You already know that eating the right foods helps keep you healthy. Here's more good news: A healthy diet can also make you look and feel young. It may even slow the aging process.
Eating foods such as fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, and whole grains protects against many chronic conditions that could limit your life, including diabetes and heart disease. These foods help keep your blood vessels in top shape. That’s important for your heart -- and for every organ of your body. Certain foods can protect vision and hearing. Eating healthy foods may even help preserve memory and protect against Alzheimer's.
"Even your skin will stay younger looking if you eat right," says Allison T. Pontius, MD, an expert in anti-aging and regenerative medicine at Williams' Center of Excellence in Latham, N.Y.
Colorful fruits and vegetables. The antioxidants in colorful vegetables and fruits, such as leafy greens, deep red tomatoes, blueberries, and carrots, help stop unstable molecules from damaging healthy cells. You cannot feel it when some cells are damaged or dying, but you can see it in the signs of aging, such as wrinkles. So at each meal, fill about half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Your goal is five to nine servings a day.
Three particular antioxidants -- vitamin C, zinc, and beta-carotene -- help protect your vision from macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in adults 65 and older. If you already have macular degeneration, eating foods with these nutrients may slow its progress. Dark green leafy vegetables -- spinach, kale, collard, and mustard greens -- help the most. But you also help your eyes when you eat bright-colored produce, including corn, peppers, oranges, and cantaloupe.
A powerful antioxidant in grapes and red wine, called resveratrol, helps reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and premature aging.
Antioxidants like vitamin C can even keep your skin younger-looking. A 2010 study showed that eating lots of yellow and green vegetables was linked to fewer wrinkles.
Whole grains. Eating whole grains rich in fiber -- oats, quinoa, barley, wheat, and brown rice -- lowers your chance of developing type 2 diabetes. A healthy diet that contains whole grains also keeps blood vessels in peak condition. Your goal is three servings of whole grains a day.
Fish. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil offer many anti-aging benefits. They protect your heart, reduce your risk of stroke, and may even lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Help yourself to two servings a week of fatty fish such as salmon, lake trout, or tuna. If you typically get tuna from a can, choose albacore packed in water for the most omega-3s. If you don't eat fish, ask your doctor if you should take fish oil supplements.