In Eat This, Not That! 2010, we compiled a list of eight foods that can help keep you young. You’re only as young as you feel—so add these eight nutritious powerhouses to your daily diet, and start feeling (and acting and looking) years younger!
Benefit: Weight loss
Substitute: Egg Beaters egg substitute
When it comes to breakfast, you can’t beat eggs. (That was too easy, wasn’t it?) Seriously, at a cost of only 72 calories, each large egg holds 6.3 grams of high-quality protein and a powerhouse load of vital nutrients. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that people who replace carbs with eggs for breakfast lose weight 65 percent quicker. Researchers in Michigan were able to determine that regular egg eaters enjoyed more vitamins and minerals in their diets than those who ate few or no eggs. By examining surveys from more than 25,000 people, the researchers found that egg eaters are about half as likely to be deficient in vitamin B12, 24 percent less likely to be deficient in vitamin A, and 36 percent less likely to be deficient in vitamin E. And here’s something more shocking: Those who ate at least four eggs a week had significantly lower cholesterol levels than those who ate fewer than one. Turns out, the dietary cholesterol in the yolk has little impact on your serum cholesterol.
Bonus tip: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Choose wisely—avoid the foods on our list of 20 Worst Breakfasts in America.
Benefit: Longer lifespan
Substitutes: Yerba mate, white tea, oolong tea, rooibos (red) tea
Literally hundreds of studies have been carried out documenting the health benefits of catechins, the group of antioxidants concentrated in the leaves of tea plants. Among the most startling studies was one published by the American Medical Association in 2006. The study followed more than 40,000 Japanese adults for a decade, and at the 7-year follow-up, those who had been drinking five or more cups of tea per day were 26 percent less likely to die of any cause compared with those who averaged less than a cup. Looking for more-immediate results? Another Japanese study broke participants into two groups, only one of which was put on a catechin-rich green-tea diet. At the end of 12 weeks, the green-tea group had achieved significantly smaller body weights and waistlines than those in the control group. Why? Because researchers believe that catechins are effective at boosting metabolism.
Bonus tip: The average American consumes 400 liquid calories a day. Minimize that impact—avoid the 20 Worst Drinks in America.
Benefit: Cardiovascular strengthening
Substitutes: Onions, chives, leeks
Allicin, an antibacterial and antifungal compound, is the steam engine pushing forward garlic’s myriad health benefits. The chemical is produced by the garlic plant as a defense against pests, but inside your body, it fights cancer, strengthens your cardiovascular system, decreases fat storage, and fights acne inflammation. To activate the most allicin possible, you have to crush the garlic as finely as you can: Peel the cloves, and then use the side of a heavy chef’s knife to crush the garlic before carefully mincing it. Be sure not to overcook it, as too much heat will render the compound completely useless (and your food totally bitter).
Bonus tip: Some foods keep you looking young. Others can quite literally cure what ails you. Check out these super 15 Foods That Cure.
Benefit: Weight loss
Substitutes: Oranges, watermelon, tomatoes
Just call it the better-body fruit. In a study of 100 obese people at the Scripps Clinic in California, those who ate half a grapefruit with each meal lost an average of 3.6 pounds over the course of 12 weeks, and some lost as many as 10 pounds. The study’s control group, in contrast, lost a paltry 1/2 pound. But here’s something even better: Those who ate the grapefruit also exhibited a decrease in insulin levels, indicating that their bodies had improved their ability to metabolize sugar. If you can’t stomach a grapefruit-a-day regime, try to find as many ways possible to sneak grapefruit into your diet. Even a moderate increase in grapefruit intake should yield results, not to mention earn you a massive dose of lycopene—the cancer-preventing antioxidant found most commonly in tomatoes.
Bonus tip: Eat well and you’ll feel younger and more vibrant. Add exercise to the mix and you’ll practically erase markers of age.
Benefit: Feeling fuller for longer
Substitutes: Kefir and yogurt with “live and active cultures” printed on the product label
If it’s dessert you want, go with regular yogurt; but if it’s protein, go Greek. What sets the two apart? Greek yogurt is separated from the watery whey that sits on top of regular yogurt, and the process removes excessive sugars, such as lactose, and increases the concentration of protein by as much as three times. That means it fills your belly more like a meal than a snack. Plus a single cup has about a quarter of your day’s calcium, and studies show that dieters on calcium-rich diets have an easier time losing body fat In one study, participants on a high-calcium dairy diet lost 70 percent more body weight than those on a calorie-restricted diet alone. If only a similar claim could be made of everything you eat.
Bonus tip: Fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt is a classic example of a food that doesn’t deserve its healthy reputation—see what else makes our list of the 30 “Healthy” Foods that Aren’t.
Benefit: Reduced risk of heart disease
Substitutes: Olive, canola, and peanut oils; peanut butter; tahini
Here’s what often gets lost in America’s fat phobia: Some fats are actually good for you. More than half the calories in each creamy green fruit comes from one of the world’s healthiest fats, a kind called monounsaturates. These fats differ from saturated fats in that they have one double-bonded carbon atom, but that small difference at the molecular level amounts to a dramatic improvement in your health. Numerous studies have shown that monounsaturated fats both improve you cholesterol profile and decrease the amount of triglycerides (more fats) floating around in your blood. This can lower your risk of stroke and heart disease. Worried about weight gain? Don’t be. There’s no causal link between monounsaturated fats and body fat.
Benefit: Improved immune function
Substitutes: Carrots, sweet potatoes, watermelon
All peppers are loaded with antioxidants, but none so much as the brightly colored reds, yellows, and oranges. These colors result from carotenoids concentrated in the flesh of the peppers, and it’s these same carotenoids that give tomatoes, carrots, and grapefruits their healthy hues. The range of benefits provided by these colorful pigments include improved immune function, better communication between cells, protection against sun damage, and a diminished risk of several types of cancer. And if you can take the heat, try cooking with chili peppers. The bell pepper cousins are still loaded with carotenoids and vitamin C, but have the added benefit of capsaicins, temperature-raising phytochemicals that have been shown to fight headache and arthritis pain as well as boost metabolism.
Benefit: Improved memory
Substitutes: Walnuts, pecans, peanuts, sesame seeds, flaxseeds
An ounce of almonds—or about 23 nuts—a day provides nearly 9 grams of heart-healthy oleic acid; that’s more than the amounts found in peanuts, walnuts, or cashews. This monounsaturated fat is known to be responsible for a flurry of health benefits, the most recently discovered of which is improved memory. Rats in California were better able to navigate a maze the second time around if they’d been fed oleic acid, and there’s no reason to assume that the same treatment won’t help you navigate your day-to-day life. If nothing else, snacking on the brittle nuts will take your mind off your hunger. Nearly a quarter of an almond’s calories come from belly-filling fiber and protein. That’s why, when researchers at Purdue fed study participants nuts or rice cakes, those who ate the nuts felt full for an hour and a half longer than the rice cake group did.
Bonus Tip: Before you go out to eat, grab a handful of almonds; it could help keep your hunger at bay.