Lifestyle Tips from Dr. Ralph Cinque



Let's begin by discussing diet. Obviously if we are going to succeed at slowing down the aging process and preventing age-related diseases, we must eat healthfully. There is nothing more important than that.  And to my mind, that means eating a plant-based diet. I don't say that it has to completely vegetarian, but unrefined plant foods should comprise the bulk of what you eat- if you're serious about staying well and living long. Emphasize fresh produce in your diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and numerous other protective compounds that are called "phytochemicals." Many of these are anti-carcinogens. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat, low in calories, low in sodium, and they contain no cholesterol. Keep in mind that in animal studies, the most proven anti-aging and life extension technique has been caloric restriction. "Undernutrtion without malnutrition" was the call of famed gerontologist Dr. Ray Wolford of UCLA, my alma mater. And there is every reason to believe that undernutrition works as well with humans as it does with animals. Moreover, the easiest and most painless way to achieve caloric undernutrition is by emphasizing fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet because you can eat a lot of them without piling up the calories.  

Much press has been given lately to the resurgence of high protein diets that are usually named after various famous doctors who advocate such diets. I am not in favor of high protein diets, and I want you to know precisely why. Proteins consist of long chains of amino acids, and amino acids consist of long chains of carbon molecules with two distinguishing attachments: an acid radical and an amino group. The body can only use so much protein, and if you consume more protein than you need, your body has to break down the excess. In the process, the acid radical is released (adding to the acid residue of the body) and the amino group is released (adding to the nitrogen waste of the body). This is a burden: to your liver, to your kidneys, and to your body overall. You may be able to get away with eating that way when you are young and growing, but certainly not when you are older. It is far better to emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables and natural carbohydrates, which burn clean. Fresh fruits, green salads, and steamed vegetables are by far the most nutritious foods there are, especially if you look at it from a nutrient per calorie basis. Even starchy vegetables, like potatoes, yams, corn, and squash, are not fattening so long as you avoid adding butter, margarine or other worthless fats to them.

The best plan is to eat a large amount of fresh plant produce every day and to eat just a moderate amount of protein. Excellent protein can be obtained from nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. A broad plant-based diet is not going to be deficient in protein, although, again, I don't say you have to be a strict vegetarian. But, I do say that if you are serious about slowing down the aging process, you should strive to at least be a near-vegetarian. There is just no good reason to be piling in the animals foods. Of the animal foods, the best in my opinion, would be an occasional  egg, and preferably one that is organic and free-range.  My second choice would be high-quality fish, such as wild Pacific salmon from Alaska.  But again, don't overlook plant proteins. I think legumes are excellent, and so are raw nuts. Regarding whole grains, many people are concerned about wheat these days, but remember that there are many whole grains that are gluten-free, including brown rice, quinoa, and even oats.  And, I am strongly convinced that all of us are better off avoiding dairy products. Cow's milk is for baby calves and not for human beings- at any stage of life.

Of course, regular exercise is very important, and please remember that even brisk walking can provide substantial benefit, in fact, all of the health and anti-aging benefits of exercise. You don't have to do anything more strenuous or heroic unless you want to. And lastly, I want to emphasize the crucial importance of avoiding pernicious habits such as smoking. You cannot expect to remain healthy and retard the aging process in your body if you are going to smoke. It is just not possible. Regarding alcohol, there is a widely accepted belief today, even within Medicine, that moderate alcohol is good for you. But, I dispute that assumption, and for the record, I abstain from alcohol completely. Anyone who does drink alcohol would be wise to do so very, very abstemiously.- the less the better.

Regarding salt, be aware that most Americans consume far too much of it, and to their detriment. If you are generally healthy, I believe you can get away with a little salt consumption, but all of us should strive to control and limit our salt intake. Try to keep your average daily salt consumption to 1500 mgs or less. Is sea salt superior to regular salt? Yes, it is, but only slightly. The most important thing is to limit your total salt consumption. Regarding supplements, if you read the Daily Program page, you will see what supplements I take and often recommend to others. However, I still believe that a healthful lifestyle is the cornerstone of good health, and it is the real foundation of anyone's anti-aging program. Eat well: your life depends on it.