Kitchen Shrink

Kitchen Shrink: Growing Old Happily, Part 1

Grilled Salmon
Grilled Salmon
(Photo by Catharine Kaufman)


Recently, the oldest man in the world passed quietly into the night in northern Japan at the very ripe old age of 113. More super-centenarians (over 110 years) are living healthy, comfortable lives these days than during the last century. The Methuselah-old are achieving longevity today, mostly through smart eating habits and lifestyles — being active, looking younger, and feeling good. Here are some tips to prolong desirable lives.

Gut-Brain Instincts

Since our gut is our second brain, it is advisable to keep its healthy flora flourishing. This can be achieved by enriching the daily diet with pro- and prebiotics, a pair of close cousins that help foster a happy gut. Probiotics include kefir, organic yogurt, Kombucha tea, sauerkraut, and spicy kimchi, a Korean staple of fermented cabbage, all packed with billions of friendly colony-forming flora and antioxidants that take up residence in the gastro tract, performing invaluable service to the immune system.

And since probiotics need to eat heartily to maintain an optimum colon, precious prebiotics provide a food source for their intestinal roommates. So amp up your supply of fibrous darlings like Jerusalem artichoke, a gnarly root nicknamed “fartichoke” for its gaseous properties, garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas, dandelion greens and wheat bran.

A Heart-to-Heart

The traditional Mediterranean diet has kept the people of the Mediterranean Basin healthy and vibrant for centuries. Antioxidant-rich, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil with anti-inflammatory properties is the quintessential cornerstone of this heart-healthy diet. Add fiber- and protein-packed beans and legumes (chickpeas, black beans, lentils), whole grains, fatty acid-rich and low allergen nuts and seeds, especially walnuts, pumpkin and sesame seeds, low-fat, digestible dairy (yogurt, goat, feta and parmesan cheeses), along with oily fish like salmon and sardines. Wash it down nicely with a glass of red wine that contains heart-friendly resveratrol linked to preventing blood vessel damage.


Have Some Skin in the Game

Although Fernando Lamas would humorously tout, “It is better to look good than to feel good,” there is some kernel of truth to his quip. We can choose to minimize fine lines and wrinkles, and maintain elasticity by plumping up the skin with collagen-rich foods. So dial up Vitamin C-packed fruits and vegetables from guavas and papayas to red peppers and kiwis, B-complex and vitamin E sources, especially almonds, legumes and wheat germ, along with a dose of manganese (seaweed, pineapple and pecans), copper (dried apricots and figs), and luscious avocado oil that act as collagen factories for your face.

Manuka honey from New Zealand is another anti-aging food that can be used in baking, cooking or applied directly to the skin as a rejuvenating elixir.

Let’s Brainstorm

Certain foods have been proven to fuel the mind, and keep memory sharp even into advanced years. Some no-brainers include omega-3 powerhouses, particularly wild-caught, deep-sea, cold-water fish like salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel. Walnuts, loaded with alpha-linolenic acid keep gray matter lubricated and lively, while the coffee bean is packed with antioxidants and brain-friendly caffeine, now considered a high-octane fuel linked to boosting short-term memory, increasing focus, and problem solving skills when moderately consumed. For pure indulgence, dark chocolate with cocoa content over 70 percent is a brain stimulating food with eight times the antioxidant flavonoids of strawberries, along with aphrodisiacal properties that elevate mood and cognitive functions.

The latest brain-changer came out of a study of octogenarians from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago showing that by simply adding a single serving of dark leafy greens to the daily diet, whether kale, spinach, arugula or chard there were no signs of age-related cognitive decline, and even more impressive was the rejuvenation of the study subjects’ brains to 11 years younger than at the beginning of the study.



Recipe: Honey Apricot Salmon

Ingredients: 1 pound of wild-caught (or sustainably farm-raised) salmon fillet, cut in desired portions; 1 tablespoon of oil (half olive, half avocado); 3 tablespoons of apricot preserves; 1/3 cup of chopped dried apricots; 1 tablespoon of orange juice; 1 tablespoon of Meyer lemon juice; 1/4 teaspoon of ginger powder; 4 teaspoons of organic honey; sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

Method: In a saucepan, combine apricots, preserves, juices, ginger and honey. Heat on low for 10 minutes. Set aside. Season salmon with salt and cayenne pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil on medium and cook fish for 7-9 minutes on each side until cooked through. Pour sauce over salmon and cook another 3 minutes. Serve over Israeli couscous, quinoa or your favorite healthy grain. Garnish with chopped scallions.

Catharine Kaufman can be reached by e-mail: and see more recipes at

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