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There are many variables involved in how long you live, but by following a healthy lifestyle, staying active and eating a nutrient-packed diet, you can help slow the aging process and perhaps even stave off age-related diseases, including osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease. Start by including more of these antioxidant-rich foods to your diet.
Four decades ago, researchers from the Seven Countries Study concluded that the monounsaturated fats in olive oil were largely responsible for the low rates of heart disease and cancer on the Greek island of Crete. Now we know that olive oil also contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that may help prevent age-related diseases.
In the 1970s, Soviet Georgia was rumored to have more centenarians per capita than any other country. Reports at the time claimed that the secret of their long lives was yogurt, a food ubiquitous in their diets. While the age-defying powers of yogurt never have been proven directly, yogurt is rich in calcium, which helps stave off osteoporosis and contains “good bacteria” that help maintain gut health and diminish the incidence of age-related intestinal illness.
Thirty years ago, researchers began to study why the native Inuits of Alaska were remarkably free of heart disease. The reason, scientists now think, is the extraordinary amount of fish they consume. Fish is an abundant source of omega-3 fats, which help prevent cholesterol buildup in arteries and protect against abnormal heart rhythms.
The Kuna people of the San Blas islands, off the coast of Panama, have a rate of heart disease that is nine times less than that of mainland Panamanians. The reason? The Kuna drink plenty of a beverage made with generous proportions of cocoa, which is unusually rich in flavanols that help preserve the healthy function of blood vessels. Maintaining youthful blood vessels lowers risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and dementia.
Studies of Seventh-Day Adventists (a religious denomination that emphasizes healthy living and a vegetarian diet) show that those who eat nuts gain, on average, an extra two and a half years. Nuts are rich sources of unsaturated fats, so they offer benefits similar to those associated with olive oil. They’re also concentrated sources of vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals, including antioxidants.
Drinking alcohol in moderation protects against heart disease, diabetes and age-related memory loss. Any kind of alcoholic beverage seems to provide such benefits, but red wine has been the focus of much of the research. Red wine contains resveratrol, a compound that likely contributes to its benefits—and, according to animal studies, may activate genes that slow cellular aging.
Compounds in blueberries (and other berries) mitigate inflammation and oxidative damage, which are associated with age-related deficits in memory and motor function.
Boost your defenses against skin cancer (the most common type of cancer) and help keep your skin looking younger with these 6 foods.
A cup of strawberries delivers about 150 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C—and eating more vitamin-C-rich foods may help to ward off wrinkles and age-related dryness.
Tomatoes get their red hue from lycopene, a carotenoid that may help to keep your skin smooth. Consuming more lycopene may also protect your skin from sunburn. You can also get lycopene from pink grapefruit, carrots, watermelon, guava and red peppers.
Tofu—and other soyfoods, such as edamame and soymilk—may help to preserve skin-firming collagen because it is rich in isoflavones. Researchers believe that isoflavones help prevent collagen breakdown.
Tuna—and other omega-3-rich fish, such as salmon and sardines—may help keep your skin looking youthful and prevent skin cancer. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), one of the omega-3 fats in fatty fish, has been shown to preserve collagen, a fibrous protein that keeps skin firm. And EPA in combination with the other omega-3 in fish, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), helps to prevent skin cancer by reducing inflammatory compounds that can promote tumor growth.
Drinking a single cup of coffee daily may lower your risk of developing skin cancer. those who drank one cup of caffeinated coffee a day reduced their risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer by about 10 percent. And the more they drank—up to about 6 cups or so per day—the lower their risk. Decaf doesn't seem to offer the same protection.
The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA (docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acids, respectively) found in salmon may shield cell walls from free-radical damage caused by UV rays, Aim to eat two servings of fatty fish each week: not only are the omega-3s good for your skin, they’re good for your heart too.
Papaya is an excellent source of vitamin C—and research suggests that vitamin C may help protect skin cells against sun damage by promoting the repair of DNA that’s been harmed by UV rays. UV rays break the chemical bonds of skin cells, killing them and damaging their DNA, which may eventually cause cancerous growth.
Pink grapefruit gets its pink-red hue from lycopene, a carotenoid that may help to keep your skin smooth. Researchers found that of 20 individuals studied, those who had higher skin concentrations of lycopene had smoother skin.
