Once you hit the big 4-0, it’s not only the number of candles on your cake that signifies you’re getting old, it’s also the achy feeling in your joints and the inability to slash those last five pounds off your frame. While aging in reverse is a miracle we’d all like to get in on, there are a few tweaks you can make to your diet to help slow down the process, such as eliminating certain foods that age you.
Below, we’ve put together the worst foods to eat if you’re over 40. These sneaky culprits are found in many American households and are responsible for the unnecessary amounts of added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium we consume on the daily.
Powdered Coffee Creamer
The powdered stuff that dissolves into your cup of Joe and transforms it from dreary to creamy contains some unexpected ingredients. Sodium aluminosilicate, which is added to the creamer as an anti-caking agent, is also found in detergent and has been found to cause skin, eye, and respiratory irritations. Not only that, but Coffee Mate’s Original also contains hydrogenated vegetable oil, which adds to the heart-harming saturated fat content. If you’re not dairy-averse, you’re better off getting healthy fats from a splash of heavy cream or even opt for nut milk.
Too Much Coffee
The key phrase here is “too much.” While we rave over coffee for all of its antioxidant benefits, chugging six cups a day is a recipe for the jitters and compromised sleep quality. “As we age, our circadian rhythms change, as do our hormones, which can make us more sensitive to caffeine and affect our ability to sleep soundly,” Isabel Smith, RD tells us.
We all know that choosing soda over H2O is a poor decision when it comes to maintaining health, but why is the classic bev so bad? Studies link regular consumption of sugary drinks to heart disease, and if that’s not alarming enough: One longitudinal study followed 80,000 women over the course of 22 years and found that those who consumed a can a day of sugary drink (such as Coke or Pepsi) had a 75 percent higher risk of developing gout than women who rarely imbibed.
Commercial Weight Loss Bars
“While younger folks can get away with skipping breakfast or simply eating a starchy ‘weight loss’ cereal or bar, research suggests that eating 20 to 30 grams of protein at each meal is ideal—especially as we age,” Chris Mohr, former sports nutritionist for the Cincinnati Bengals tells us. What’s more, many of these commercial bars sneak in a ton of unneeded ingredients such as artificial sugars and inflammatory palm oil.
“It’s increasingly difficult to get a good night’s rest with alcohol in your system. While you may have been able to get away with minimal sleep in your 20’s, that’s not the case in your 30’s and beyond. Sleepless nights lead to carb and sugar cravings the next day, which can contribute to further weight gain,” Martha McKittrick, RD, explains.
As you age, you may find it more difficult to shed those last few pesky pounds. If you’ve been guzzling OJ with your breakfast or adding the stuff to smoothies, your 40th may be time to kick the habit to the curb. Fructose, the primary sugar found in fruit juice, has been linked to abdominal fat—the dangerous type of fat that can cause metabolic diseases.
Muffins & Cupcakes
Unless you’re spiking your home-baked goods with hidden veggies and swapping sugar for stevia, you should actively avoid these sweets. Store-bought muffins and cupcakes make our list of foods that age you because they can contain a full day’s worth of added sugar—and the effects of the sweet stuff on aging are quite bitter. A report in Clinics in Dermatology states that glucose and fructose can compromise the collagen and elastin that support your skin’s elasticity, so avoiding baked goods with added sugars is a sure-fire way to keep wrinkles at bay.
Bacon & Hot Dogs
They may be packed with protein and keto-friendly, but processed meats can wreak havoc on your health. Deli meats, bacon, and hotdogs usually contain cancer-causing nitrates and nitrites as well as pack in elevated amounts of blood-pressure-spiking sodium. A 2013 study published in the journal European Cytokine Network found that sodium nitrate increases oxidative stress, which can damage youthful-skin-promoting collagen and elastin.
As you age, your risk for heart diseases increases. And while spreading a teaspoon of salted butter on whole-grain toast every once in a blue isn’t detrimental to your health, loading your chicken recipes with butter and buttering your pans on the daily can. Butter contains seven grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, and using just two spoonfuls can put you over your daily limit of the fat.
Barbecued meats are a summer staple, but you shouldn’t make festive cookouts a weekly habit if you’re concerned about your health. Scorching steaks and other proteins at high temps over an open flame can produce heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These chemicals have been found to alter the DNA and increase your risk of cancer.
