Want the Coles notes version of which foods offer the best anti-aging benefits for the money? Load up on fruits and vegetables. That’s because they’re high in antioxidants – those nifty little guys that fight cell-damaging free radicals. To really put them on your side, eat produce for all colors of the rainbow.
While we’re on the topic, let’s clarify a few things. Aging is basically a chronic state of inflammation. Some of us age quicker than others; a man of 40 can look 30 or vice versa. But aging goes beyond your skin and physical appearance. Cancer, dementia and heart disease, among other pleasantries, are health considerations that get more important as we march through life.
You can’t change your genes. But you can certainly age younger with healthy living habits. At the center of them are these anti-aging foods, which should give you better skin, a resilient brain and even a rockin’ sex drive to keep the effects of aging at bay.
Anti-Aging All-Star Foods
Look closer at some of the foods mentioned in this article and you’ll see a few food groups that keep popping up. For example, green, leafy vegetables are among the healthiest foods on the planet. Oily, coldwater fish are favorites too – helping your skin, heart, libido and brain.
As a rule of thumb, about half of each meal should be fruits and vegetables. You’re aiming for five to nine servings each day, along with these other superfood groups to stay young in body and healthy upstairs…
Whole Grains – An excellent source of belly-filling fiber, whole grain oats, barley, wheats and rice may all lower your risk of diabetes type 2 and keep your blood vessels in good condition. Opt for whole grain rather than whole wheat and aim for three servings a day.
Fish – Pity the person who hates seafood – coldwater oily fish like salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. That’s awesome, because it may lower your risk of heart disease and stroke and reduce your chances of dementia as well. Lake trout and tuna are good sources of omega-3s too – choose albacore packed in water if you typically eat tuna from a can.
Dairy – Your bones love the calcium in dairy, but don’t overlook what it can do for the rest of you. Among other things, low-fat dairy may keep your cholesterol under control and lower your risk of heart disease. Don’t like dairy? Look for other sources of calcium and fortified vitamin D, like soy milk, almond milk and cereal.
Nuts – Don’t get put off by their high calories. The fats in nuts are among the healthiest anywhere. Those fats go a long way too – in fact, one study found they lowered risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol by almost 20%. That’s with just ¼ ounces of nuts a day, or about four almonds.
Beans and Lentils – These are seriously high in protein and belly-filling fiber. And that protein is plant-based, making beans and lentils a good option for people who want to avoid the pitfalls of red meat. Add them to soups, casseroles and side dishes.
Anti-Aging Foods For Your Skin
Genes play a role. But the following anti-aging foods for your skin can give you radiant complexion, reduce wrinkles and even make you more attractive to the opposite sex.
Eat smaller portions of nutrient-rich foods for better skin. Combine them with exercise and always wear sunscreen in summer. You’ll look the part, with younger skin aided by these foods that are poetry for your largest organ:
Oats – They pack a low hit to your blood sugar and have a natural plant chemical that protects skin cells. Get oats in oatmeal (natch), along with whole grains like shredded wheat, barley and brown rice.
Oranges – Your skin likes water, and you’ll get plenty of that in this citrus fruit. Oranges are rich in vitamin C too, which helps make collagen, and keeps skin supple in the process. But it’s not just oranges. Fruits and vegetables in general are great for your skin. Aim for at least two cups of vegetables and 1.5 cups of fruits each day if you’re a woman, or three and two respectively for men.
Avocados – They’re rich in healthy, monounsaturated fat, which helps hydrate your skin. And that fat helps your skin absorb the nutrients it needs for better health. Use avocados in place of high-fat salad dressings and mayo for skin that will look simply amazing.
Lean Beef – Red meat doesn’t have to be bad for you. Opt for lean beef if you’re feeling carnivorous, like a 2 or 4 ounce high quality sirloin, for protein that your body uses to make collagen. Flip it often too, because cooking with high heat leads to charring that can undo the anti-aging properties you’re looking for.
Brussels Sprouts – You’ll blitz your body with skin-friendly nutrients vitamin A and folate with brussels sprouts. They may also help protect your skin against sun-aging, because they’re rich in vitamin C – there it is again! – which promotes collagen, and helps skin adapt to the strains of your environment.
Salmon – Salmon rarely fails to show up on any list of healthiest foods, and it’s here as well. Thank the omega-3 fatty acids in this tasty fish, which may help protect against skin cancer cells from spreading. Try for at least two 3-ounce servings of salmon (or other coldwater oily fish, like mackeral or trout) each week.
Grapes – Much hype has been made about resveratrol, which is found in grapes and red wine. But most of that hype is deserved, say experts, because it appears to slow aging and protects skin from sun damage. You can also get resveratrol from boiled peanuts and cocoa powder.
Feed Your Brain Too!
