Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on December 17, 2020

Antioxidants and Aging

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Free radicals are molecules that can damage healthy cells. They can make you more likely to get certain diseases, like cancer, and speed up aging. Foods rich in antioxidants can help fight those molecules. Colorful vegetables and fruits are packed with them, so aim for five to nine servings of those each day.

Berries

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These are a great source of antioxidants and may help prevent cancer and some brain diseases. Frozen berries have them, too. Check out the grocery store’s freezer case and enjoy them year-round.

Olive Oil

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This tasty “good” fat may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Some studies show that it may improve cholesterol levels.

Fish

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It’s been called "brain food" because its fatty acids, DHA and EPA, can help your brain and nervous system work the way they should. Eating fish one or two times a week may also make you less likely to have dementia. Omega-3 fats found in fatty fish, like salmon and trout, can lower “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. It can also help ease the inflammation that leads to atherosclerosis, when fatty deposits clog your arteries.

Beans

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Add these nutritional powerhouses to your diet three or four times a week. The fiber may help with digestion and help lower your chances of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. And because they make you feel full longer, a diet high in fiber may help you lose weight, too. Top a salad with chickpeas, or use beans in place of meat in soups.

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Vegetables

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Veggies have fiber, antioxidants, and loads of vitamins and minerals that may help protect you from chronic diseases. Dark, leafy greens have vitamin K for strong bones. Sweet potatoes and carrots have vitamin A, which helps keep your eyes and skin healthy and protects against infection. Results are mixed, but in one study, men who ate 10 or more servings of tomatoes a week lowered their chances of prostate cancer by 35%.

Nuts

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Nuts are packed with cholesterol-free plant protein and other nutrients. Almonds are rich in vitamin E, which can help lower the risk of stroke in women, and pecans have antioxidants. The unsaturated fats in walnuts can help lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol. But nuts aren’t fat-free. One ounce of almonds -- about 24 nuts -- has 160 calories. So enjoy them in moderation.

Dairy

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Beverages fortified with vitamin D, like milk, help your body take in and use calcium. That’s especially important if you’re likely to have osteoporosis, or thinning bones. Eat yogurt with live cultures to help with digestion.

Whole Grains

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Adding these to your diet may lower your chances of certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. The fiber also may help prevent digestive problems like constipation and diverticular disease. Choose whole-grain breads and pastas, and brown or wild rice instead of white. Drop barley into soups, or add plain oatmeal to meatloaf.

Eat Like the Greeks

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People who live near the Mediterranean regularly include olive oil, fish, vegetables, and whole grains in their meals, along with an occasional glass of red wine. Instead of salt, they use spices and herbs to flavor their foods. This "Mediterranean diet" can be good for heart health, and it may lower your chances of mild memory issues and some kinds of cancer.

Stay a Healthy Weight

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Some people find it hard to keep weight on as they get older, especially after an illness or injury. A couple of ideas are having smaller meals with healthy snacks in between, and switching to whole milk instead of skim. Don’t fill up on foods that are high in sugar or fat, or you won’t get the nutrients you need.

Lose Weight for Better Health

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Shedding extra pounds can put less pressure on your joints and less strain on your heart, and might lower your chances of diabetes. It can be harder as you get older, though, because you’re usually less active and you lose muscle. Go with proteins like lean meats, tuna, and beans, and eat more vegetables, whole grains, and fruits.

Show Sources

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

1) Ariel Skelley / Blend Images

2) Achim Sass

3) Dorling Kindersley

4) David Roth / FoodPix

5) iStockphoto

6) altrendo images / Stockbyte

7) Richard Jung / FoodPix

8) Debbi Smirnoff / iStockphoto

9) Image Source / the Agency Collection

10) JGI / Jamie Grill / Jose Luis Pelaez Inc.

11) Armstrong Studios / FoodPix

12) Michael Blann / Digital Vision

 

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Campbell, J. The Journal of Nutrition, December 2004.

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