By Kelley Herring
If you were to examine a photo of a crowded beach in the 1970s…
And then compare that to an image of a crowded beach today…
You would notice a stark contrast between individuals in the crowd 50 years ago and those today. Specifically, most people in the 1970s were lean and apparently healthy – while the vast majority in the crowd today are overweight and obese.
But there is another aspect of today’s crowd you cannot see… and that is the fact that almost 100% of people are grossly deficient in critical nutrients. In other words – despite consuming so many calories that fat is literally hanging off our bodies – we are still starving for real nutrition.
We are overfed… and undernourished.
And this “Paradox of Plenty” is a primary contributor to chronic disease and accelerated aging.
In my previous article, we covered the work of Dr. Bruce Ames. His “Triage Theory” of aging holds that your body has the ability to prioritize survival immediate survival at the expense of your long-term health and longevity. This is why nutrient deficiencies are so closely related to chronic disease and accelerated physical aging.
The good news is that you can easily top up your nutrient status, so that your body can prioritize longevity. With a few simple (and delicious) choices, you can dramatically slow down the aging process!
In today’s article you’ll discover the
- Primary “Longevity Vitamins” you need to slow aging
- Specific “Longevity Proteins” to optimize for health and youth
- Food sources and preparation methods to optimize your nutrition
- PLUS: How to plan “multivitamin meals” to maximize your longevity!
How to “Triage” Aging with Nutrition
Aging is characterized by a decline in cellular function, which can lead to age-related diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
We cannot stop the aging process, but we can slow it down and promote healthy disease-free aging with sound nutrition. Let’s explore the role of longevity vitamins in promoting a “healthspan” that matches your lifespan…
The Longevity Vitamins: Ancestral Fuel for a Long Healthy Life
Longevity Vitamins are a group of unique compounds that have been shown to slow the hands of time and protect against age-related diseases. These vitamins are essential for maintaining good health and helping your body function at its best as you get older.
Although technically a hormone, this powerhouse nutrient plays a crucial role in the body’s ability to absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for maintaining healthy bones and teeth.
But that’s not all. Vitamin D is critical for overall health and longevity. Individuals with low levels of vitamin D are at a higher risk of developing conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive decline.1
In one study, researchers found that those with low levels of vitamin D were more likely to experience cognitive impairment and dementia than those with normal levels.2
Ample sunlight exposure – that is 5 times a week with 20 minutes of exposure on as much of your body as possible – is the BEST source of vitamin D. But it’s not always possible to get enough sunlight – especially during the winter months.
If that’s the case, supplementation may be beneficial to support optimal levels of this crucial nutrient. Be sure to choose D3 with K2 to prevent calcification of the heart (more on this below).3,4
While food sources of vitamin D are not as effective as sunlight or supplements, vitamin-D rich foods can contribute to your overall intake and help support optimal levels of this important nutrient. Here are the best sources of vitamin D and the best ways to prepare these foods:
- Fatty wild fish: Salmon, sardines, and mackerel (as well as roe!) are great sources of vitamin D. To maximize the benefit, try grilling or broiling the fish to maintain its nutritional value.
- Egg yolks: When preparing eggs, avoid overcooking them to preserve the nutrient content. Soft-boiled or poached eggs are good options.
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms can provide a small amount of vitamin D, particularly when exposed to sunlight or UV light. Try adding them to salads, omelets, or stir-fries for a boost of vitamin D.
Did you know that there are two main types of vitamin K: K1 and K2? Both are fat-soluble vitamins that play important roles in blood clotting and bone health. However, vitamin K2 is especially important for heart health and healthy aging.
Vitamin K2 helps activate proteins that prevent calcium from depositing in the arteries, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.5
Studies also suggest that vitamin K2 helps reduce the risk of age-related conditions such as osteoporosis, cognitive decline, and certain types of cancer. 6,7
So, how can you get more vitamin K2 in your diet? One of the best sources is fermented foods such as natto, a Japanese dish. Other good sources include aged cheeses such as gouda and brie, as well as grass-fed animal products such as liver and butter.8
Here are the top food sources of Vitamin K1 and K2 and the best ways to prepare them to maximize their benefits:
- Spinach: Spinach is one of the most vitamin K1-rich vegetables. To maximize its benefits, it’s best to eat it raw or lightly cooked in salads, smoothies, or sautéed with garlic and butter. Be sure to choose organic and do not over-consume spinach (as it is also high in oxalates).
- Kale: Kale is another leafy green vegetable that is high in vitamin K1. You can add it to your smoothies or salads, or lightly steam it to preserve its nutrient content. Be sure to choose organic.
- Broccoli: Broccoli is packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K1. To maximize its benefits, it’s best to steam it for a few minutes or eat it raw in salads or as a snack.
- Brussels sprouts: Brussels sprouts are another cruciferous vegetable that are high in vitamin K1. You can roast or steam them to retain their nutritional value.