Anti-aging foods help your health and your skin. But they feed other parts of your body too, including that thing in your noggin commonly referred to as a brain. Yes, the right foods can keep you sharp throughout the day and may play a role in protecting against Alzheimer’s and mental decline. Brain-friendly foods include:
Whole Grains – These keep popping up. No wonder – whole grains supply glucose to the brain, which give it energy, though you’ll want to choose ‘whole grains’ rather than ‘whole wheat’.
Oily Fish – We’ve already talked about the virtues of oily fish several times already, but we can’t ignore the benefits of fish for better brain function. Again, we turn to the omega-3 fatty acids in fish, EPA and DHA, both of which the body uses for mental function. Low levels of DHA are linked to Alzheimer’s and memory loss.
Blueberries – Another superfood with antioxidants-a-plenty, research done at Tufts University suggests blueberries may delay memory loss and the effects that go with it.
Tomatoes – Personally, I hate tomatoes. But that’s my loss – tomatoes have a powerful antioxidant, called lycopene, that may help protect against the free radical damage so characteristic of dementia.
Blackcurrants – We haven’t seen blackcurrants show up yet, but we’ve talked in considerable detail about vitamin C. Guess what? You’ll get lots of it in blackcurrants. And with it, better mental agility.
Pumpkin Seeds – A handful of pumpkin seeds puts a memory-enhancing wallop of zinc in your tummy, which should help your thinking skills and keep your brain on its tippy-toes.
Broccoli – Cancer-killer broccoli is rich in vitamin K – a known cognitive-enhancer – and which may improve brain function.
Nuts – Like fish, nuts are one of the best anti-aging foods for the money. Case in point, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found a good dose of vitamin E may prevent cognitive decline, especially in the eldery. Three guesses where you’ll find this brain-friendly nutrient in abundance?
Fuel For Your Sex Life
Anti-aging foods help your skin, your brain, your heart and other factors. But the fun stuff comes when you eat for your sex life – studies show the following foods can stoke your libido and make sex a thrilling experience regardless of age:
Strawberries – They’ve been featured in many a kinky scene in the movies, but there’s more to strawberries than their cinematic appeal. They’re high in antioxidants for one, and are linked to better circulation to your privates.
Avocados – Their second showing on our review of the best anti-aging foods, avocados are high in vitamin E and heart-protecting potassium and vitamin B6. That has other uses too, because what’s good for your heart is good for your genitals. Consider that men with heart disease are twice as likely to have ED and you see the connection.
Almonds – Nuts feature in every category we’ve reviewed so far, but here we’re going to focus our attention on almonds. That’s because they’re high in zinc, selenium and vitamin E, which encourage better blood flow and are important nutrients for sexual health and reproduction.
Sweet Potatoes – Here’s one we haven’t seen yet. Sweet potatoes, which are rich in potassium, may help fight high blood pressure – linked to erectile dysfunction. They’re high in beta-carotene too, which some believe may help infertility, though it’s not proven.
Sesame Seeds – More seeds! These guys are especially high in zinc, and make a great alternative to oysters if they’re not your thing. They’re easy to prepare – just add them to granola or health stir fry. Or heck, eat them raw!
Watermelon – Next to salmon, watermelon scores huge points with me. I can’t think of a better way to beat the heat of summer than with this calorie-light delicacy, which has lycopene, citrulline and beta-carotene. They’re all believed to dilate the blood vessels and make sex extraordinary.
Study: The Mediterranean Diet May Help You Live Longer
We’ve covered a lot of ground here, and seen some anti-aging foods show up in multiple categories. So it’s only fitting that we conclude this article with an easy way to put many of them in your stomach.
This diet – and yes, we’re talking about the Mediterranean diet – continues to win researchers over for its ability to fight heart disease and possibly dementia. And now we can add anti-aging benefits to that list; according to a study published in 2014, the Mediterranean diet may reduce aging because it appears to protect the ends of cell chromosones, called telomeres.
Telomeres shorten naturally as we age. That’s what makes these results significant. The study found that people whose dietary habits closely followed the Mediterranean diet had longer telomeres, which suggests they’ll have a longer life expectancy, and lower risk of heart disease and other ailments that take far too many lives. Not to mention they’ll look younger too.
No one food in the the study offered more protection than another. Rather, it was the combination of foods that make up the Mediterranean diet which seemed to help. And the study builds on earlier research, done in 2013, which found that middle-aged men who adopted healthy lifestyle habits like vegan diet and taking fish oil supplements lengthened their telomeres by 10%.
Take baby steps with the Mediterranean diet. Start small – saute your food in olive oil rather than butter for example. Snack on fruits and vegetables and add them to your recipes. You can also switch red meat for fish at least twice a week and opt for whole grains rather than white. Check out Food Network’s mediterranean diet section too, and stay with the program. The longer you put these anti-aging foods in your diet, the more benefits you’ll enjoy.