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The Top 12 Anti-Aging Foods

It's true. Science tells us you can slow the aging process and live longer, with a higher quality of life and health. Side benefits even include preventing wrinkles and gray hair! There is a decades-long body of science supporting each recommendation.

Yogurt: Possibly the most significant nutrition discovery in decades is all about your gut. The 100 million cells in your gastrointestinal tract, called the "microbiome," contain bacteria that can make or break your health. Eating a diet with foods (yogurt is a prime example) containing healthy bacteria, called probiotics, boosts your immune system, preventing infection, enhancing immunity, helping prevent diseases from colds to cancer, even diabetes and obesity. Research is also finding that a healthy microbiome may play a role in reducing inflammation, a risk factor involved in illnesses ranging from colds to cancer, heart disease, arthritis and cognitive decline.

Olive Oil: Polyphenols, the nutrients in freshly harvested and carefully handled olive oil, are primarily responsible for its health benefits. They activate genes that reduce your chances for metabolic syndrome, the name for a group of risk factors (high blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose) that together increase the risk for heart disease, America’s number-one killer. Polyphenols reduce cancer risk by lowering inflammation and cellular proliferation. They act as antioxidants*, reducing oxidation and cell damage, which leads to many degenerative diseases. They even reduce microbial activity and infections.

Tea: The flavonoids in fresh tea help your heart by keeping blood vessels unclogged and flexible, lower blood pressure, improve bone health, and even help your thinking and memory. The compounds called catechins in green tea help you lose weight. The antioxidants* in tea might reduce cancer risk, and an amino acid called L-theanine reduces stress and stress hormones that cause inflammation, dampening your immune system.

Kale: has the highest antioxidant* content of all vegetables. High in fiber, it is rich in minerals, B-vitamins, beta-carotene, and lutein, a compound which may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of preventable blindness), cataracts, and other eye diseases. Absorption of carotenoids, such as lutein, in your body is increased by cooking and by the presence of fat (so cook in a little healthy olive or canola oil!).

Salmon: Salmon is one of the few food sources of Vitamin D, an essential vitamin usually only obtained from sunshine. It's a major source of the healthy fats, omega-3-fatty-acids, found in seafood. It's established that omega-3-fatty-acids reduce inflammation, a risk factor for every disease from colds, heart disease, arthritis, to cancer. Omega-3s favorably effect a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and at the top of the list is reducing the risk of sudden death from heart attack. It concentrates in the brain and nervous system and may reduce the incidence of depression and other psychological conditions, such as Alzheimer's Disease and cognitive decline.

Nuts: Nuts and seeds improve signs of biological aging by increasing telomere length. Telomeres, proteins found at the end of each chromosome (think of the plastic protector at the ends of shoe laces), preserve information in our genome and prevent cell death; they serve as a biological clock to determine the lifespan of a cell and an organism. Telomere length shortens with age and can be affected by various lifestyle factors. Shorter telomeres are associated with lower rates of survival and higher rates of disease such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Black and Blueberries: These fruits are superstars and have the highest level of antioxidants* in the fruit world. They're high in compounds called anthocyanins, a group of potent plant nutrients, including antioxidants*. Anthocyanins provide the blue pigments in fruits and vegetables. They lower inflammation, and prevent several diseases including heart disease, cancers, diabetes, some metabolic disorders, and infections. They also protect vision and the nervous system.

Dark Chocolate: The most significant contribution of cocoa to health is improved blood flow. Cocoa flavonols, some of the healthy nutrients in cocoa, improve artery dilation, reduce blood clotting and therefore reduce heart disease risk, and lower blood pressure - the pressure on artery walls that prevents blood flow. Thus, flavonols are responsible for increasing oxygen and nutrition to the brain and other organs - improving brain function, among other things. Cocoa also contains polyphenols, another class of healthy nutrients with potent antioxidant* power, decreasing many signs of aging including cognitive decline, loss of memory, and heart disease.

Apples: A rich source of several flavonoid subclasses (healthy plant nutrients), particularly flavonols, anthocyanins, and flavones, are associated with less weight gain. They do it by reducing blood glucose (blood sugar), sending it into the muscles, where it is burned as energy, instead of increasing body fat. Body fat is not inert. It produces toxic chemicals causing inflammation, oxidation, insulin-resistance, and cancer-promoting cell growth. Keeping body fat at bay is associated with increased life span.

Butternut Squash: They're a bustling factory of nutrients and plant compounds with potent powers of healing. When acting synergistically in a food, these nutrients provide a more powerful health punch than the individual nutrients alone. Some of the most important nutrients in squash are antioxidants*, such as beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and vitamin C, which are powerful substances believed to reduce inflammation, improve immune function and help prevent heart disease and cancers, among other benefits.

Oats: A good source of soluble dietary fiber, especially β‐glucan, oats lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and keep blood glucose at low levels after eating, a low glycemic, anti-diabetic affect not associated with most grains. The nutritional benefits of oats appear to go beyond fiber to biologically active plant nutrients with strong antioxidant* and anti‐inflammatory effects. Foods, such as oats - high in soluble fiber - delay stomach emptying, which increases feelings of fullness and are associated with weight loss. Oats are a prebiotic food, contributing to healthy bacteria in the gut, along with probiotic foods.

Concord Grape Juice or Red Wine: Research shows that Concord grape juice is similar to red wine in many respects. Both are high in a class of beneficial plant nutrients called polyphenols, antioxidants* that protect against heart disease, cancers and other signs of aging. Other polyphenols, called tannins, are responsible for the astringent flavor in cocoa, tea, grapes, and other fruits, are powerful antioxidants*. Concord grape juice and red wine also contain a tiny amount of a polyphenol called resveratrol, primarily in the skin of the grape, which has beneficial effects as anti-aging compounds, reducing oxidative damage, inflammation, telomere shortening and DNA damage. Other polyphenols found in the seed, proanthocyanidins, may also prevent cell proliferation and cardiovascular disease. Another class of antioxidant polyphenols in grapes are called flavonols. Grapes contain the flavonol, quercetin (in apples), and kaempferol (in broccoli), which are thought to reduce cellular proliferation and cancer. One study found that concord grape juice improved thinking ability and spatial memory.

*Antioxidants are compounds that absorb oxygen free radicals -- molecules that cause oxidation in the body's cells. Scientists believe that these molecules cause much of the diseases of aging, such as immune system decline, arthritis, heart disease, cancer and neurological impairments affecting cognition and balance. Think of oxidation as being similar to rusting. Or imagine an apple slice turning brown. By simply adding lemon juice, an antioxidant, the apple's flesh stays fresh and prevents the browning or oxidation. A similar thing happens in your body. Oxidation is constantly occurring in your cells because of environmental pollutants, smoking, exposure to the sun, heat generated through basic metabolic functioning (digestion, for one), unhealthy diets and other factors. It takes a large supply of antioxidants to counter this.