2008.06.18 Potato chip or sardine, how old will I feel?

Written by David Green.


When I saw a list headlined “10 Terrible Aging Foods” in a magazine over the weekend, I knew I was probably in for trouble. The accompanying article explained how certain foods supposedly speed up the aging process, while others help to slow it.

I suspected that most of the foods on the “terrible” list would be ones I liked, the only question being, could I go 10 for 10?

First on the list was bacon. I don’t eat all that much bacon, except for an occasional BLT. I usually get onions added, which made an employee of the local BLT establishment refer to it as a “BLOT.” Recent headlines make me wonder, though: Is the tomato now more hazardous to my health than the bacon?

Next on the list is hot dogs. No problem there. If hot dogs were the last food on Earth, I’d be on a permanent diet. Following the dreaded dogs, unfortunately, was potato chips. I know I eat more than my share of those. I wonder how much younger I’d be if I stopped? Maybe I should switch to corn chips.

Number four is white bread. I never buy it myself, having a preference for rye, so I guess I don’t have to worry about it. I’m sure they don’t consider fast food burger buns to be “bread,” do they? Please, tell me they don’t.

The next bad white thing is white potatoes (as opposed to what, purple and green ones?) How about turning them into fries and disguising the color with ketchup? No? How about tater tots? And exactly where do tater tots come from, anyway? Does someone in Boise carve them out of bigger potatoes? And where do the scraps go?

Then there’s number six, corn oil. So much for eating Fritos instead of potato chips.

Next is “sugary, processed cereals.”  That covers quite a bit of the market. I guess if it comes with a toy in the box, it qualifies as an aging food. I suppose I could eat Cheerios. Or maybe just gnaw on some styrofoam, they both taste about the same.

Sugary soft drinks followed on the list, and that wasn’t a big surprise to me. But how about, say, Mountain Dew, which contains something like 1/10th of 1% orange juice in every serving? OK, I already know the answer to that. But why is it so hard to find Fresca, which has no sugar, and I actually like it?

Another sad component of the list was red meat. Of course, I like my meat well done, so it’s not really red when I eat it, right? Yeah, I know, it still counts.

Ending the top ten terrible list is doughnuts. At least I’m not perfect. I only eat nine of the ten foods on the list. No wonder I look 800 years old. Just think, have a burger with bacon on a white bun, a side of fries fried in corn oil, with a Pepsi and a doughnut for dessert and you’ve got seven of the ten covered in one meal.

Then there’s the ten foods that supposedly are anti-aging. And amazingly, not all of them are horrible tasting. Just most of them.

I’ll pass on the salmon and sardines. And unsalted popcorn? Might as well not even bother. Green tea I like, but I’m sure they don’t mean the citrus-infused, sugar-sweetened version I drink.

I was happy to see both apples and blueberries on the list. But it’s just so hard to find nice-looking fresh ones in the store. I don’t suppose apple pie and blueberry-flavored Mountain Dew are acceptable substitutes, are they?

Spinach and dark, leafy greens are also on the list. I’m not much of a spinach fan (sorry, Popeye), but I enjoy lettuce and cabbage. Does coleslaw count?

Also on the list are nuts (particularly almonds and walnuts) and legumes (including peanuts). I like peanuts, but I wonder if peanut butter qualifies, too. I know better than to ask about an Almond Joy bar.

And then there’s extra virgin olive oil. Apparently, it’s not just for Rachael Ray anymore. If I fried a hamburger in it, would the good qualities cancel out the bad?

Whole-grain cereals are also listed as an anti-aging food. Amazingly, the box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in my cupboard not only claims to contain whole grain wheat, it still comes with a toy car. It looks like I might balance out some of those potato chips after all.

I guess with careful shopping in a freshly-supplied grocery store, I could eat seven or eight of the anti-aging foods on a regular basis. But I draw the line at sardines. Who would want to be that young, anyway?

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