Imagine naturally occurring toxic substances that are responsible for chronic disease and accelerated aging. When trying to discover why patients with diabetes are prone to complications such as heart disease, Dr. Helen Vlassara and her research team focused on compounds called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, which enter the body through the diet. For years, these amazing studies remained virtually unknown to the public. Now, renowned researchers Dr. Vlassara and Dr. Gary Striker, and best-selling author Sandra Woodruff have written a complete guide to understanding AGEs and avoiding their harmful effects through the careful selection of foods and cooking techniques.
Part One of Dr. Vlassara’s AGE-Less Diet clearly explains what AGEs are, how they enter your body, and how they contribute to the development of chronic disease, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, dementia, obesity, and more. Most important, you’ll learn how you can reduce AGEs and improve your health by making simple changes in the way you eat. Part Two offers over a hundred taste-tempting AGE-less recipes that show you just how easy—and delicious—it is to follow an AGE-less diet.
By lowering your AGE levels, you can reduce the potential of developing any number of serious disorders and enjoy greater health. Dr. Vlassara’s AGE-Less Diet will guide you in making a real difference in your life.
Sandra Woodruff, MS, RD, LD/N, has a master’s of science in food and nutrition from Florida State University. She specializes in diet-related health problems, and is the best-selling author of many health-related cookbooks, including Soft Foods for Easier Eating Cookbook.
Helen Vlassara, MD, is Professor Emeritus and former Director of Diabetes and Aging Research at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She has devoted over thirty years to studying the effects of advanced glycation end products and has authored hundreds of scientific articles and books.
PART ONE Understanding AGEs
1. The Missing Link
2. The Science of AGEs
3. AGEs, Aging, and Chronic Disease
4. The AGE-Less Diet,
5. Applying the AGE-Less Way to Different Diets,
6. Stocking the AGE-Less Pantry,
7. AGE-Less Cooking Techniques,
8. AGE-Less Eating Away from Home,
PART TWO AGE-Less Recipes
About the Recipes
AGE-less Diet interior
Main Event Salads
Soups and Stews
Sandwiches and Such
Sauces and Marinades
Sweets and Treats
Organizations and Websites
About the Authors
For centuries, and indeed as far back as Hippocrates, countless leaders in the field of health have warned us that what we eat can greatly affect our mental and physical well being. Since then, hundreds of fad diets have come and gone. From low-fat to low-carb, vegan to Paleo, and everything in between, seemingly every possible eating plan has been devised and touted. And yet, with all the promises of good health, weight control, and longer life, we are not getting any healthier. In fact, the number of degenerative diseases continues to explode. What have we been missing? Is there some strategy that could actually provide us with more vitality, greater health, and even a longer lifespan? Fortunately, the answer is a resounding yes.
Forty years ago as a young researcher, I worked with a team of other scientists to examine a class of destructive substances that accumulate in people with diabetes. These toxic substances were found to hasten many dangerous complications of diabetes, such as vascular disease and nerve damage. The aim of the research team was to understand the nature of these compounds. Were they a direct cause of the diabetes? Were they by-products of another process? Exactly how did they damage the body? There was much to learn. And what we discovered was something completely unexpected and surprising.
These destructive substances were not related to a deficiency or excess of vitamins or minerals, nor were they contaminants in the same sense that heavy metals, pesticides, and industrial waste are. Yet their path of damage was clear. The compounds were found to be directly linked to virtually every aspect of aging and degenerative disease, including cardiovascular and kidney diseases, bone loss, cognitive and neurological issues, and the weight gain and wrinkles that creep up on us as we age.
The researchers called these toxic substances advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. The acronym AGE was actually coined to remind us that these compounds are linked to the accelerated aging that is part of diabetes and other chronic diseases. It was already clear that having high blood sugar levels caused more AGEs to form in the body. What we did not suspect until much later was that most AGEs actually enter the body with our food—and that they have the potential to affect many more people than was previously believed!
Over the past two decades, studies in both animals and humans have strengthened the case for AGEs as key players in many of the diseases that plague the modern world. A striking realization throughout these studies was that food AGE intake goes hand in hand with markers of inflammation, which has long been known to underlie most chronic degenerative diseases. Unfortunately, the existence and nature of AGEs remain largely unknown to the general public—and, for that matter, to many healthcare professionals, as well. The translation of research into clinical practice is notoriously slow in the medical community, even in today’s information-obsessed world. Meanwhile, our modern health predicament is all too clear: We may now live longer, but we struggle with poorer health.