Non-Enriched Nut Milk
As we age, our risk for osteoporosis increases, giving you all the more reason to dig into calcium-rich foods. A great source of the bone-strengthening nutrient is milk and if you opt for the almond variety over dairy, you may be gypping yourself of real milk’s benefits. Just one glass of two-percent milk contains about 30 percent of your daily value of calcium. If you’re avoiding dairy, opt for a nut-based milk that’s enriched such as Silk Almond & Cashew Protein Nutmilk.
Sure, the sky-high sodium content in that dish of General Tso’s is a solid reason to stay away from Chinese takeout, monosodium glutamate (MSG) should be at the top of your list. The flavor-enhancing food additive has been linked to a slew of side effects including headaches, flushing, tingling or burning, chest pain, nausea, and weakness.
What do Doritos and takeout have in common? They both contain MSG. Not only that, but the triangular chips are colored with artificial dyes such as Red 40 and Yellow 6, which have been linked to cancer. To top it off, the party favorite also lists artificial flavors in its ingredient list, but doesn’t specify which.
White Pasta & White Bread
Refined grains have been stripped of fiber and other nutrients in order to render the white color and pillowy texture Wonder bread is known for. However, refined and processed grains are also very high-glycemic, which means that they cause your blood sugar to spike rapidly—and so consuming too many of these refined foods can lead to metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity. To meet your daily intake of gut-healthy fiber and nourish your body with the nutrients it needs, skip the white spaghetti and bagels and opt for ab-uncovering carbs such as Banza chickpea pasta and sprouted bread.
Your go-to fast food joints achieve perfectly crispy fries by frying the spuds in oil that has been reused over and over again. A study in the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research found that heating oil to the smoking point during stir-frying may decrease the amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids because of oxidative degradation. Those are the heart-healthy fats that nourish your skin and joints. Instead of grabbing a bag of fries at the drive-thru, opt for baking your own at home with a brush of olive oil and fresh herbs.
The avocado and cucumber are innocuous enough, but the California roll’s imitation crab meat is not the protein you want to load up on. Imitation crab, or krab, isn’t a crustacean at all: the pseudo seafood is actually a mix of ground whitefish and other fillers like wheat, egg white, and transglutaminase (also known as meat glue). It also often contains harmful food dyes that mimic real crab’s rosy hue.
Low-Fat Flavored Yogurt
If you’re an avid reader of Eat This, Not That! You likely know that low-fat foods aren’t the best for neither your waistline nor your health. Many seemingly diet-friendly foods that are labeled low in fat sneak in added sugars to make up for the lack of flavor that results from stripping out the fat. And when it comes to yogurt, which already contains natural sugar in the form of lactose, you definitely don’t want the extra added sweet stuff. Not to mention, fats found in dairy have been shown to keep you satiated and slim down your gut.
The freezer aisle is stocked with appetizing frozen dinners that make busy weeknight suppers a breeze, but these convenient and inexpensive foods may cost you your health in the long run. Many of these meals are jam-packed with sodium and preservatives and are void of sufficient fiber, which will help keep you full and less prone to midnight munchies.
RELATED: 150+ recipe ideas that get you lean for life.
Baking up a batch of fluffy pancakes for breakfast is one of life’s simple pleasures, but the syrup that you choose to drizzle your hotcakes with may be spelling trouble for your tummy. Maple-flavored syrups like Log Cabin’s and Aunt Jemima’s are made with high fructose corn syrup, a sugar that has been linked to metabolic syndrome including abnormal weight gain, increased triglycerides, and increased harmful visceral fat around the gut, Princeton researchers found. Instead, stick to real maple syrup, which contains trace minerals.
We’re looking at you, Cool Whip! Since these products don’t contain cream as the primary ingredient, government regulations prohibit the brands from labeling them as whipped cream. The next best thing? “Whipped topping.” These imposters are filled with sketchy ingredients such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and high fructose corn syrup—two culprits your diet could definitely do without.
American Cheese & Cheese Dips
Why go for the fake stuff when real cheese is so accessible? American cheese is a cheese product (often known as pasteurized processed cheese spread) that’s stuffed with additives—such as phosphates and colorings—to the point where it contains less than 51 percent of actual cheese. And if you take a look at Tostito’s Smooth and Cheesy dip, you’ll find that it reads “cheese flavored” on the jar. Odd, right? Next time you reach for the sandwich staple, consider swapping it out with a slice of goat cheese, which has been shown to increase iron absorption, improves bone formation, and increase the bioavailability of certain minerals more effectively than cow’s milk, a Journal of Dairy Science study found.
