A few weeks ago I was using my flat iron and when I looked in the mirror to admire my ’do, I discovered my first gray hair (gasp!). It was the first time I was visibly confronted with the reality that, surprise, I will age, and I’m not 18 anymore no matter how good I feel.
I already have the exercise part down, so on my quest for a fountain of youth I’m paying more attention to research on how to eat to age healthfully. The best information I’ve found? 7 anti-aging super foods and recipes to enjoy them in, from Peter Jaret’s James Beard Foundation award-winning article in EatingWell Magazine, “The Search for the Anti-Aging Diet.”
Read on to find out more about the 7 foods to keep you young:
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.
Get sweet satisfaction in seconds with delicious chocolate recipes, such as Chocolate & Nut Butter Bites (which include two of the 7 anti-aging super foods!):
Chocolate & Nut Butter Bites
8 1/4-ounce squares of bittersweet chocolate
4 teaspoons almond, cashew or pistachio butter
Top each chocolate square with 1/2 teaspoon nut butter of your choice (almond, cashew, pistachio). Two sandwiches make one serving.
Per serving: 79 calories; 6 g fat (2 g sat, 1 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 9 g carbohydrate; 1 g protein; 1 g fiber; 12 mg sodium; 20 mg potassium. What you get: Magnesium, copper, chromium. 1/2 Carbohydrate Serving. Exchanges: 1/2 other carbohydrate, 1 fat.
In a landmark study published in 1999, researchers at Tufts University’s Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging fed rats blueberry extract for a period of time that in “rat lives” is equivalent to 10 human years. These rats outperformed rats fed regular chow on tests of balance and coordination when they reached old age. Compounds in blueberries (and other berries) mitigate inflammation and oxidative damage, which are associated with age-related deficits in memory and motor function. Eat more blueberries with healthy blueberry recipes.
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. Eat some tonight with a healthy fish recipe.
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.
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 proved 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.
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.
By Michelle Edelbaum
Michelle is the associate editor of interactive for EatingWell Media Group. In between editing and writing, she enjoys sampling the tasty results of the easy, healthy recipes that the EatingWell Test Kitchen cooks are working on.