Good news: Age and weight don’t have to be correlated. Even though many people gain weight as they creep past 40, that doesn’t mean everyone has to. In fact, you don’t even have to resurrect all those hardcore diets you tried in your 20s and 30s to keep the pounds from packing on, because even in an age full of hormonal and metabolic changes, all it takes is a few key diet modifications to stay looking and feeling your best.
According to celebrity nutritionist, Kelly LeVeque (her clients include actress Jessica Alba and supermodel Molly Sims), you should already be following a healthy eating plan well before you hit the big 4-0, but it’s especially important to be cognizant of your diet once you pass that milestone. So, we tapped LeVeque for her best nutrition tips for staying slim, cutting health issues and boosting skin health as you make your way through that fourth decade of life.
Ditch the Sugar
We all should’ve cut back on sugar a long time ago, but after 40, it’s especially important. “Lowering your sugar intake can lower the production of harmful compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGES) that can deplete the body of antioxidant stores and age us,” explains LeVeque. “AGEs are produced when proteins or fats combine with sugar, and the best way to keep internal production low is to keep blood sugar under control.”
Stock Up on Collagen
“You should also increase your collagen intake because as you age, your ability to synthesize collagen decreases,” says LeVeque. “I always have my older clients use a collagen-based protein in their smoothies versus a plant- or whey-based protein because of that anti-aging piece.” Her two top choices? Vital Proteins Collagen Peptide ($25 for 10 ounces) and Primal Kitchen Collagen Fuel ($36). “Primal Kitchen makes a flavored collagen that my clients usually add to their morning smoothies, and the Vital Protein option offers travel packs that I send to my female clients,” says LeVeque. “You can rip one open and pour it into a cup of hot coffee or tea before drinking it.”
Get Some Extra Zzz’s
“As people get closer to menopause, their quality of sleep deteriorates,” explains LeVeque. “Making sure you’re getting seven to eight hours of sleep guarantees your hunger hormones are regulated. One poor night’s sleep can increase the hunger hormone, grehlin, and decrease the satiety hormone, leptin, by about 15 percent for both.” Translation: If you have a 15 percent increase in hunger and a 15 percent decrease in satiety, a clean eating plan can be super difficult to stick to day to day (sleep-induced food cravings are real, people). So, make sure you adhere to a reliable sleep schedule to avoid any food binges caused by exhaustion.
Eat Leafy Greens With a Fat
“Obviously all of your leafy greens are going to be really high in antioxidants, which is important for anti-aging,” says LeVeque. “But I would never have something deep in color without fat because most fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants are 300 percent more bioavailable in the body when eaten with fat.” Now, LeVeque doesn’t mean to add a plate of fatty French fries to your daily lunch so that you’re veggies will absorb better, but rather to add foods with good-for-you fats into your already good-for-you salad. “Add avocado to a leafy green salad or order a green salad and add olive oil to fill up on those antioxidants.”
Avoid Industrial Seed Oils
“One thing that can age you is the intake of industrial seed oil,” says LeVeque. “A lot of times they oxidize and are very high in omega-6, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you’re supposed to have a 1-to-1 ratio between omegas 3 and 6. Unfortunately, most Americans have a ratio of 15-to-1 or 25-to-1, which puts our bodies into more of an inflammatory state.” If you’re unsure of what industrial seed oils are, here’s what’s generally included under that food category: sunflower oil, canola oil, corn oil and cotton seed oil—most of which are found in dressings, marinades, crackers and chips. “Not only are these industrial oils high in omega 6, but they also oxidize and are oftentimes unstable, meaning they become a free radical in the body, which can obviously damage the skin.”
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