Sorry Starbucks frequenters, but that daily skinny vanilla latte may be the reason your skinny jeans aren’t slipping on comfortably. Sbux’s sugar-free vanilla syrup that it pumps into skinny lattes is sweetened with sucralose, an artificial sugar that has been found to increase the risk of developing tissue inflammation by disrupting the gut microbiota, a study in Frontiers in Physiology journal discovered, adding that this chronic inflammation can cause obesity and diabetes.
A good chunk of the canned soups sitting on supermarket shelves can pack in a half day’s worth of sodium as well as additives such as appetite-spiking MSG. Instead, opt for meal prepping your own soup at home with grass-fed bone broth and store leftovers for easy use. “When we ingest bone broth, it acts as an intestinal Band-Aid, protecting and healing the lining of the digestive tract which aids digestion and helps us absorb extra nutrients from the foods we eat,” nutritionist Lauren Slayton, MS, RD tells us. Not to mention, bone broth is chock-full-of collagen, which helps turn back the clock on our skin.
Jarred Pasta Sauce
To clarify, we’re not betting that all the marinaras in the pasta aisle should be avoided like the plague—just some. Processed pasta sauces may contain tomatoes or tomato paste as the first ingredient, but oftentimes, these sneaky saboteurs also contain loads of inflammatory oils, added sugar, and salt. And alfredo sauce is no exception: the creamy white stuff can contain around 20 grams of fat per half-cup serving—an excessive amount to ingest in one sitting.
Commercial Peanut Butter
Choosy moms shouldn’t choose Jif—whether you’re spooning into the jar yourself or spreading it onto your kid’s PB&J. besides peanuts, the red-capped jar contains molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, and mono and diglycerides—which add more fat to the spread. Peanut butter can be a satiating, healthy spread if you choose the right one. We like Maranatha and Smucker’s Natural because they contain two simple ingredients: protein-packed peanuts and a hint of sea salt.
Down a large Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Milkshake from Baskin-Robbins and you’ll devour 42 Chips Ahoy cookies worth of sugar and almost a half-pound worth of calories. Instead, you can make a protein shake at home with wholesome add-ins such as dates, cacao nibs, and a rich protein powder that can help you feel satiated without adding weight onto your waistline.
Boxed Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese has likely been your guilty pleasure ever since you were a young kid, but that doesn’t mean you should continue to indulge. Many commercial boxes contain up to 30 percent of your daily recommended intake of sodium as well as blood-sugar-spiking empty carbs coming from the white shells.
While java can boost your metabolism and give you the jolt you need to hit the gym, many bottled varieties can do just the opposite. Take Gold Peak’s salted caramel and almond toffee cold brew flavors. Both pack in 270 calories and a whopping 53 grams of sugar—that’s over double your daily recommended amount! Excess sugar can heighten your risk of diabetes, wreak havoc on your hormones, and cause collagen to decrease.
Toaster Waffles & Toaster Strudel
You may have enjoyed them for breakfast as a child, but there’s no reason for you to pop some Eggos or strudels into the toaster come 40. The nutrient-devoid a.m. meals barely contain any gut-loving fiber or muscle-maintaining protein to keep you full. So if you opt for forking into these for breakfast, you’ll find yourself reaching for office snacks sooner than you think.
Diet Soda & Diet Iced Tea
As a general rule of thumb, anything that seems too good to be true probably is. And the case remains for zero-calorie artificial sweeteners found in sugar-free drinks such as Diet Coke and Diet Snapple. Yale University researchers found a link between the fake sugar and an increased risk of obesity and excess belly fat. “If drinks with artificial sweeteners are a staple of your diet, it’s best to kick the habit to maintain health and prevent diseases throughout the aging process,” says registered dietician Lisa Moskovitz.
Unless you have a gluten sensitivity or suffer from celiac disease, there’s no reason for you to eliminate wheat products from your diet. Many whole-grains contain fiber, which helps flush out toxins, level blood sugar, and keep you regular. These grains also contain magnesium, which helps prevent osteoporosis.
Unlike wild-caught, farmed fish contains higher levels of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Plus, wild salmon is naturally red thanks to the astaxanthin-rich krill and shrimp they feed on. Since farmed salmon don’t feed on this cancer- and aging-preventing compound, manufacturers are forced to dye the fish artificially in order to market it. Next time you’re at the seafood aisle, opt for wild over farmed to gain anti-inflammatory and other healthful benefits.
Commercial Protein Shakes
Sure, they’re loaded with protein and promise to keep you full in between meals. However, many bottles are teeming with artificial additives, added sugar, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, and more calories than you’d typically eat in a meal. In other words, this combo a recipe for weight gain.
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