How to use food to slow down the ageing process

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Mix up your vegetable intake

“The science is pretty unequivocal that plant-based eating is the most effective way to control inflammation and take in more nutrients,” he explains.

Consuming a broad spectrum of vegetables will also optimise your gut biome: the ecosystem of bacteria, yeasts and fungi in the gut which help to break down food, make vitamins and support the immune system. “Eating a wide range of fruit and vegetables – rather than the same ones week in, week out – is important because you’ll get a mixture of different enzymatic responses and create a different biome, and your body absorbs different nutrients.”

So try to mix up your vegetables, as well as their colours, from antioxidant-rich red strawberries to fibre-packed orange sweet potatoes. Green veg is especially important as it enhances the energy production in your cells. “I now mix up my leafy greens and cruciferous foods,” says Roberts. “I have a load of broccoli, which prevents molecular damage, as well as kale with lemon juice, which lowers blood pressure, and asparagus, which has a phenomenal anti-inflammatory effect.”

Try different proteins

Protein helps to retain muscle mass but it also elevates satiety (the feeling of fullness), synthesises hormones, boosts metabolism and fuels immune cells. “The rule of thumb is 1.5-1.6g of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day for males, and 1.4g for females,” explains Roberts. “But try to avoid high-cholesterol proteins, like the animal proteins in fat-laden meats, and go for more low-cholesterol options from fish such as salmon, cod and trout.”

Roberts loves a juicy steak as much as anyone, so he understands why people won’t want to give up meat completely. “My approach with my clients is: look, just make sure 80-85 per cent of your diet is plant-based, and you can still enjoy high-quality meat now and again.” But he suggests 75-80 per cent of your protein should come from non-animal products, such as quinoa, pulses, beans and tofu, as well as hemp and peas.

Upgrade your carb intake

As a rough guide, men need 2,500 calories a day, and women 2,000 calories, but the best way to stick to this plan is to monitor your carb intake. “We’re looking for around 35 per cent carbohydrates, 40 per cent protein and 25 per cent healthy fats,” explains Roberts.

White bread and pasta, processed foods and sugary products can trigger blood sugar spikes, which increase fat retention, inflammation and insulin levels. “Quinoa, pulses, beans, teff, couscous and tofu are better options,” explains Roberts, who has porridge with almond milk for breakfast, and bean-based wraps for lunch: “We’re talking beans, peppers, quinoa, sardines, avocado, balsamic, olive oil and falafel, all wrapped in a tortilla.”

Roberts spreads his carbs throughout the day, to keep his blood-sugar levels stable and to support cell regeneration, and then reduces his intake at dinner to prevent fat storage. If he gets peckish during the day, he will snack on carrots with protein-packed hummus or antioxidant-rich dark chocolate.

Switch to healthier fats

Saturated fat raises cholesterol, increases inflammation and disrupts metabolism, but healthy fats preserve DNA, reduce oxidative stress and slow age-related cognitive decline. So it’s time to stock up on more oily fish, olive oil, nuts, chia seeds and avocado. “We need walnuts for their rich essential oils, and we should be having quality olive oil drizzled onto half avocados,” suggests Roberts. 

Drink coffee before exercise

Coffee has both positive and negative effects so use it wisely. “Having too much produces a hypertensive response (a rise in blood pressure),” he explains. “But if you have a coffee before doing cardio, it will raise your metabolism, increase your circulation and get you pepped up.”

Roberts suggests limiting your intake to no more than two cups per day. Roberts drinks his coffee in the morning and then switches to water or antioxidant-rich green tea.  

Cut your alcohol intake

During the first lockdown Roberts monitored the health of his clients by asking them to record their diet and wear personal fitness trackers. He found that alcohol seriously disturbed their sleep quality and reduced their heart rate variability (HRV), which is a measure of the health and efficiency of their cardiovascular system. “After three drinks, HRV dropped by as much as 50-60 per cent,” he warns.

Roberts says he loves a glass of red wine but we need to keep alcohol to a minimum. “Alcohol, in reality, has no place in our life, but it tastes good and it is socially engaging. I think that the rule is to enjoy one or two drinks, no more than two nights of the week. Any more is just stressing the liver, the kidneys, the pancreas and the heart.”

To hear more about Matt’s anti-ageing advice visit www.mattroberts.co.uk

More from our series with Matt Roberts

‘I want to be playing tennis when I’m 80 – here’s how I’m going to do it’

‘The exercise regime that will help you stay younger for longer’

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