The intention of this book is to open your mind to a whole new way of thinking about food and health. It exposes a root cause of the modern “lifestyle diseases,” including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, and many more. But it also shares exciting and inspiring news: We have found that as people adopt the AGE-less diet, regardless of age or health status, indicators of inflammation and disease quickly plummet. This book will show you how you, too, can reap the benefits of AGE-less eating.
The book is divided into two parts. Part One helps you understand AGEs and how you can minimize your exposure to these harmful compounds. Chapter 1 provides a brief but illuminating look at the groundbreaking research that led to our current understanding of AGEs. In this chapter, you will get a sense of how long, difficult, and, yes, fascinating the history of AGE science has been. Chapter 2 focuses on the science of AGEs. What exactly are these compounds? How do they form in the body? Why are they so prevalent in the modern diet? And how do they cause us so much harm? Chapter 2 answers these questions and more, all while making AGE science easy to understand.
Chapter 3 takes a closer look at the many health problems that are linked to excess exposure to AGEs. You will find that AGEs are intertwined with virtually every aspect of chronic disease and aging, from arthritis to diabetes; from Alzheimer’s to cardiovascular disease. While this may seem disheartening, it also provides a simple key to better health—improving diet to provide fewer AGEs. By the time you reach Chapter 4, you will know that the main source of AGEs in the body is the food you eat. In this chapter, you learn exactly which foods provide large amounts of AGEs, and which foods offer good nutrition without burdening the body with an excess of these substances. Best of all, Chapter 4 presents the three basic principles of healthy AGE-less eating.
At this point, you may wonder if you have to abandon your current diet to eat the AGE-less way. Fortunately, AGE-less principles can be applied to any type of diet. Chapter 5 focuses on five of the most popular diet philosophies: low-carbohydrate diets, low-fat diets, the Mediterranean diet, the Paleolithic diet, and various forms of the vegetarian diet. You will see how simple it is to integrate AGE-less principles into these and other diets to make them even more healthful.
Once you’ve learned the basics of eating the AGE-less way, it will be time to stock your pantry with healthy foods. Chapter 6 highlights foods that can fit into an AGE-less eating plan, offers smart substitutions for high-AGE foods and ingredients, and provides additional tips for selecting and preparing foods. You will find that AGE-less food can be tasty, easy to prepare, and economical.
Although it’s important to center your diet on low-AGE foods, the way in which you prepare your foods is just as important as the foods you choose. This is because while some cooking methods promote the formation of large amounts of AGEs, other methods greatly minimize AGE formation. Chapter 7 guides you in the use of simple AGE-less cooking technique, including braising, boiling, poaching, pressure cooking, slow cooking, simmering, stewing, and steaming. In addition, it offers practical tips for preparing some of your favorite foods with fewer AGEs.
Increasingly, people are eating away from home or picking up take-out fare rather cooking meals in their kitchen. Besides being generally higher in calories and lower in nutrition, food prepared outside the home often makes AGE-overload a near certainty. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Chapter 8 guides you to the best choices when eating out, enabling you to make the most of the menu’s offerings in a wide variety of settings while keeping your AGE load at a modest level.
Throughout this book, we assure you that AGE-less food can be delicious and satisfying. But tasting is believing. That’s why Part Two of Dr. Vlassara’s AGE-Less Diet offers over a hundred recipes that emphasize low-AGE foods and employ AGE-less cooking techniques. From breakfasts to desserts, from main courses to sides, these dishes are not just easy to make, but also easy to love. Just as important, each includes Nutrition Facts—calorie, carbohydrate, fiber, protein, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and calcium counts—so you can be sure that the recipes you choose match your dietary needs and restrictions.
Beyond a doubt, research has shown that AGEs are the “missing link” which explains why our modern diet is so strongly associated with inflammation and a wide range of chronic diseases. While this may strike you as just one more piece of bad news, the truth is that AGEs pose a problem which you can control with ease and at no extra cost. It is our hope that you will use the information provided in this book to introduce small but important changes that can make a real difference to your health and that of your loved ones. We wish you greater health and many satisfying meals to come.