Why add dark chocolate to your shopping list this week? Because chocolate acts like serotonin in the brain (making you happy) and contains catechins, which help prevent wrinkles.
But choose at least 85 percent cacao, because loading your body with additional sugars is a recipe for long-term unhappiness, said Thorbjörg Hafsteinsdóttir, 54, a Denmark-based nutritionist, wellness coach, and author of five books.
“I eat it every day,” she said at a recent breakfast in Manhattan to celebrate the translation of her book “10 Years Younger in 10 Weeks” into English.
The book outlines a 10-week program to change your diet and life with practical tools like shopping lists and nutrient-dense recipes. It includes do-it-yourself and what-to-buy natural beauty guides as well as a quiz to test your biological age compared with your chronological age. (Warning, your body is probably older than you would like—but the good news is the rest of the book helps you slow its decline).
Here are some of Hafsteinsdóttir’s age-eluding tips:
Eat Tasty Superfoods
Hafsteinsdóttir’s diet advice is delicious (see fruit salad recipe) and goal-oriented.
“First of all it has to be tasty,” she said. Her goal is to slow the aging process by reducing inflammation. “All my recipes are about anti-inflammation,” she said.
She recommends consuming superfoods like berries with phytochemicals to fight inflammation; salmon with omega 3 fatty acids, which are good for the skin, brain, and nervous system; and flax, which balances blood sugar and improves the skin.
Enjoy Natural Sweetness
A former sugar addict, Hafsteinsdóttir knows firsthand what the blood-sugar roller coaster feels like—the ups and downs, the joint aches, and the brain fog of refined sweeteners.
Her anti-aging program requires weaning yourself away from added sugars and refined flours, both of which cause inflammation—a big component of aging. But not to worry, banning sugar “doesn’t mean we can’t have any sweetness in our lives.”
It means refining your palate to enjoy the sweetness of fresh and dried fruits and learning how spices like vanilla and cinnamon enhance sweet flavors.
Have Protein for Breakfast and Snacks
Ever tried baked salmon with banana for breakfast? This may sound strange, Hafsteinsdóttir said, but it’s a very good idea to eat high-quality protein in the morning. “If you eat that kind of protein in the morning, you can feel it the rest of the day.”
If you can’t roll out of bed and munch a filet, a smoothie with fruit and protein is also a great way to start the day, she said.
Protein is also essential for beating afternoon sugar or caffeine cravings. The key is to pack the right snacks. “You have to prepare yourself. You have to know what to bring to your work or bring wherever you are going,” Hafsteinsdóttir said.
Her suggestions: Make protein-rich flaxseed buns to carry with you; eat an avocado with a hardboiled egg; or if you have time to prepare it, make yourself a salad with egg or tuna.
When it comes to drink, Hafsteinsdóttir suggests green teas, fruit and vegetable juices, and lots of water. She doesn’t say no to alcohol, but if you choose to drink, go for a moderate amount and drink the highest quality.
Thorbjörg Hafsteinsdóttir (Courtesy of Thorbjörg Hafsteinsdóttir)
Exercise for Your Type
For the best anti-aging effects, Hafsteinsdóttir recommends moderate exercise that suits your body type. She classifies body types as the “to go,” “to stay,” and “yo-yo” types based on the hormones that tend to dominate.
The “to go” people run on adrenaline and tend to be hyperactive and impatient; they are hardworking and like vigorous exercise. These types do well with exercise like spinning, running, or swimming and should also consider more soothing forms of exercise such as yoga, Pilates, or meditation.
The “to stay” type of person is dominated by the thyroid hormones and testosterone. They can spend hours reading, seek tranquility, and are generally grounded. They tend to have slower metabolisms and don’t enjoy exercise. Brisk walking, swimming, yoga, and Pilates are good for this type of person.
Insulin and cortisol dominate the “yo-yo” types, who are indecisive and have lots of ups and downs. They tend to be stressed and tired, prone to depression, but are also creative and have lots of energy after they make a decision. This type of person should do muscle-building exercises, as well as yoga, Pilates, and walking.
Again, moderation is key in anti-aging—too much exercise is not very healthy, Hafsteinsdóttir said. It will make you “old too fast.”
To take the anti-aging quiz and read some of her recipes visit: http://pinetribe.com/thorbjorg/
Power Fruit Salad
Try this decadent fruit salad for a special brunch or eat it for dessert with whipped cream.
• Pomegranate seeds
• Fresh pineapple cut into bite-size chunks
• Dates, chopped
• Almonds, chopped
• Dark chocolate, at least 85 percent cacao