Corn is an excellent source of lutein, a type of carotenoid. Like lycopene, lutein shields your skin from UV damage. If corn is out of season, don’t hesitate to turn to frozen alternatives. Frozen vegetables may be even more healthful than some of the fresh produce sold in supermarkets, Why? Fruits and vegetables chosen for freezing tend to be processed at their peak ripeness, a time when—as a general rule—they are most nutrient-packed.
Edamame is rich in isoflavones—and isoflavones act like antioxidants, scavenging for and mopping up harmful free radicals caused by sun exposure. Isoflavones may also help to preserve skin-firming collagen—which begins to decline starting in our twenties.
Egg yolks contain the carotenoid lutein, which like lycopene protects skin from UV damage. Lutein also helps to keep eyes healthy—mounting research links lutein with reduced risk for age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 50.
A medium-size red bell pepper boasts more than 200 percent of the daily value of vitamin C. Eating more vitamin C-rich foods may help to protect skin cells from the sun’s harmful rays as research suggests that vitamin C may promote the repair of DNA that’s been damaged by UV rays.
Research suggests caffeine in tea (coffee too) may help to protect your skin against skin cancer. Caffeine basically kills precancerous and ultraviolet-damaged skin cells by blocking a protein that they need to divide. In a study where mice were exposed to harmful sunburn-causing ultraviolet B rays caffeine inhibited the formation of skin tumors.
Carrots contain the carotenoids beta carotene and lycopene—both of which may shield your skin against UV damage.
Soymilk may help to preserve skin-firming collagen because it is rich in isoflavones. Researchers believe that isoflavones help prevent collagen breakdown.
Eating more vitamin C-rich foods, such as broccoli, may help to ward off wrinkles and age-related dryness, Vitamin C’s skin-smoothing effects may be due to its ability to mop up free radicals produced from ultraviolet rays and also its role in synthesizing collagen, a fibrous protein that keeps skin firm.
Spinach boasts lutein, a carotenoid that protects your skin from UV damage. When buying spinach, pick the one right up in the light: spinach stored continuously under the light for as little as three days boasted higher levels of vitamin C and preserved levels of K, E, folate and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
Sardines are one of the healthiest foods we can consume: they’re packed with the omega-3s DHA and EPA, as well as vitamin D, which is found naturally in very few foods. The omega-3s may shield cell walls from free-radical damage caused by UV rays, they are one of Seafood Watch’s “Super Green” sustainable choices.
"First thing every morning, I massage organic sesame oil from the health-food store all over my body. Working it in wakes me up and really gets my blood circulating. Plus, the oil hydrates my skin, giving it a healthy glow. Then I jump in the shower—the oil naturally cleans away dead skin cells."—Lisa Hedley, founder and creative director of the Mayflower Inn and Spa, Washington, Conn.
"Anti-inflammatories are the best anti-agers out there. From improving heart and immune functions to helping hair grow and skin look supple, they truly do wonders. I take three 500 milligram capsules of omega-3 fish oil in the morning and at night. I look for labels that say, 'molecularly distilled for purity,' which means pesticide-free."—Arlene Noodleman, MD, medical director of the Age Defy Dermatology and Wellness Center, Campbell, Calif.
"I avoid stained teeth by drinking my coffee quickly. If you sip it over the course of an hour, it keeps coating and recoating. The same goes for other staining liquids, like tea and dark juices."—Elisa Mello, DDS, cosmetic dentist, New York City
"The number-one ingredient that I avoid in my diet is processed sugar. The reason: It speeds up the aging process by binding to and eventually weakening the collagen in your skin, which can lead to premature wrinkles and sagging. I eat lots of vegetables and fruits every day—and I steer clear of Twinkies at all costs!"—Ava Shamban, MD, dermatologist and owner of the Laser Institute for Dermatology and Skin care, Santa Monica, Calif.
...Scrub with it instead
"In the shower, I lather my hands with a mild cleanser, add a handful of white sugar, and slather it all over my face and body. It makes my skin so smooth and creates a great canvas for makeup."—Carmindy, celebrity makeup artist
"I use an over-the-counter topical vitamin C cream that has a 30% concentration. It's a wonderful antioxidant that helps my skin repair itself from sun damage. Plus, it has natural sunscreen properties in it, so combining it with my daily SPF has a synergistic effect."—Arlene Noodleman, MD, medical director of the Age Defy Dermatology and Wellness Center, Campbell, Calif.
"I snack on anything with malic acid—like strawberries, apples, and grapes—which act as a natural tooth cleanser and help break down stains."—Elisa Mello, DDS, cosmetic dentist, New York City.