Forget fasting: These 14 foods turn back time

How would you like to stop the clock? Well, you could… if you could get your cells to cooperate and spermidine foods can help.

As you get older, cell regeneration gets sluggish, and it becomes harder for your body to create new tissue. That’s why you get wrinkles, gray hair, stiff joints and failing organs.

But that’s not the worst of it…

Your cells also accumulate toxic, damaged material as you age. A cell-cleaning process called autophagy removes this toxic junk. But this process happens less frequently in your older years. And if that weren’t bad enough, the more toxic junk your cells accumulate — the faster you age.

But with the boom in anti-aging research, experts say there are a couple of ways you can trick your cells into detoxing more frequently regardless of your age…

One way is exercise. But the best way is through calorie restriction or fasting. That’s because autophagy happens when your cells go into starvation mode. They eat the toxic junk as a source of energy.

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For years, most of the research surrounding fasting had been on flies and mice. Then, adult rhesus monkeys, a primate fairly similar to humans, were able to live longer and disease-free when fasting, so scientists felt positive about the same effects in humans.

So in 2023, an international team of researchers led by Columbia University conducted the CALERIE study — which stands for Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy — the first-ever investigation into the effects of long-term calorie restriction in humans.

Participants who were able to stick to a 25 percent calorie-restricted diet for 2 years experienced a 2 to 3 percent slowing in the pace of aging. This translates to a 10 to 15 percent reduction in mortality risk, which is similar to the impact of quitting smoking.

Of course, calorie restriction or fasting isn’t for everybody. It requires a will of steel to reduce your caloric intake by such extreme amounts.

Fortunately, there is something else you can do to turn back the clock on your cells’ aging process — without starving yourself…

There’s a compound found in certain foods and synthesized by your body that encourages autophagy in your cells.

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How spermidine guards against aging

Research has found that spermidine increases lifespan in mice, flies, worms, yeasts and human cells. It appeared to have potential to fight off age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. All because of its ability to make cells call in the cleaning crew.

And a spermidine study in human participants didn’t disappoint…

A cohort study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the association between spermidine intake and mortality among 23,894 participants (ages 18 and over).

They were categorized by lowest, middle, or highest third of spermidine intake. The good news?

Compared with the participants who had the lowest intake of spermidine, the participants with the highest intake had a lower risk of both all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality.

The researchers concluded that their findings “lend epidemiologic support to the concept that nutrition rich in spermidine is linked to increased survival in humans.”

How can you put spermidine’s impressive age-reversing powers to work for you? Well, don’t starve yourself for sure. That’s for the birds. Instead, just eat more spermidine-rich foods. That means more plant-based foods including these in order of highest content:

  1. Wheat germ
  2. Soybeans and soy derivatives including tofu, natto, miso and soymilk
  3. Mushrooms
  4. Chickpeas
  5. Hazelnuts and pistachios
  6. Green beans
  7. Onion
  8. Peas
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cauliflower
  11. Legumes
  12. Pears
  13. Potatoes
  14. Shellfish

I do have one quick caveat about increasing spermidine in your diet though. If you have psoriasis, spermidine is not the anti-aging compound for you. That’s because scientists believe spermidine might contribute to the disease by causing skin cells to regenerate at a rapid pace.

If psoriasis isn’t a problem for you, you should be safe to eat more spermidine. Researchers say the effects of adding more spermidine to your diet should kick in within three months. That’s how long it takes for spermidine levels to increase in your bloodstream.

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Caloric restriction improves health and survival of rhesus monkeys — Nature Communications

Higher spermidine intake is linked to lower mortality: a prospective population-based study — American Journal of Clinical

NutritionPolymines in food — Frontiers in Nutrition

Polyamine-Rich Diet Elevates Blood Spermine Levels and Inhibits Pro-Inflammatory Status: An Interventional Study — Medical Sciences Journal

Yamaguchi, K. Otsu. “Role of autophagy in aging.” — Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology. 2012 Sep; 60(3):242-7. doi: 10.1097/FJC.0b013e31824cc31c.

Healthy ageing — longer healthspan with spermidine.” — MedicalXpress. Retrieved September 2, 2016.

Eisenberg, et al. “Induction of autophagy by spermidine promotes longevity.” — Nature Cell Biology 11, 1305 – 1314 (2009).

A. Ali, et al. “Polyamines in foods: development of a food database.” — Food & Nutrition Research. 2011; 55:10.

J. Lowe. “Cutaneous polyamines in psoriasis.” — British Journal of Dermatology. 1982; 107:1.

Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and