 15%) = 200 (or 300) ÷ 9 (number of calories in a gram of fat) = 22 (or 33) grams.

Bad Fats

This category contains the sum of saturated and trans fats in the food and beverages in the counter. These are the artery-clogging, heart-stopping fats, and the ones that you want to limit in your diet. Foods typically high in saturated fat include meats, butter, tropical oils, full-fat dairy products, margarine, and some processed foods. Trans fats are found in margarine, many processed foods such as snacks and crackers, packaged dinners, and fast foods.

Saturated and trans fat together should not exceed 10 percent of your total caloric intake per day. Given the standard 2,000 calories-per-day model, your daily intake of bad fats should not be more than 200 calories (2,000 calories × 10% = 200 ÷ 9 (number of calories in a gram of fat), or 22 grams. A quick look at the “Bad Fats” category will give you immediate information on the bad fat content of the foods and beverages you are considering and help you make healthier choices.

Fiber

This no-calorie nutrient plays many important roles in an anti-aging diet; for example, it helps reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, fight obesity, prevent constipation, reduce risk of intestinal problems, including colon cancer, stabilize glucose levels, and remove toxins from the body. If you are between the ages of 19 and 50, you should strive to get 38 grams of fiber daily if you are male, and 25 grams if you are female. If you are older than 50, the National Academy of Sciences, Food and Nutrition Board recommends 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women.

You can scan the fiber column to find foods that contain a good fiber content (at least 2.5 to 3 grams per serving). Foods that typically fall into this range or higher include fruits and vegetables, cereals, grains, nuts, seeds, and some soy-based foods.

Sugar

Sugar refers to simple sugars, the ones that are especially harmful because they cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels and lead to insulin resistance, both of which increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and many other serious medical conditions. High intake of simple sugars can also lead to weight gain.

Keep in mind that the “Sugars” category includes both naturally occurring sugars (like those found in fruit, fruit juices, milk, and some vegetables) as well as those that are added to foods and beverages. You can find added sugars on the ingredient lists on food packages.

You can use the “Sugars” category to help you limit the amount of added simple sugars in your diet and to ensure you get enough of the good sugars (complex carbs). When looking at foods that often have added sugars, such as breakfast cereals and cookies, you can scan the “Sugars” category for those that contain low amounts (between 0 and 5 grams of total sugars).

Beta-carotene

Beta-carotene is the most studied of the more than 600 different types of carotenoids that have been identified in plants. Carotenoids are pigments that give fruits and vegetables their color, and beta-carotene is an especially potent carotenoid. The role of beta-carotene in nature is to protect dark green, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables from the damage caused by solar radiation, and it is believed it also helps protect the human body as well. The colors give you a clue as to the fruits and vegetables that contain high levels of this antioxidant, and they include yellow squash, cantaloupe, peaches, apricots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and green leafy vegetables.

Calcium

As you know, calcium is critical for strong bones, and an insufficient amount of calcium in the diet significantly increases the risk of osteoporosis and with it, an increased risk of fractures from falls. Therefore you should make every effort to make sure you are getting enough calcium in your diet (l,000mg for men and women age 19 to 50 years; l,200mg for older adults). You can use the nutrition counter to help you identify the foods that are rich sources of this mineral. Some of those sources include dairy products, canned sardines, green leafy vegetables, yogurt, and soybeans.

Vitamin C

This potent antioxidant is an important member of the arsenal you should assemble in your fight against free radical damage and aging. Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is water soluble and is found in all body fluids. Because the body cannot store this antioxidant, it’s very important to replenish your supply daily. When you use the nutrition counter, you will see that the best sources of vitamin C are fruits and fruit juices, vegetables and vegetable juices, and products that are enriched with vitamin C, including cereals.

In the nutrition counter, the vitamin C content per serving is given in DV. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI, formerly RDA) is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men; for smokers, 110mg for women and 130 mg for men.

B vitamins

The B vitamins are essential to help preserve and maintain optimal function of the central nervous system and the production of neurotransmitters, which are critical for brain function because they carry signals from cell to cell. Generally, B vitamins help fight the signs and symptoms of an aging brain: for example, slowing of reflexes, difficulty recalling names or words, increasing bouts of forgetfulness and confusion, and episodes of mental “fog.” B vitamins also play a critical role in the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose (to provide energy), and in the maintenance of muscle tone in the gastrointestinal tract.

The vitamins that make up what is commonly called the “vitamin B complex” include thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folic acid (B9), and cobalamin (B12). Each of these vitamins has distinct characteristics, but they also have many similar properties and are found in many of the same common foods. At one time, this fact led researchers to consider them as one substance. For the sake of simplicity, we treat the B vitamins as a single entry for each food or beverage item and rate the vitamin B content as “0” for none or insignificant; “+” for a moderate amount, and “++” for a high amount.

Because the B vitamins are water soluble, they do not stay in the body very long (except for B12) and therefore need to be replenished regularly, preferably daily. You can use the information in this column to help you identify foods and beverages that contain these essential vitamins.

The information in the Anti-Aging Nutrition Counter was compiled from many sources, including but not limited to organizations within the United States government (Food and Drug Administration, National Academy of Sciences, U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database), individual food labels, food manufacturers, fast-food restaurants, and various Internet sources, including Nutritiondata.com. It’s especially important to note that fast-food restaurants are constantly making adjustments to their menus, and so you may wish to ask about specific items to see if their nutritional content has changed.

This nutrition counter provides you with a wealth of information you need and can readily use to fight aging with every spoonful you take. Bring this site along with you to the supermarket, restaurants, farmers’ markets—anywhere food is sold!

Category: Nutrition counter