It doesn’t matter how many miles you run, how much muscle you build, or how much you starve yourself – if your cooking methods are adding to your toxic load, your skin will sag, your tissues will clump together, and your cells will age prematurely.
What are AGEs?
If you can “pinch an inch” or more of lumpy, bumpy tissue under the skin anywhere on your body (especially on the back of your neck and upper arms), then you already have an accumulation of Advanced Glycation End products, known as AGEs. These large, sugar-bound protein and fat molecules stick together and form the flabby, sagging skin on your upper arms, the extra breast tissue underneath your arms, the “pot belly” below your waist, and the mysterious lumps and bumps that pop up anywhere and seem to come out of nowhere.
AGEs are much more than just a beauty problem though. They are a sign that your liver is accumulating toxins and are associated with chronic diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, kidney failure, liver cirrhosis, and premature aging. How you cook your food and the amount of toxins your body is carrying are the two factors that contribute the most to AGE formation.
How Do AGESs Accumulate?
Glycation is the name of the process that attaches sugars like fructose (from fruits) and glucose to fats and proteins in the bloodstream, without needing the help of any enzymes. These large, sticky molecules are known as AGEs, and they are aging you ahead of your time. Once formed, they clump together and accumulate in the liver and other tissues, causing inflammation and oxidative damage throughout your body. They can change the shape of certain proteins, which alters or blocks their normal functioning and leads to serious chronic diseases that affect every organ in the body – including your liver, kidneys, heart, and brain.
Low levels of AGEs are not a problem. Your body has enzymes and antioxidants that can quickly break these compounds down and render them harmless. But, when you consume too many AGEs through your diet or have high levels of toxins in your body that inhibit your ability to break AGEs down, then they start to accumulate and cause damage to everything from your immune system to your vital organs and all the way out to your skin. Men generally eliminate AGEs more easily than women, most likely due to their faster oxidation rate.
HOW You Cook is as Important as WHAT You Cook
Diet is by far the biggest source of AGEs – even in vegetarians. And how you cook your food is just as important as whaty ou cook. If you roast, broil, grill, barbeque, fry, sauté, sear, bake, toast, brown, or use high heat in any manner to cook your food, you are creating very high levels of AGEs – regardless of what you’re cooking. And surprisingly, the dry heat that has been touted as the healthier alternative to frying, causes AGEs to form at levels 10 to 100 times what is present in uncooked foods.
Animal proteins, by themselves, are more susceptible to AGE formation than any other food. But, any food combined with sugar – like the grains used in baking – will also form high levels of AGEs. Even honey, maple syrup, fruits, fruit juices, coconut water, milk, nut milks, and sugar in any form can lead to the formation of AGEs. This is why vegetarians are not exempt from AGE accumulation.
Body Imbalances That Contribute to AGE Formation
When your body is out of balance, toxic metals accumulate, fungi thrive, deficiencies abound, and premature aging is the result. These all contribute to AGE formation:
- Toxic Metals from drinking water, dental amalgams, anti-perspirants, antacids, swimming pools, and more. The process of glycation can involve toxic metals, especially fluoride, chlorine, and bromine (the halides).
Yeast and Fungal Infections
- Yeast and Fungal Infections create the inflammatory conditions that allow AGE formation, and their very presence is a sign that excess sugar is available for the process of glycation.
Blood Sugar Imbalances
- Blood Sugar Imbalances allow more AGEs to be formed in the blood, especially when blood sugar spikes after a meal.
- Antioxidant Deficiency both from the diet and from our own formation decreases our defenses against AGE formation and makes it difficult for us to break them down.
- Dehydration encourages the formation of AGEs, even if it’s at a chronic, low level from not drinking enough filtered water.
Can You Measure AGEs in the Body?
We can easily measure the AGE content of foods, and entire databases have been created with this information. But, it’s more difficult to measure AGE levels in the body. We don’t have a single test or panel of tests that really give us an accurate picture of our overall AGE load.
At this point, the only blood test that gives us a clue as to how much AGE we carry is the Hemoglobin A1c, and this only applies to one protein in the blood. This test tells us what percentage of the hemoglobin in your blood has been glycated (coated with sugar). For optimal longevity, set your goal of an A1c result of 5 percent or less.
In the absence of accurate overall blood testing, it’s important to look to your body for the answers. When you look in the mirror, is there anywhere – even your “double chin” and the back of your neck – that you can pinch an inch or more of rolling, sagging, or lumpy tissue? Do you have cellulite or bound fascia? These are all signs that you are accumulating AGEs, and it’s time to do something about it.
Reverse the AGE Process
AGEs are not only very damaging, but are difficult to get rid of once they start to accumulate. It’s not enough to decrease the amount coming in through your diet, you must also increase your antioxidants and support your liver. Here are the 5 steps I recommend for reversing the AGE process.
1. Up Your Antioxidants
Your body needs antioxidants to not only remove excess AGEs but also to balance the oxidation process in the body so they stop accumulating in the first place. Vitamins A, C, and E, along with minerals like selenium and zinc need to be plentiful not only in the diet but also supplemented through a good daily multivitamin/multimineral.
2. Love Your Liver
N-acetyl cysteine, alpha lipoic acid, chlorophyll and taurine are all excellent support for a tired, toxic liver. Once your liver is back to its full detoxifying capacity, your energy will soar and your body will rid itself more easily of AGEs and associated toxic metals. I recommend UNI KEY Health’s Liver-Lovin Formula for gentle cleansing and nourishing support of your liver and its detox pathways. Coffee enemas are another way to stimulate the detoxification and cleansing of your liver, to increase the removal of AGEs.
3. Marinate Your Meats
Let’s face it – summertime grilling is almost impossible to resist. Use acidic marinades that contain vinegar or citrus juices on your meat before grilling or cooking over high heat to reduce AGE production up to 50 percent. Try my Fat Flush Zesty Lime Marinade or Lemony Rosemary Marinade and substitute olive oil for an overnight marinade that will not only reduce AGEs but, as an added bonus, reduces the arachidonic acid in red meats that causes joint inflammation.
4. Go Low and Slow When Cooking
Steaming, boiling, poaching, braising, and using a pressure cooker or slow cooker are the preferred cooking methods to reduce AGE formation. Low heat and low sugar with plenty of moisture keep foods from drying out and producing AGEs.
5. Cook with Clay
Cooking on ceramic surfaces instead of directly on metal also reduces AGE production. My personal favorite is my VitaClay cooker (winner of the Good Housekeeping Best Slow Cooker Award). This ancient method of cooking with clay is not only healthier, but allows for the full array of flavors to develop, and only a splash of broth, juice, or wine is needed.