- Spring onions: Spring onions, also known as scallions, are a good source of vitamin K1. Add them to your salads or use them as a garnish for your dishes.
- Grass-fed butter: Grass-fed butter is an excellent good source of vitamin K2. Use it for cooking, blend into your coffee and use in rich sauces, like hollandaise for a delicious boost of K2.9
- Egg yolk: Egg yolk is a good source of vitamin K2, particularly if the eggs come from grass-fed chickens. Use them in your omelets, salads, or as a topping for your grain-free toast.10
- Hard and soft cheeses: Aged cheeses such as gouda, cheddar, brie, and blue cheese are good sources of vitamin K2. Eat as a snack or add them to your salads or sandwiches.
- Chicken liver: Chicken liver is a good source of vitamin K2. Pan-fry or grill it and add it to your salads or as a topping for your dishes.11
- Natto: Natto is a traditional Japanese dish and one of the richest sources of vitamin K2. Because of its funky flavor, it’s best to eat it with rice or as a topping for sushi.12
Also, remember that preparation methods can affect the nutrient content of food. For example, boiling or overcooking vegetables can lead to a loss of vitamin K1. Therefore, it’s best to lightly steam, sauté, or eat them raw to preserve their nutrient content.
When it comes to animal products, it’s important to choose grass-fed and organic options whenever possible to ensure a higher concentration of vitamin K2.13
Vitamin B12 is a powerhouse water-soluble vitamin that packs a powerful anti-aging punch. Not only does it play a crucial role in the formation of red blood cells and neurological function, but research shows that a deficiency can lead to increased risk of cognitive decline, depression, and dementia.
One study found that individuals with low levels of vitamin B12 were more likely to develop cognitive impairment and dementia compared to those with normal levels.14
How can we ensure we’re getting enough of this essential vitamin?
The answer lies in consuming a diet rich in animal products such as meat, fish, and dairy. These are the best dietary sources of vitamin B12, with clams, liver, and beef being some of the highest sources.15
For individuals who don’t consume animal products, supplementation with vitamin B12 is vital.
Here are the top food sources of vitamin B12:
Clams: Clams are an excellent source of vitamin B12, with just 3 ounces providing over 1,000% of the recommended daily value. They can be enjoyed steamed, or sautéed.
Beef liver: Just 3 ounces provides over 800% of the recommended daily value. It can be pan-fried, broiled, or added to stews and casseroles.
Wild salmon: Just 3 ounces provides about 50% of the recommended daily value. It can be baked, grilled, or smoked.
Grass Fed Beef: Just 3 ounces provides about 25% of the recommended daily value. It can be grilled, roasted, pan-seared or added to soups and stews.
Eggs: One large egg provides about 6% of the recommended daily value. They can be boiled, fried, or scrambled.
Cheese: Certain types of cheese, such as Swiss and mozzarella, can be a good source of vitamin B12, with just 1 ounce providing about 15% of the recommended daily value.
To maximize the benefit of these foods, prepare them in a way that preserves their nutrient content. Cooking clams, liver, and salmon at low temperatures helps to retain vitamin B12. Eggs should be cooked gently to prevent overcooking, which can destroy some of the nutrient content.
Now, let’s take a look at the…
Longevity proteins are involved in a range of cellular processes, including energy metabolism, DNA repair and stress response. These proteins protect against age-related diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.16
Let’s take a look at how the longevity proteins work in our body:
Sirtuin, Klotho & FOXO
One of the most well-known longevity proteins is sirtuin (also known as SIRT1). This protein is activated by calorie restriction and has been shown to improve lifespan and healthspan.17
Other longevity proteins include Klotho, which is involved in regulating calcium and phosphate metabolism, and FOXO, which regulates cellular stress response and DNA repair.18
AMPK + mTOR
AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase) is an enzyme that helps to regulate energy metabolism promotes longevity. Activation of AMPK has been linked to a variety of health benefits, including improved glucose uptake, increased fat oxidation, and reduced inflammation.19
On the other hand, mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) is a protein that plays a role in regulating cell growth and proliferation. While mTOR activation is necessary for certain processes in the body, excessive mTOR is linked to aging and age-related diseases such as cancer.20
Research suggests that balancing the activity of AMPK and mTOR is the key. Lifestyle factors such as exercise, calorie restriction and certain dietary components affect the activity of these proteins.21
In order to maximize the benefits of longevity proteins, it is also vital to live in accord with your ancestral rhythms. This includes regular healthy movement (weight training, walking, high intensity interval training), sound sleep, fresh air and time spent in nature, intermittent fasting, exercising regularly, and following an ancestral diet rich in the nutrient-dense, anti-aging foods discussed above.
Meal Planning to Maximize Your Anti-Aging Nutrition
Meal planning is vital to pack more nutrition into each bite. By prioritizing nutrient-dense foods, you ensure that you are fueling your body with the nutrients you need to thrive.
