Dr. Kara Fitzgerald, a naturopathic doctor and author of the book “Younger You: Reduce Your Bio Age and Live Longer, Better,” suggests that while time is an unstoppable force, it’s possible to roll back your “biological age” by cleaning up your diet and protecting your sleep. Even better, you can improve your energy, mood, and health in the process. It’s all about a series of lifestyle tweaks “but nothing beyond the pale of what most folks consider to be basic self-care,” writes Dr. Fitzgerald.
LittlePinkTop received an early copy of the book for review, though sadly there’s no way to ship it back even further in time to get a head start on the advice.
Nom nom nom, What to Eat to Stay Young
Are you wondering how to craft a diet around your anti-aging, health, and lifestyle goals? In her book, Dr. Kara Fitzgerald lists off “anti-aging” foods and explains the science behind her categorizations.
When we were kids, adults told us: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” But they forgot to tell us that some terms and conditions apply (did you read the last bit at a rushed pace, just like in the radio ad disclaimer). The condition, in this case, is that you have to eat your apple with the skin. Dr. Fitzgerald explained that an apple “contains many, many phytochemicals (primarily in the skin) including quercetin, a known antihistamine that can also help lower cholesterol and protect against viruses. Quercetin is a senolytic compound, too, meaning it wards off aging.”
The book also backed my longtime suspicion that I should eat whole foods. No, they don’t have to come from Whole Foods, even though you probably love the experience of waltzing through a fancier grocery store. The point is to avoid the refined sugars that are added to foods (and sometimes disguised under other names) and instead reach for the stuff that comes exactly as nature intended. Whole foods like eggs, dark leafy greens, beets, shiitake mushrooms, and liver potentially have anti-aging qualities.
Before you start introducing any changes to your routines, however, it may be useful to start with Dr. Fitzgerald’s recommended biological self-evaluation, which comes in the form of a questionnaire. She then goes on to recommend a diet or “Younger You Intensive.”
At its core, it’s a Paleo diet program combined with good habits and exercise. She also provides adjustments for different diets like keto, gluten-free, plant-based, etc., and gives advice on how to sleep better.
Dr. Fitzgerald is also a believer in moderate intermittent fasting as a way to manage blood sugar levels and “support the production of anti-inflammatory ketones, and kick in something called autophagy — a vital cellular detox and clean-up process.”
She recommends eating from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., an easy and very doable schedule. “And if you’re a night owl and go to bed later than 11, you can adjust this schedule so that you still go twelve hours without eating overnight,” she adds. And make sure to have your last meal three hours before going to bed because you shouldn’t sleep with a full stomach.
Dr. Fitzgerald also provides meal plans, and lists of things you should plan to avoid: charred, fried, and grilled foods, artificial sweeteners, or added sugars. There are also things to enjoy, and benefit from, such as green tea, instead of black, or rosemary, which is a “potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory,” in addition to providing “neuroprotection” through boosted memory/cognitive performance and pain relief. So maybe if you introduce rosemary to your diet, you will remember where you left your keys next time.
Do you love Ukrainian borscht? No wonder! It’s not only delicious; the beets “help lower blood pressure, fight cancer, and support detoxification.” I wish Ukrainian borscht was as potent in geopolitical matters. Dr. Fitzgerald explains that beets are rich in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, protein, folate, and manganese. They are great roasted, boiled, eaten on their own, or in salads.
You should also start eating “between five and ten eggs per week.” The author says that the healthiest way to prepare them is poaching. You should also combine them with other anti-aging foods, such as by adding a teaspoon of turmeric to scrambled eggs, tossing sautéed greens in the same pan, or sprinkling in shiitake mushrooms.
Organic liver is also on the list for a “Younger You.” I knew my granny was onto something, but I was not too fond of the liver pancakes she cooked. Dr. Fitzergerald carefully noted: “There are, however, two caveats with liver: 1. If you have been diagnosed with too much iron, don’t eat it, as it is rich in iron; 2. It is a detox organ, so you always want to choose organic and/or grass-fed (for beef liver).”
And that’s not all. It would help if you also considered pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds as they are rich in zinc, methionine, cysteine, magnesium, potassium, B3, B6, folate, and betaine.
It would also be great if a salmon swam onto your plate, as it’s a well-known omega-3 source. You could also swap it for whitefish, roe, or oysters. For vegans or vegetarians, Dr. Fitzgerald suggests flax and chia seeds or walnuts. Shiitake mushrooms are not only delicious, but they are also “anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune rejuvenating.”
As another part of the “Younger You Intensive,” you should aspire to eat two cups of dark leafy greens per day. Dr. Fitzgerald advises incorporating nonstarchy vegetables, healthy fats (avocadoes, nuts, seeds), and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, pickles, and fermented beets.
Don’t Forget Your Beauty Sleep
Are you looking for some youthfulness-promoting advice that doesn’t involve a diet? Well, even if you give yourself permission to order the pizza, you probably shouldn’t stay up too late watching Netflix. If your sleep hygiene is bad, then girl, go to bed just like LittlePinkTop recommended in an article almost two years ago!
You need to get at least 7 hours of sleep. Even Jeff Bezos tries to get 8 hours of sleep, so what’s so important keeping you up late besides reading some LittlePinkTop or watching “The Tinder Swindler”?
The quality of sleep matters, too. I already knew that and had been using many of the techniques that Dr. Fitzgerald suggests. Among them, making a room dark (I have blackout curtains); keeping things cool (that’s great life advice in general); wearing a sleep tracker (I have my Fitbit, so I can see how long I was awake, in REM, light or deep sleep). The author also recommends sleeping solo if your partner has sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.
It would help if you stopped drinking caffeinated drinks at noon and had your last meal by 7:00 p.m. Three hours before bedtime, wrap up your screen time. Yes, Netflix, too. Have your last glass of liquid two hours before bed. Do some relaxation practices like meditation or light yoga. Fifteen minutes before bed, indulge in some self-care and brush your teeth as a cue to the brain that sleep is coming.
Ten minutes before bed, turn on a white noise machine. Mine produces rain noise because I love the relaxing sound of it.
At the end of the book, Dr. Fitzgerald provides tons of healthy recipes so that you will save money on the cookbooks, and save time on shopping lists. It’s still only February (at the time of this writing), so why not start the New Year with a new diet? And why not begin reducing biological age with the help of a clean diet, good sleep, and exercise? It’s a rhetorical question, there aren’t a lot of great reasons to go against this, other than the delicious taste of junk food and all those binge-worthy shows…
“Younger You” is available from Hachette Books, in a bookstore near you.