What you eat impacts everything from your skin to your bones to your cognitive abilities. Here at the Huffington Post, we've written about foods you should never eat and foods you should always eat. We've written about men and eating disorders and women and food addiction. But what about the general eating habits that make you look or feel years older than your actual age? Below are four food habits that will do you more harm than good.
1) Consuming too much red meat and too many full-fat dairy products.
A study from May 2012 by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital found that saturated fats -- found in red meat and full-fat dairy products -- cause the brain to age more quickly than other kinds of fat. The study looked at the dietary habits of nearly 6,200 women over age 65 and found that, on average, those who reported the highest saturated fat intake also scored the poorest on cognitive tests. The good news is that you can slow brain aging by consuming olive oil, avocado and other monounsaturated fats.
2) Using too much salt.
A little salt is okay. It's too much salt that's not good. Not only does salt dehydrate the body, but excess salt also contributes to kidney disease, high blood pressure and interferes with bone metabolism. A study by researchers at Baycrest in Toronto found that a high-salt diet -- coupled with low physical activity -- can be detrimental to cognitive health in older adults.
3) Having a sweet tooth.
The over-consumption of sugar has long been linked to aging. Sugar damages collagen, which leads to wrinkles and sagging skin. A piece of cake here and there won't make a huge difference. But the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar a day -- too much if you want a youthful-looking face.
4) Eating when you are rushed and stressed -- such as at your desk or in a car.
If you eat when you're stressed, the major stress hormones will push blood away from your stomach and into your extremities, making it harder for your body to sufficiently digest foods and absorb nutrients. Stress also can lead to over-eating, which can lead to obesity. And stress also can exacerbate existing diabetes by hurting a person's ability to manage the disease effectively.
What do you think about these food habits? Let us know in the comments.
Earlier on HuffPost50:
Do Not Eat: Breakfast Sandwiches
Eggs, meat and cheese on a bun, sounds simple enough, right? If you buy your breakfast sandwiches at a fast food chain like Dunkin' Donuts or McDonalds, the cheese is often processed, and the meat often greasy, which can leave you feeling drowsy and lethargic by lunch. Moreover, according to Dr. Todd Anderson of the <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-10/hasf-bsi102212.php">Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada</a>, "just one day of eating a fat-laden breakfast sandwich ... and 'your blood vessels become unhappy.'"
Try This Instead: Toast With Almond Butter
Many midlifers neglect to eat well simply because they are always on the go, according to Bonnie Taub-Dix. While it is easy to grab a breakfast sandwich or muffin when in a rush, these items are high in fat and calories. A quick, easy and healthy replacement is toast with almond butter.
Do Not Eat: Chunks Of Cheese
Chunks of cheese often seem like a great addition to a boring salad. However, you will have to add more than just a few pieces to get that savory taste, overtaking the health benefits of eating a salad.
Try This Instead: Shredded Cheese
You can get the consistent taste of cheese throughout your salad while using less when you trade out chunks of cheese for shredded cheese.
Do Not Eat: Cereal Bars
While cereal bars are tasty and low in calories, they are often low in protein, leaving one hungry and de-energized.
Try This Instead: Protein Bar
Protein bars are a quick, easy and convenient way to keep yourself energized and full throughout the day. Bonnie Taub-Dix suggests keeping protein bars in the glove compartment of your car so you can stay healthy, even while on-the-go.
Do Not Eat: Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise contains a high amount of fats and oils, and just one teaspoon can contain about 90 calories (<a href="http://www.livestrong.com/article/440204-how-unhealthy-is-mayonnaise/">that's about 4.5 percent of your daily recommended caloric intake!</a>).
Try This Instead: Horseradish Sauce
Horseradish sauce has "the same creamy taste of mayonnaise, hardly any calories," according to Bonnie Taub-Dix. If you're looking to cut extra fat out of your diet, you can use a mayonnaise substitute like horseradish sauce, or dilute mayo with a less fatty condiment, like mustard.
Do Not Eat: White Pasta
Dinner is often our least healthy meal of the day, as many choose to eat out, or whip something together last minute, according to Bonnie Taub-Dix. An easy way to avoid the dangers of dinnertime is by cutting back on white pasta consumption. White pasta lacks fiber, vitamins and minerals. Thankfully, there are healthy, satiating white pasta alternatives.
Try This Instead: Whole Grain Pasta
Whole wheat pasta is much more natural than its white pasta counterpart. It is rich in fiber, which helps control cholesterol and blood sugar, and vitamin B, which helps promote a healthy nervous system and energy <a href="http://www.livestrong.com/article/281765-what-are-the-benefits-of-whole-grain-pasta/">metabolism</a>.
Do Not Eat: Ice Cream Sundaes
There is no doubt that ice cream sundaes are extremely tasty, but they are also very high in sugar, fat and lack nutrients.
Try This Instead: Yogurt With Warm Fruit
A healthy desert alternative to ice cream is yogurt with warm fruit. Yogurt is high in protein and calcium, which can prevent osteoporosis, while fruit has a great natural sugar taste, and is full of anti-oxidants, vitamin C and fiber.