The No-nonsense Nutritionist Guide to Aging with Attitude

The No-nonsense Nutritionist Guide to Aging with Attitude

Tips from nutritionist Charlotte Debeugny on making food and nutrition fun and promoting the importance of healthy eating.

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“So”, he exclaimed triumphantly removing his head from between my legs after ‘fiddling’ around down there for far too long. “I can see from your cervix that you are definitely in the perimenopause, Madame Debeugny”.

My first reaction? I was very tempted to give him a swift kick in the face for being too brutally honest. My second reaction? Reassurance to my poor tired, thinning and ageing cervix: “Don’t worry, I’m not going to abandon you, there’s still lots of fun to be had. Final reaction: sadness. I moderate, meditate, work out, pluck it out and color it in. I avoid harsh natural light and can squeeze my toes into my daughters’ skinny jeans. Yet aging is relentless. A battle that can’t be won, so shouldn’t there be a limit to how far we need to go? What’s the point of all this effort?!

Charlotte Debeugny - Nutritionist in Paris
Nutritionist in Paris Charlotte Debeugny © Hildur Heimis Photography.

Aging with the right attitude

While we tend to judge how well we are aging on our appearance, we possibly should be much more aware of three little words called ‘Quality of Life’ – being able to move without pain and disability, having a brain which remains crystal clear, being able to enjoy life in all its glory. The miracles of modern medical science may well be helping us live longer, but we are not necessarily living healthier lives.

Moderation is a powerful tool

The whole shebang of moderate exercise, a healthy diet, stress management and sleep is a powerful tool in ensuring that we stay healthy, fit and strong for as long as possible. Studies indicate that this powerful kit bag can reduce our risk of chronic diseases – from 30% for heart disease up to 58% for type 2 diabetes. Aging is inevitable but aging well is an art. However tedious it might seem at times, we simply must invest in these highly important healthy habits. Think of it like a savings account – while you may groan at the continual effort of saving part of your income, the reward, when you can finally access that pot of money, is worth its weight in gold!

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Avoid extremism, especially for your health

When you investigate the lifestyle of some of the world’s populations with the longest longevity combined with a high quality of life – known as blue zones – such as Okinawa and Ikaria, you will not find them attributing this to a “low carb” or  “juicing” diet. Or hear them discussing at length their high-intensity interval training or recent marathons. It’s the perfect rainbow of fresh air, sun, exercise, relatively unprocessed and seasonal diets and a rich appreciation of life and the community, which keeps them young in body and mind! They might even enjoy a cheeky glass of wine and appreciate a home-cooked dessert rather than making the sign of the devil whenever the word “sugar” is mentioned….

On reflection, isn’t it a contradiction to keep pushing your body to extremes to prove that you are still young, whereas all it really needs to flourish is a bit of gentle love and care?

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Telomeres need to be long and leggy

The new kid on the block when it comes to identifying the causes of aging are telomeres. All cells divide and replicate and each time the DNA (strings of genetic code) is copied. Telomeres are found at the end of our DNA and help keep the genetic code together. Think of the plastic tip found at the end of shoelaces and how difficult it is to do up a shoelace once the ends become frayed. This is what your telomeres do! Every time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter, until there comes a point where they are too short, the cell is not able to replicate and the cells ‘ages’.

So, is there a telomere-specific diet you can follow?

Studies show that you can help to protect your telomeres by eating (no surprise) plenty of fruits and vegetables and lowering the consumption of saturated fats in the form of butter, cheese and red meat. The Mediterranean diet, for example, is associated with longer telomeres.

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Photo courtesy of author.

The Mind Diet and cognitive function 

It’s also worth mentioning the MIND diet: Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It’s a new diet with early studies associating it with a 54% reduced risk of age-related dementia such as Alzheimer’s. It combines a Mediterranean style diet with a diet which lowers high blood pressure. The focus is on nutrient-dense, relatively unprocessed foods with a specific focus on berries, nuts, olive oil and beans. It also recommends reducing saturated fats. Again, no real surprises when it comes to the types of foods to be consumed.

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Dem bones, dem bones

And now a final plea after having taken care of your mind and your telomeres. Don’t forget the importance of looking after your bones. They are our foundations, our scaffolding and if they start to crumble, we are in trouble. Many people are now avoiding dairy products for various reasons so just be aware that if you are limiting your intake of dairy, you simply must find another source of calcium for your daily diet. In women over the age of 45 years of age, osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in hospital than cardiovascular disease, diabetes and breast cancer. It is a huge concern and one that needs to be highlighted.

As an FYI, the reason that osteoporosis rates have traditionally been lower in Asian countries, despite the lower intake of dairy products is everything to do with the tradition of squatting, which naturally strengthens the hips. Asian populations also tend to be shorter than Caucasian populations. This gives them a lower centre of gravity and therefore less risk of the hard falls, which can fracture bones. Studies show that dairy products, particularly fermented ones, are generally protective for bone health. So please don’t feel that you must give up dairy products if you enjoy them!

Sardines, tofu and calcium-enriched plant milks have levels of calcium which are similar to dairy products, and green vegetables, nuts and seeds also contain reasonable amounts of calcium.

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You also need weight-bearing exercise to maintain strong bones. Yoga has been recently highlighted as being very protective for reducing osteoporosis risk – downward dog, warrior and the plank are all-around top poses for increasing strength and flexibility.

Go yogis of all ages! Go cervixes of all ages! Three cheers for moderation and balance! It’s nourish and not punish – let’s rock our age!

Food oh glorious food! Charlotte Debeugny (RNutr) is a registered nutritionist, passionate about making food and nutrition ‘fun’ and promoting the importance of healthy eating. She is a published author and has written 10 books on nutrition and health for Marabout. Charlotte works at a medical center in Paris providing nutrition support and guidance for individuals. You can book appointments directly with Charlotte using She also provides corporate nutrition services with her company, Nutrition in Paris.



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