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5 Anti-aging Diets

Eat Right, Live Longer Diet

This diet book, written by Dr. Neil Barnard, president of the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine, promises to unleash the power of foods to improve your health and delay the aging process. Barnard advocates a low fat vegetarian diet, and he focuses on dietary changes that he says will protect cells from disease, clean the blood, boost immunity, and balance hormones.

Quick Take

A low fat vegetarian diet to boost immunity, balance hormones, and protect cells from damage

This Diet Is Best For

People who have been considering a vegetarian diet and would like to lose weight. It's also best for people who are willing to spend more preparation time in the kitchen. Few allowances are made for convenience foods.

Who Should Not Try This Diet

People who love milk, meat, or cheese or who prefer more information to allow flexibility at mealtime

The Premise

Weight loss is not the primary goal of Barnard's diet; in fact, only one chapter in the book is actually devoted to it. But when it comes to losing weight, Barnard says that the most powerful weight-control menu is a vegetarian one. If you follow his plan for good eating, he says you can forget diets forever and eat normal portions at every meal.

The Rationale

Barnard's vegetarian diet prescription has a lot to do with maintaining good health and little to do with weight loss. He advocates avoiding meat and dairy because they are loaded with chemicals, hormones, and drugs that can weaken our immune systems and make us sick. He bases his high-carbohydrate diet for weight loss on research showing that calories from carbohydrates are inefficiently converted to fat by the body and, during their conversion to body fat, burn more energy than fat calories.

He also points to research showing that people produce more body heat after a high-carbohydrate meal, indicating that they burn calories faster. He even refers to high-carbohydrate foods as foods with a negative calorie effect. Moreover, he says that foods can have a dramatic effect on hormones, which can affect weight loss and overall health. The goal is to keep hormones from surging. Too much fat in the diet causes hormones to increase, while fiber helps to lower hormone levels.

Eating on the Eat Right, Live Longer Diet

This book contains about 100 pages devoted to recipes, two weeks' worth of menus primarily based on those recipes, shopping tips, and a guide to equipping your kitchen for low fat vegetarian cooking. A typical day might include applesauce muffins, fruit preserves, and an apricot smoothie for breakfast, and curried lentil soup, potatoes, spinach salad, and fruit salad for lunch.

Dinner might include: pasta with broccoli and fresh tomatoes, garlic bread, mixed green salad with fat-free dressing, and fresh apricot crisp for dinner. Barnard pushes a "Zero-A-Day" program for meats and dairy products.

He also encourages eating raw fruits and vegetables to boost the body's production of glutathione, an antioxidant compound that "hauls toxins out of the body." While the diet discourages sugar intake, it does not focus on the glycemic index of foods (the degree to which a food raises blood sugar levels) as many other diets do.

What the Experts Say

The diet is a healthy one, but it would be difficult to follow for people not committed to vegetarianism. The two biggest concerns about people over 50 following this diet, experts say, is the lack of vitamins B12 and D and the mineral calcium. The diet does provide tips for getting B12, aside from a multivitamin, but the need for calcium and vitamin D are seriously downplayed.

Barnard's philosophy is that if you follow this type of diet, you don't need as much calcium to maintain healthy bones because it's lower in calcium-depleting protein. And he says that just a little sun exposure will be enough to trigger vitamin D production in your skin. But that doesn't take into account the fact that your body's ability to produce vitamin D diminishes with age as the requirement for the vitamin goes up.

Overall, this is a healthy vegetarian diet. And if you follow it to the letter, you should lose weight. The diet should also decrease your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and possibly cancer. However, following it depends on your commitment to giving up meat and dairy and your willingness to spend more money on organic foods and more time in the kitchen.

If you decide to go for it, take a daily multivitamin that contains 100 percent of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamins B12 and D and 1,000 milligrams of supplemental calcium.

Calorie quota: The diet recommends not to drop calorie intake below 10 calories per pound of your ideal weight. For example, if you're aiming for 135 pounds, don't go below 1,350. No other calorie guidelines are provided.

Yes: Lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; organic produce; bottled water

No: Meat, dairy, caffeine, non-organic produce, tap water (because of its chlorine content)

Other similar diets: Eat More, Weigh Less

In the next section, find out if the Stone Age-based Origin Diet is right for you.