Do you know that certain foods can help you stay young? Whether it's slowing the onset of wrinkles or keeping your mind sharp, the food you put in your body can make a big difference.
I picked the brain of Elisa Zied, RD — author of the new book Younger Next Week: Your Ultimate Rx to Reverse the Clock, Boost Energy and Look and Feel Younger in 7 Days — to discover five everyday foods that women of any age can incorporate into their diet to help them stay youthful and healthy.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), women average a cup of fruit daily, which is short of the recommended 1.5 to 2 cups per day.
"Fruit is naturally rich in water to help you stay hydrated," says Zied. "And some fruits, including grapefruit and berries like strawberries and blueberries, are excellent sources of vitamin C — an antioxidant nutrient that protects skin and all body cells from damage caused by free radicals. A 2007 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating foods (including fruits) that are vitamin C–rich contributed to fewer wrinkles and less dry skin in middle-aged women."
Fruit is also a great source of other key nutrients, including potassium, fiber and folate — all nutrients that women tend to fall short on.
According to the USDA, most women only eat about 1.5 of the 2 to 3 cups of vegetables that they should eat daily.
"Vegetables — especially the nonstarchy, colorful kinds — not only boast few calories, but like fruit, they're good sources of water to help you stay hydrated," says Zied. "They also boast key nutrients like fiber, vitamins A and C, folate and potassium."
Zied points to research in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging that shows that a higher vegetable intake is linked to a lower risk of dementia and a slower rate of cognitive decline.
On average, Americans consume one-third of the 3 ounces of whole grains recommended daily. Whole grains are intact grains that haven't been refined, such as whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, oats and popcorn.
"Fortunately, research suggests that those who like bread and pasta can feel good about incorporating them into a healthful, nutrient-rich and vitality-promoting diet," says Zied. "Research suggests that people who eat more whole grains tend to weigh less and have lower body fat levels than those who eat less of them."
Zied explains that whole grains are great sources of complex carbohydrates, B vitamins, iron, magnesium and several antioxidant nutrients that protect body cells against free radicals that contribute to disease risk and aging.
Considered a protein or a vegetable, beans (also known as legumes) are an often-overlooked part of a healthy diet.
"Beans are nutritional powerhouses that fill you up and contain fiber, iron, zinc, potassium and folate," says Zied. "They have many health perks — they potentially help with weight management, benefit heart health and may help prevent or manage diabetes."
Zied explains that there's even evidence that eating beans can help you live longer! According to the study Food Habits in Later Life, legume intake predicted longevity better than any other dietary component.
According to the USDA, current average seafood (fish and shellfish) intake hovers around 3.5 ounces weekly, though current recommendations are that people should eat between 8 and 12 ounces each week.
"Fish is a great source of high-quality protein that can fill you up and maintain the structure and function of the skin, the body's largest organ," says Zied. "Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel are also excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids — healthy fats that, among their many roles, help moisturize and protect the skin."
Zied adds that fish also contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body make feel-good serotonin. Studies suggest that eating fish may help lower the risk of skin cancer and also ward off depression.
To get you started, here's an easy recipe from Zied's book, Younger Next Week.
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