Okay, so maybe we can’t actually stop the clock. But we can help you change up your diet so you’re staying stronger, healthier, and more energized throughout the year—and for many, many years to come. Sound good? Read on.
We talked to David Grotto, RD, LDN, author of The Best Things You Can Eat, to learn which hard-working food all-stars function like a fountain of youth, and we found out that these 20 top performers can aid in everything from shedding pounds to sharpening your mind. (There are even some surprises along the way—turns out, chocolate milk is good for you. Who knew?)
Add these hard-working foods to your diet, and make this your best year yet.
Zoning out? This fruit may help you snap back. “Blueberries’ high flavonoid content has been found to help short- and long-term memory,” says Grotto. Remember to add a handful to a bowl of oatmeal or cereal.
The skin of red grapes contains resveratrol, an anti-inflammatory that helps keep your skin looking good. Grotto says that several studies have shown that resveratrol can help protect you from UV radiation damage that may lead to skin cancer, too. (Bonus: you can also score these benefits from a glass of red wine.)
Carrying a little extra weight around your middle? Shed it by eating more whole grains like barley or amaranth (which, like quinoa, is a great source of protein). A Tufts University study found that people who ate diets rich in whole grains and limited refined grains had 10% less abdominal fat than those who didn’t eat this way.
To help protect against colon and prostate cancer, you may want to up your legume intake. Dried beans, peas, and lentils are packed with dietary fiber, which helps speeds waste through the gut, wiping out any carcinogens that may have built up there. What’s more: beans are a rich source of folate, which helps repair damaged cells, says Grotto.
Flaxseeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help decrease inflammation and fight plaque buildup. “Flaxseeds also contain two other components that target LDL cholesterol specifically: lignans and soluble fiber, the kind that rids your body of cholesterol,” says Grotto. Ideally, your LDL would be less than 100 mG/dl. In addition to sprinkling flaxseeds onto oatmeal or cereal, continue to combat cholesterol by avoiding saturated fat and exercising daily. (And if you smoke, stop. Period.)
Yes, even dudes are at risk for osteoporosis, and when it comes to calcium, hard cheese is a champ, providing more calcium than softer varieties. Case in point: one and a half ounces of Parmesan has 500mg. These hard varieties also possess probiotic qualities to help your digestive system move smoothly, so…start grating. (It tastes great over salads and other vitamin-packed vegetable sides.)
Pile these stalks on your plate, because this cruciferous vegetable—full of phytonutrients that decrease inflammation—helps stave off lung, stomach, and other cancers. Plus, “these natural chemicals also turn on tumor suppressor genes, which slow cell growth so that damage can be repaired,” says Grotto. Eat it in everything from salads to frittatas.
This fruit packs a lot of pectin, a soluble fiber that helps prevent cholesterol buildup in blood vessels, reducing the risk of heart disease. Plus, their insoluble fiber helps keep your digestive system going strong. “But don’t peel your apple—two-thirds of the fiber and lots of antioxidants are found in the skin,” says Grotto.
Exercise is key to staying young, and this super food will power you through your gym sessions. In a study published in the journal Metabolism, test subjects who consumed rolled oats 45 minutes before exercising had a significant performance advantage over subjects who had puffed rice or water. (We digest these carbs slowly, which means that our energy stays high long after we eat them. Cool!) So grab a spoon and get ready to be propelled through your workout like a teen who just drank Red Bull.
Can’t bounce back from a tough workout like you used to? Don’t be deterred by the high fat content of peanut butter, which is an ideal part of any post-exercise snack. “Experts say post-workout meals should definitely contain some carbohydrate and protein, but fat is an important component of them, too, as long as the portion is moderate,” says Grotto. Peanut or other nut butters deliver on all fronts.
If aches and pains are getting you down more than they used to, add ginger to your diet. Its powerful antioxidants make it an all-natural anti-inflammatory that can decrease post-exercise muscle aches, according to the Journal of Painabstract. Consume it daily and ditch your bottle of Advil.
Exhausted after a workout that used to feel easy? Go ahead and guzzle a glass of chocolate milk. Yep—we were surprised, too. But low-fat chocolate milk has the ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein to help you get the most of that exercise session, according to a 2011 study conducted by the University of Texas. More specifically, research participants who downed it instead of a pure-carb drink didn’t just have a better body composition (more muscle, less fat), but they also ended up in better physical shape overall.