Think of nutrient-focused meal planning like the process of filling a jar with rocks and sand. The “rocks” represent the most important aspects of your diet – such as nutrient-dense animal foods, rich in healthy protein and fat, antioxidant-rich organic fruits and vegetables.
These are the nutrients that should be prioritized.
The “sand” represents less nutrient-dense foods. While these may be enjoyable in moderation, they should not take up the majority of our meals. By intentionally planning your meals around the “rocks”, you can maximize the nutritional benefits of your food choices
Here are a few of my favorite ancestral “multivitamin meals” with their starring nutrients:
- Chicken Liver Braunschweiger with Blueberry Compote & Soft-Boiled Eggs
Starring Nutrients: vitamin K2, vitamin B12, vitamin D
- Grass-Fed Ribeye with Quick Béarnaise Sauce & Brussels Sprouts
Starring Nutrients: vitamin K1, K2, vitamin B12, vitamin D
- Wild Roasted Salmon with Buttery Organic Sauteed Kale
Starring Nutrients: vitamin K1, K2, vitamin B12, vitamin D
Remember, it’s never too late to start taking steps towards a healthier, longer life!
Read more of Kelley Herring’s Health and Nutrition articles on our Discover Blog.
Love comfort foods, but not the carbs? Check out Kelley’s FREE new book – Carb Lover’s Keto – with 100 recipes for all of your favorite comfort foods. From Chicken Parmigiana and Coconut Shrimp to Buffalo Wings and Pizza. Discover how you can indulge – 100% guilt free!
- Pilz, S., & Trummer, C. (2020). The importance of vitamin D in aging and age-related diseases. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 30(2), 470-480.
- Littlejohns, T. J., Henley, W. E., Lang, I. A., Annweiler, C., Beauchet, O., Chaves, P. H., … & Kestenbaum, B. R. (2014). Vitamin D and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease. Neurology, 83(10), 920-928.
- Holick, M. F., Binkley, N. C., Bischoff-Ferrari, H. A., Gordon, C. M., Hanley, D. A., Heaney, R. P., … & Weaver, C. M. (2011). Evaluation, treatment, and prevention of vitamin D deficiency: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 96(7), 1911-1930.
- Armas, L. A., Hollis, B. W., & Heaney, R. P. (2004). Vitamin D2 is much less effective than vitamin D3 in humans. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 89(11), 5387-5391. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2004-0360
- Beulens, J. W., Bots, M. L., Atsma, F., Bartelink, M. L., Prokop, M., Geleijnse, J. M., … & van der Schouw, Y. T. (2009). High dietary menaquinone intake is associated with reduced coronary calcification. Atherosclerosis, 203(2), 489-493. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2008.07.010
- Vermeer, C., & Theuwissen, E. (2011). Vitamin K, osteoporosis and degenerative diseases of ageing. Menopause International, 17(1), 19-23. doi: 10.1258/mi.2010.010028
- Kato, S., Ishita, K., & Makita, R. (2018). Dietary vitamin K2 for the prevention of coronary artery disease and calcified aortic valve disease. Journal of Clinical Medicine Research, 10(4), 277-283. doi: 10.14740/jocmr3355w
- Katarzyna Maresz, Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life, (Thieme, 2012), 92-93.
- Daley, C. A., Abbott, A., Doyle, P. S., Nader, G. A., & Larson, S. (2010). A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutrition Journal, 9(1), 10. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-10
- Schurgers, L. J., Teunissen, K. J., Hamulyák, K., Knapen, M. H., Vik, H., & Vermeer, C. (2007). Vitamin K-containing dietary supplements: Comparison of synthetic vitamin K1 and natto-derived menaquinone-7. Blood, 109(8), 3279-3283. doi: 10.1182/blood-2006-08-040709
- Schurgers, L. J., Spronk, H. M., Soute, B. A., Schiffers, P. M., & DeMey, J. G. (2000). Regression of warfarin-induced medial elastocalcinosis by high intake of vitamin K in rats. Blood, 96(3), 892-894. doi: 10.1182/blood.v96.3.892.013k22_892_894
- Schurgers, L. J., Vermeer, C., & Knapen, M. H. (2019). Natto and vitamin K2: A novel dietary approach to osteoporosis prevention. Journal of Medicinal Food, 22(2), 127-134. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2018.0161
- Liu, G., Wang, J., Huang, Y., Lu, Q., Zhang, Y., & Xiao, Y. (2018). Influence of cooking methods on vitamin K contents in vegetables and retention in relation to taste, color and texture: a review. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 81, 10-21.
- Tangney, C. C., & Aggarwal, N. T. (2014). Vitamin B12, cognition, and brain MRI measures: a cross-sectional examination. Neurology, 82(10), 872-879.
- Institute of Medicine (US) Panel on Folate, Other B Vitamins, and Choline. (1998). Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. National Academies Press (US).
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- Salminen A, Kaarniranta K. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) controls the aging process via an integrated signaling network. Ageing Res Rev. 2012;11(2):230-241. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2011.12.005