Proper nutrition is essential if you want to maximize your lifespan – it is one of the main longevity secrets. The human body needs to grow properly, and be maintained properly. We'll assume that you are an adult, and the growth of your body has now stopped. Proper nutrition is not only about quantity – quality is important, too.

To function, your body needs fuel and maintenance compounds (some of which should be ingested daily as the body cannot store them).

First, the fuel. The basic fuel for the muscles is glucose, which is stored in the liver as glycogen. Carbohydrates - starches, from potatoes, pasta, rice, bread and so on are converted into glycogen and stored. The liver can process fat (and protein) to produce glycogen when its reserves are depleted. Energy content is measured in calories, and typically an average adult male in a temperate climate needs about 2,300 calories an day, with a female requiring slightly less than 2,000 calories. This requirement can rise dramatically, with high activity in cold climates needing up to 7,000 calories a day for a male.

When we take in food, the body stores excess fat if our insulin levels are insulated (this is why it's not a good idea to eat sugary foods at the same time as fats – 'food combining') – we put on weight.

Next, the maintenance compounds. We need to 'oil the wheels' – replacing damaged cells, renewing old ones, maintaining our immune systems, bone strength, grow hair, maintain brain function and so on. The human body contains some 20,000 proteins and the liver and other organs do an amazing job of synthesising those proteins from the basic foods we eat. Certain proteins called amino acids are our 'building blocks'. These basic foods, though, have to contain all the essential ingredients. The fresher the food, the better – many trace elements and minerals decay or react with others as food ages, and the nutritional quality of the food deteriorates. The freshest food gives us the best chance of greater longevity.

The way the body works requires what we call 'vitamins'. These are chemical compounds which act as catalysts – they enable or trigger the production of other compounds such as proteins. The body does not manufacture them –they are in our food, though some people take them as longevity supplements. Vitamin A (carrots are a rich source) is good for the eyesight, and Vitamin C is essential for preventing scurvy, and is believed by many to be powerful in the body's fight against colds and flu. There are many vitamins require by our bodies.

There is one other aspect to nutrition – we need sunlight. But you can't eat sunlight! No, but when it falls on our skin, it produces Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets, which results in bone deformity, amongst other things. All these ingredients, in balanced quantities, are essential to extending our lifespan.

Now, when we eat our basic foods, we take in other chemicals which our body doesn't need – toxins. A toxin is a poison, and we define it as a chemical which is not essential to the body's good health (and can even be fatal). The body has mechanisms for eliminating many of the toxins that occur naturally in our environment – that ability has been bred in to our genes as part of the evolutionary process. The body cannot easily eliminate most chemicals which are not naturally in the food we eat, though, and these have an impact on our longevity health – for example, pesticides.

There are several toxins which are found naturally in our environment – for example, mycotoxins found in some types of fungi (mushrooms). These can be fatal.

So, here are a few guidelines about correct nutrition (vegetarians should seek alternatives to fish) if you want to maximize your life expectancy and longevity health:

» Make sure you eat a balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
» Eat only organic food from known sources.
» Eat the freshest foods you can buy.
» Don't overcook food.
» Don't overeat.
» Minimise consumption of fats and sugars together.
» Ensure you include fish in your diet.
» Avoid junk food.

These guidelines for improving your longevity should give you much more eating pleasure from wholesome, fresh food, properly prepared.
Kasia Wojsiat is a respected chiropractor in nearby Los Gatos. She embraces using preventative medicine and natural products in her practice. Please send her an email if you have any questions pertaining to longevity and health.
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