After deciding to attempt centenarian status, I’ve become hyper-aware of my health.
So health.com caught my eye last month after crunching the numbers on foods that may shorten life, specifically those that harm our DNA’s ability to protect itself from disease. The four that made their list: soda (sugared and diet), processed meat (i.e. hot dogs and pepperoni), red meat (beef and pork), and alcohol.
According to mounting research, not only does soda ruin our weight and pancreases, excessive amounts of it also age the body as fast as smoking. Processed meats, in turn, do harm when eaten more than once a week, one study found. Same thing for red meats. And excessive alcohol – which by one definition equates to anything more than one glass of wine a day – messes with our DNA health as well.
For me, abandoning soda hasn’t been a problem. It still goes well with popcorn, but I’ve only had two or three cans this year, due to its newfound ability of burning my throat. Same goes for alcohol. It’s a helluva social enabler, but as a teetotaler, I’ve been able to enjoy just as many social interactions as my drinking friends, all without the associated headaches and negative health benefits. (Besides, I think reaching for natural highs such as sailing, dancing, adrenaline, underdog upsets, or catching a wave are more worthwhile anyways.)
As for red meats, I only eat one serving every 7-10 days, largely after my (or my wife’s) body sends a distress craving signal (“Hey, I’m low on iron!”). Hot dogs, too, I only eat sparingly in the summer. My biggest vice from the list: Salami. I can pound that stuff anytime it’s nearby. Which is why my family doesn’t stock the “ice box” with it unless we’re planning a picnic.
Obviously, there’s a reason we consume so much soda, red meat, hot dogs, and alcohol: it’s crazy delicious. The trick is doing away with the ones you don’t love as much as the others, then moderately (if not sparingly) indulging in the others you really do love.