You might not be able to turn back the clock, but eating a diet rich in nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids can help you stay healthy as you age. Here are some of the best foods for healthy aging that will help keep your heart, body, and mind strong:
1. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens, such as spinach, salad greens, and kale, are packed with vitamins A, C, E, and K. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the vitamin K contained in leafy greens can help protect bones from osteoporosis and prevent inflammatory diseases. The USDA also notes that studies have shown that eating just two or three servings of leafy greens per week may lower the risk of certain cancers. Impressive results from just a simple salad!
Walnuts are packed with antioxidants. In fact, according to WebMD, they have more antioxidants than other nuts and, surprisingly, most fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants fight against inflammation and damage from free radicals, which can play a role in the development of heart disease and other health conditions. Walnuts also contain protein, fiber, and "heart-healthy" fat, which can help you feel full longer. As a result, incorporating a handful of walnuts into your daily diet may help you maintain or lose weight. New evidence is also emerging that eating nuts can help brain health, according to WebMD.
3. Fortified Grains
Despite the presence of many fad diets claiming that grains aren't good for you, fortified whole grains actually offer numerous health benefits. According to the USDA, grains are high in dietary fiber, which may help reduce your blood cholesterol levels and lower your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. They're also packed with minerals, such as magnesium and selenium. Selenium protects cells from oxidation and builds a healthy immune system, while magnesium helps build healthy bones.
Yep, sardines. Though they're not the most glamorous food on the list, these little fish pack a big punch. According to the American Heart Association, omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in sardines, can boost heart health, lower triglycerides, and slightly lower blood pressure. Omega-3s also boast brain health benefits and help improve memory and brain performance, according to The University of Maryland Medical Center.
5. Red Wine
Do you like to unwind with a glass of red wine after a long day? Studies have found that this habit may actually be healthy. According to the Mayo Clinic, red wine contains polyphenols, which may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart. Another antioxidant, called resveratrol, has been shown to reduce "bad" cholesterol and prevent blood clots.
Red wine isn't the only surprising beverage with health benefits—your daily cup of Joe might be doing more than just helping you perk up. More than 15 studies have found that drinking coffee can help prevent diabetes, according to WebMD. Coffee contains antioxidants and minerals, such as magnesium and chromium, which help control blood sugar. Studies have also found that people who drink coffee may be less likely to develop Parkinson's disease, dementia, certain cancers, and strokes, says WebMD.
Avocados aren't just for guacamole—they're also full of health-boosting nutrients. According to WebMD, avocados are high in potassium, lutein, folate, and vitamins B, C, and E. Potassium helps lower blood pressure, folate facilitates cell repair, and B vitamins help your body fight off infection. Avocados are also high in monounsaturated fat, which helps lower "bad" cholesterol in your body.
A nutritious, well-balanced diet is essential to maintaining your health as you get older, and eating these foods for healthy aging will help put you on the path to good health for years to come. Just be sure to always check with your physician before taking supplements or making big to changes your diet.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables, United States Department of Agriculture: http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=23199.
Walnut May Be Top Nut for Heart Health, WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20110328/walnut-may-be-top-nut-for-heart-health.
Why Is It Important to Eat Grains, Especially Whole Grains? USDA: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/grains-nutrients-health.
Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids, American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/HealthyDietGoals/Fish-and-Omega-3-Fatty-Acids_UCM_303248_Article.jsp#.V6jbo5MrK-4.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids, University of Maryland Medical Center: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/omega3-fatty-acids.
Red Wine and Resveratrol, Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281.
Say It's So, Joe: The Potential Health Benefits—and Drawbacks—of Coffee, WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/coffee-new-health-food#1.
All About Avocados, WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/all-about-avocados.
Photo source: Flickr/U.S. Department of Agriculture