The RealAge Diet
Dr. Michael Roizen's second youth-enhancing diet book, RealAge: Make Yourself Younger With What You Eat, promises that you can make yourself biologically younger than your chronological age by eating the right foods. He says this isn't a diet book; in fact, he calls it a "non-diet diet."
Instead, it promotes healthy eating, which allows you to lose weight. Together, these two aspects will add not just years but healthy years to your life.
This Diet Is Best For
Those who are very motivated and willing to make some serious changes to improve their health. It's packed with good information about food and nutrition.
Who Should Not Try This Diet
Those whose main motivation is weight loss. It's designed for people who are ready and willing to make permanent changes in their diet and lifestyle in order to extend their healthy years. Weight loss is simply a part of the equation.
The idea is that if you eat the right foods, you can stave off or delay chronic debilitating diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and look and feel younger, longer. Roizen sums up his eating philosophy early on when he says, "Eat nutrient rich, calorie poor, and delicious."
To calculate your "real age" (your biological age not your chronological age), Roizen provides a 20+ page quiz that demonstrates just how many factors comprise a healthful diet as well as the interrelationship between them.
Taking a single supplement or focusing on a single food or food group won't help you lose weight, nor will it help delay aging. Roizen also advocates eating meals in a stress-free and enjoyable environment.
Eating on the Real Age Diet
There are no gimmicks to the RealAge diet -- just principles for healthful eating. Some of the diet basics that Roizen says will add years to your life include avoiding red meat, saturated fats, trans fats, simple sugars, and empty calories.
Overall, RealAge dieters are encouraged to avoid foods with a high glycemic index (foods that cause a sudden surge in insulin levels). Some believe high glycemic-index foods cause weight gain. Roizen provides about 20 recipes and 2 weeks' worth of sample menus.
A typical day may include kashi, blueberries, soy milk, and orange juice for breakfast; soy nut butter and whole-fruit spread on whole-wheat bread, a plum, and soy milk for lunch; a salad with avocado, canned tuna, and nuts with olive oil dressing, whole-grain crackers, and a glass of red wine for dinner; strawberries dipped in a little dark chocolate for dessert; and a whole-wheat pretzel with mustard for a snack.
While the recipes and menus provide a basis for altering your diet, there is no system for creating your own RealAge diet. That is up to you. Altogether, Roizen points out 127 factors that affect the rate of aging; 25 of them have to do with exercise and diet, and he outlines what to do and what to avoid to work these factors to your favor.
What the Experts Say
Roizen's diet is a healthful one that promises to boost your intake of phytochemicals, natural disease-preventing compounds found in plant foods. Research clearly shows that such a diet should reduce your risk of developing several chronic and sometimes deadly diseases.
It's doubtful, however, that Roizen has perfected the formula for calculating exactly how many extra years you can expect to live by changing your diet, as he implies with his detailed questionnaire and complex scoring system.
He says, for example, that eating foods rich in flavonoids (a phytochemical), such as apples, onions, broccoli, garlic, chocolate, or grapes, will make your RealAge exactly 3.2 years younger. Roizen says that every recommendation made in the book is backed up by scientific evidence.
However, there's no research that backs up his very specific calculations of how many years you will add or take away from your life, depending on how you eat or live your life.
However, the questionnaire does drive home the point that you may extend your life and your healthy years by making some serious changes in how and what you eat.
There's little to fault with Roizen's diet. It's chock-full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. While the diet is quite nutritious, it responsibly recommends taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement that does not contain excessive amounts of any one nutrient as a sort of nutritional insurance policy.
Also to his credit, Roizen devotes an entire chapter to exercise and your activity level -- and how often you exercise also figures into the RealAge formula.
The book devotes quite a bit of attention to two nutrients that are especially important as you age -- vitamin D and calcium. He even goes so far as to say that vitamin D may be one of the most important vitamins in your age-reduction plan.
Calorie quota: Roizen doesn't emphasize counting calories, but he does provide calorie counts and serving sizes for a few basic foods. He also provides a standard chart of calorie needs by height, activity level, and weight along with a chart showing the number of calories burned during various physical activities.
Yes: Low glycemic-index foods, fruits and vegetables, relaxed atmosphere while eating, a balanced multivitamin
No: High glycemic-index foods, foods high in trans fats
Other similar diets: The Origin Diet; Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy
In our final section, learn about the Schwarzbein Principle and why it may not be the healthiest diet for you.