Monday, 12 March 2012

Ageing Gracefully.....!

I’m doing some research on nutrition and ageing at the moment which is giving me plenty of ‘food’ for thought.  I don’t think I have a problem with ageing but I am keen to age ‘well’. I have no intention of starting a battle which I’m not going to be able to win, so not planning on any silicon, suction or botox, though I would like to still feel attractive, capable and feminine going into my ripe old age (Audrey Hepburn and Fanny Ardant are my absolute icons).  I saw a 60 year old something the other day in St Germain, dressed in Seven kick flare jeans, a fab Antik Batik top and ethnic necklace, with her gorgeous snow white hair in a razor sharp bob and thought admiringly ‘that’s the way to do it’! 

So what do we mean by ‘ageing well’?  Let’s start with cosmetics.  The skin. Ideally charming wrinkles as opposed to a crocodile skin!  I love seeing laughter and expression lines on people’s faces as an echo to their life experiences.  Isn’t an unlined, smooth, expressionless face on older people curiously unattractive?  The lovely thing about ageing is that it allows your character and personality to come through.  Strong noses, chins etc which might have been the bane of your existence in your youth, can add personality and strength to faces as they age. Equally ‘chocolate box’ prettiness which might have seen you through a charmed childhood and adolescence, can often fade with age.   

The best ways to look after your skin?  Avoid excessive direct sunlight (though we need some to make the all important Vitamin D) which can damage the skin.  A diet rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals (think fruits and vegetables) helps to protect skin cells.  Keep hydrated (water) and avoid excessive alcohol (!) and stress.

The body.  As women hit the menopause, the ovaries stop producing oestrogen and oestrogen levels drop dramatically.  As oestrogen plays a role in fat distribution, this is often is the cause of women becoming ‘barrel shaped’ and beginning to store fat around their stomachs.  Interestingly, women who have higher fat stores going into the menopause tend to have an easier menopause because adipose (fatty) tissue produces oestrogen which helps to buffer the fall in oestrogen production from the ovaries.  Fat cells also help to plump up and smoothen the skin.  However, as always there’s a balance - if we carry too much weight this will put pressure on our cardiovascular systems and our joints.   Ideally we should try and maintain a  healthy body weight - neither too thin (think prune  - like!) or too large.

The brain. The thought of losing my mental function as I age probably scares me more than anything. And, if I had to make a choice, I would rather be a ‘barrel shaped crocodile skinned’ 60 year old with fully functioning mental capabilities than lose any part of my mental function.   Research increasingly links the importance of antioxidants and photochemicals (fruits and vegetables of all colours, as many servings as possible) together with omega 3s  (oily fish, nuts and seeds) in optimising brain function.  Research also links the importance of a strong social network and doing activities which ‘use’ the brain (crosswords etc) as playing a protective role in preserving mental function.

Interested in more anti-ageing tips?  Come and join Janelle and myself at a 'Anti-Ageing' workshop in Villennes on Saturday 31st March from 15h00 - 17h30!

Useful addresses:

Janelle’s fantastic dynamic yoga classes at Villennes and Paris will help keep you flexible and mobile (and her Sun Salutations will work wonders on any bingo wings!)
Pilates Ouest Studio - Outstanding pilates classes in an oasis of calm at St Germain en Laye which helps work on  ‘core strength’ and firm, flat abdominals.

As always a recipe.   

Roasted vegetables with lentils and baked salmon.  
I tend to make lots of the veggies and lentils and have them as a salad the following day with goat or feta cheese.  You can also use leftovers to make a roasted vegetable and lentil soup by simply adding more stock, a slug of sherry, fresh herbs and blending it all up.

Good ‘anti - ageing’ recipe as salmon provides omega 3 while the vegetables are bursting with antioxidants.  Serve as a family meal and encourage lots of talking/interaction around the table (all good for ‘brain function’) or in silence with a mini crossword for each family member to complete! 

Roasted vegetables:

Chop up a selection of vegetables for roasting - fennel, courgettes, aubergine, pepper, sweet potatoes, squash, red onions and mushrooms.  Put in shallow baking tray and pour over a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Roast in hot oven (200 degrees) for about 45 minutes.  

Prepare salmon:

Put salmon filets in baking dish ( 1 per person), season to taste, add fresh herbs, squeeze of lemon juice and bake with veg for the last 20 mins.


Finely chop 1 onion, 2 sticks celery and 1 carrot.  Fry in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 5 mins.  Add 2 cups of brown/puy lentils (wash first) and 4 cups of veg stock.  Add 2 bay leaves and 2 crushed cloves of garlic.  Cover and cook for 40 minutes or so until lentils are tender.  Season.

To serve:

Put lentils in serving dish, add roasted vegetables on top.  Strew over some rocket (roquette)  or serve rocket and avocado salad on the side.  Serve with the salmon.  Enjoy!