13 Foods to Help You Age Gracefully

Quit searching for the mythical Fountain of Youth and stock up on these 13 age-defying foods instead.

By: Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N.
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Eat Well, Age Well

Searching for the key to eternal youth and beauty? Do let us know if you ever find it. In the meantime, these age-defying foods are the next best thing. Incorporate them into your diet, and you'll find yourself feeling healthier and thinking sharper, even as you get older.

Eggs

Cook up an omelet for breakfast, and you could help your eyes. The yolks contain nutrients that may help decrease your risk of age-related macular degeneration, as well as cataracts. “Unfortunately, eyesight is one of the first things to go as we age,” says Emily Kyle, M.S., RDN, owner of Emily Kyle Nutrition. “Thankfully, a diet rich in farm-fresh eggs can help combat the loss of vision through two powerful nutrients: lutein and zeaxanthin.” Additionally, the amino acids found in eggs help rebuild and repair tissues that may deteriorate as you get older.

Raspberries

This fruit gets its red color from antioxidants, which may help slow down the aging process. “Short-term experimental studies have shown that berries improve cognition — perhaps because they’re high in flavonoids, especially the kind called anthocyanidins, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions,” explains Maggie Moon, M.S., RDN, author of The MIND Diet. In a Nurses’ Health Study, people eating a large number of flavonoids, including anthocyanidins, saw a decrease in the cognitive aging process by an average of up to two and a half years. Add raspberries to a Greek yogurt parfait, along with slivered almonds and cinnamon.

Green Tea

“Tea has been touted for its antiaging capabilities for centuries,” says Kyle. “Rich in antioxidants, it has the ability to help the skin repair itself from the common threats of everyday life, like sun damage, pollution, and poor nutrition or hydration status.” Green tea has an especially high antioxidant makeup, so go ahead and brew a cup.

Nuts

Regularly eating a mix of nuts (such as almonds, pistachios and peanuts) may help you live longer. People who regularly eat them have a lower risk of death from heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease, according to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine. Keep your own DIY mix stocked for healthy snacking.

Cauliflower

With cauliflower rice and pizza in vogue, it’s a good thing the cruciferous veggie may help boost mind health. “In studies, subjects who ate the most cruciferous vegetables performed better at cognitive tests,” says Moon. “Their brains were almost two years cognitively younger.” Not a cauliflower fan? Try broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale or arugula — all cruciferous veggies shown to help your mind.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes get their red color from the antioxidant lycopene. And that lycopene may help protect your skin against damage from UV light — and the wrinkles caused by it. You’re better able to absorb the lycopene in cooked tomatoes (the kind found in tomato paste), versus fresh ones, shows research out of the United Kingdom. So add tomato sauce to your whole-grain spaghetti — as well as some steamed cauliflower for an even bigger antiaging boost.

Turmeric

Found in curry, this spice may help keep your joints young. “Although the cause of arthritis is still not completely known, many experts believe it’s derived from inflammation in the cartilage,” says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., owner of NutritionalaNatalie.com in New York City. “Because turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory, studies suggest it may help reduce the symptoms associated with arthritis.” In fact, research out of Thailand shows that supplementing with turmeric for a month was as effective as using ibuprofen to reduce arthritis-associated knee pain. Add a dash of turmeric to savory oatmeal, or enjoy a turmeric latte.

Chile Peppers

Regularly spicing up your food with hot red chile peppers may help you live longer. People who regularly ate the peppers had a 13 percent lower risk of death, versus people who didn’t eat them, found a study in PLOS OneIt’s possible that the capsaicin in the peppers helps protect against heart disease. Whatever the reason for the protective benefit, spice up scrambled eggs with chile peppers, or add them to homemade tacos.

Whole-Grain Bread

The fiber from foods like whole-grain bread, oatmeal and berries may help you be more likely to reach older age without depression, cancer or heart disease, according to an Australian study. In fact, people who ate the lowest amount of fiber had a 65 percent increased risk of death, compared to people taking in the most. When shopping for whole-grain bread, look for a loaf with whole-grain flour or whole-wheat flour as the first ingredient.

Yogurt

“Yogurt has two nutrients, calcium and protein, that are absolutely vital for aging,” says Rizzo. These nutrients can lower the risk of bone fracture and help prevent loss of bone mineral density — and certain yogurts like Greek yogurt are very high in protein, which may help prevent muscle loss. “A consequence of aging is the loss of muscle, known as sarcopenia, and protein in these yogurts helps prevent that,” says Rizzo. Additionally, many yogurts offer probiotics, good bacteria that can help protect the gut as you age. Have a yogurt parfait, or make a veggie dip out of plain Greek yogurt and herbs.

Salmon

“Salmon is a food that could help keep your brain sharp, your mood balanced and your skin supple,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It. The fish is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect your memory function and skin health — and may play a role in fighting depression. Choose the canned variety once in a while, as canned salmon with bones boasts calcium, needed to help protect your bones and help prevent osteoporosis. 

Prunes

Here’s another food that may help improve your bone density and protect against osteoporosis. Prunes contain potassium, which may give bone health a boost by helping increase bone mineral density and decrease the risk of bone breakdown. “Additionally, the rich fiber content of prunes can promote a healthy gastrointestinal system,” notes Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D., CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. Snack on whole prunes, or dice them and add to a salad.

Blueberries

“Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidants of all fruits,” says Palinski-Wade. These antioxidants can fight against free radicals, which damage skin and accelerate aging. Regular blueberry intake is linked with lower risk of heart disease and has been found to help reduce the risk for heart disease. Blend a blueberry smoothie, or add blueberries to a bowl of oatmeal.