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2. Protein continued...

To hang on to your metabolism-boosting muscle — and keep you feeling full after meals (another protein plus) — experts recommend eating plenty of skinless chicken and turkey breast, lean beef and pork, eggs, beans, and seafood. And don't forget protein-rich dairy: Minerals (primarily calcium, phosphorus, and potassium) in fat-free milk and yogurt as well as low-fat cheeses help to keep blood pressure healthy, pudge in check, and bones strong. News flash: Calcium can't build bone if you're not getting enough protein, and current recommendations — about five ounces a day for a 145-pound woman — are too low, says Robert P. Heaney, M.D., professor of medicine at Creighton University in Omaha. Our Anti-Aging Meal Plan provides about 11 ounces of protein daily.

Another reason to spoon up some yogurt: Eating at least 1/4 cup every day led to a 60 percent lower risk of gum disease and a 50 percent lower risk of tooth loss in a Japanese study published in the Journal of Periodontology. The effect is thought to be linked to the probiotics in yogurt, but not in most other dairy.

3. Omega-3-Rich Fish

Fatty acids in seafood help quench the flames of chronic inflammation. In addition, "there's very good new data suggesting that omega-3 fats from fish act on an area of the brain that leads to improved mood and attitude among healthy people," says Artemis P. Simopoulos, M.D., author of The Omega Diet. These improvements in outlook lead to feeling healthier and more vigorous, she explains. The omega-3s in fatty fish like salmon and tuna have the most potent anti-inflammatory effects. But it's smart to consume omega-3s from plant sources, like walnuts and flaxseed, too — especially if you're not fond of fish.

4. Whole Grains

A 2008 review of these diet-friendly foods — which include whole wheat, oats, and brown rice, and the bread, cereal, and other edibles made from them — concluded that a meal plan loaded with whole grains helps you stay slim, thanks, in part, to fiber's role in appetite control. Their low rankings on the glycemic index (a system that rates the effect of different carbohydrates on blood sugar levels) may also play a role.

A raft of research has also shown that whole grains offer protection against diabetes, heart disease, stroke, colon cancer, high blood pressure, and gum disease. These benefits are tied to the array of vitamins, minerals, plant chemicals, and again, fiber that work together to promote health. (That's why refined grains, which filter out these nutrients during manufacturing, and add some back later in the process, don't offer the same advantages.)

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