The human body draws its strength from the food it consumes. Most nutrients are found in many naturally available foods. While cottage cheese can strengthen your hair, sunflower seeds can fight allergies, tomatoes can smoothen your skin, asparagus can lessen the risk of heart disease,… so balance your diet, fight against diseases and look young.
The most powerful weapon against aging isn’t a plastic surgeon’s scalpel, it’s the food you put into your body. Outsmart fate by filling your shopping cart with foods that will fight for your right to look and feel amazing. From your brain to your breasts to your bones, researchers agree that these edibles have healing powers that can help keep you in top shape inside and out-for life.
Low-Fat Cottage Cheese
Hair is almost all protein, so attaining a strong, vibrant mane starts with eating enough of the stuff. Reduced-fat cottage cheese is a protein heavyweight, with 14 grams in half a cup.
Add a tablespoon of these zinc-heavy seeds to cereal to reduce shedding, says Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Your Girl Parts
From vision-protecting vitamin C to appetite quelling fiber, there are plenty of reasons to be sweet on these antioxidant powerhouses. And scientists now believe that, like cranberries, blueberries battle urinary tract infections, says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of Age-Proof Your Body. Opt for wild blueberries whenever possible as they contain 26 percent more antioxidants than cultivated blueberries.
Yeast infections put a serious damper on bed play. “Having lots of fermented milk products, including kefir, is a good way to reduce infections,” says Anne VanBeber, RD, PhD, a nutrition professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. These products may add beneficial bacteria to the vagina, keeping infectious bacteria in line, early research indicates. Blend 1/2 cup low fat plain kefir (Lifeway is a delicious, easy-to-find brand.) with 1 cup fat-free or low-fat milk, a handful of berries, and 1 tablespoon almond butter for a creamy smoothie.
This cold-water fish is a great source of the omega-3 fats docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which can improve brain function and ward off the blues, says Somer. Omega-3s help squelch inflammation in the brain and regulate feel-good neurotransmitters. Sprinkle fillets with sea salt, ground black pepper, and fresh lemon juice, then pan-fry on medium-high until one side is slightly brown. Flip and cook until the inside is slightly pink (6 to 8 minutes total).
Feed the 100 billion neurons in your noggin with nutritious kale. A study in the journal Neurology found that getting two-plus servings per day of veggies-especially leafy green ones like kale— slows cognitive decline by 40 percent. Temper kale’s bitter flavor by cutting a single bunch into inch-wide ribbons and sautéing it with 1 teaspoon lemon juice, a chopped garlic clove, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, and a pinch of salt.
Hay fever affects more than 40 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. Halt the drip with vitamin E. Researchers suspect it calms the parts of your immune system involved in allergies. An ounce of these seeds contains 49 percent of your daily vitamin E needs.
Add a yolk to that egg-white omelet. The yolks are an all-star source of two antioxidants-lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that fight cataracts as well as macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness. (The hands-down best source of these antioxidants, though, is kale.) Don’t worry about your cholesterol levels. University of Massachusetts researchers have concluded that eating an average of one egg yolk a day will not raise them.
Food scientists at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, reworked the standard white variety to provide 25 times as much beta-carotene, which maintains the protective covering of the cornea. As with any low-calorie vegetable, you can enjoy peachy cauliflower with reckless abandon, provided you don’t drown it in salt and butter. Try steaming it or roasting it with curry powder and paprika instead.
As if you needed a reason to cozy up to your nearest Italian eatery, this ubiquitous red fruit is especially beneficial when cooked-more of the carotenoid lycopene makes it into the skin, where it can limit ultraviolet (UV) damage to lower skin cancer risk and hold off wrinkles.
The omega-3 fatty acids in hemp help your skin retain moisture so you don’t look like a cast member from Twilight. Toss a tablespoon each of lemon juice, pine nuts, and shelled hemp seeds into a blender with 1 cup hemp seed oil, a chopped garlic clove, a pinch of salt, and 1/2 cup fresh basil. Whirl to create a delicious and healthy pesto.
To get moist, beautiful, chap-free lips, your body needs to constantly replace old skin cells with new ones. “Omega-3 fats help regulate this turnover so that it happens all the time,” Dr. Fusco says. And unlike much-lauded almonds, walnuts have tons of these fats. So do your lips a favor and pucker up to an ounce (about 14 shelled halves) a day; eat them plain or add them to oatmeal, trail mix, or your favorite muffin recipe.
Of all the sources of highly absorbable iron in your supermarket, beef is among the best. Low iron levels, which are common in women, not only zap your zip, but, Dr. Fusco says, they can also cause brittle nails. With the least fat of the common cuts, top round (and other round cuts) deserves high billing on your broiler pan. Opt for grass-fed beef whenever possible, as its ratio of detrimental omega-6 fatty acids to beneficial omega-3 fatty acids is about half that of corn-fed beef, says Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, assistant director of UCLA’s Center for Human Nutrition.
Sulforaphane, which is found in baby broccoli, fires up enzymes that may stop breast cancer cells from growing. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore discovered t
hat broccosprouts have up to 20 times more of this compound than full-grown plants (scientists there also developed them). Boost your sandwiches and salads with 1/2 cup; a 1-ounce serving contains 73 milligrams of the naturally occurring precursor of sulforaphane.
Italian researchers have found that the B vitamin folate reduces homocysteine, an amino acid believed to promote inflammation, which can up your risk of heart disease. Eight steamed asparagus spears deliver 20 percent of your daily folate requirement, as well as other heart-chummy nutrients like potassium.
Purple Grape Juice
Pull over, OJ! According to researchers at the University of Glasgow, purple grape juice is high in phenolics, “a group of powerful antioxidants that swallow up heart-damaging free radicals,” says Dr. VanBeber. To cut calories while guarding your arteries, mix equal parts grape juice and seltzer.
These high-fiber fruits help keep your gastric system working like a finely tuned machine. They may shrink your stomach, too. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that of the 74,000 women surveyed, those who ate more fiber were 49 percent less likely to experience weight gain. Make your own trail mix with a handful of chopped, pitted prunes plus walnuts, pumpkin seeds, dried blueberries, and hemp seeds.
Made from whole soybeans that are then fermented, tempeh pads our guts with beneficial bacteria. After taking up residence, Dr. VanBeber says, these live microorganisms improve digestion, reduce gas production, and kill bacteria that cause ulcers. Like tofu, tempeh soaks up the flavors around it, so crumble a block and toss it into chili, soup, or pasta sauce.
Chocolate is rich in magnesium, vital to bone health. “It forms the crystal lattice that gives bone its structure,” Dr. VanBeber says. That may be why University of Tennessee scientists linked a higher magnesium intake with greater bone mineral density. Nibble an ounce, or about half a bar, of the dark stuff each day.
Research suggests that omega-3s in these fatty swimmers can boost bone density. Canned salmon in water is inexpensive and typically lower in heavy metals like mercury than many other fish. “Canned salmon (with bones) is also a good source of calcium-another bone must,” Somer says. For a better burger, make patties starting with 1 can of salmon, an egg, 1/4 cup bread crumbs, 1/4 cup chopped onion, and 1/2 tablespoon cumin powder.
Mango and Kiwifruit
Together, these fruits deliver more of the proven gum protector vitamin C than an orange. Researchers in Italy have also found that each fruit portion you down daily-even a single kiwifruit-reduces your risk for oral cancer by nearly 50 percent.
Research has shown that vitamin D can put the smack down on cytokines, proteins that stimulate inflammation. Three ounces of shrimp provides 65 percent of the dietary reference intake of vitamin D, so cast them into a wok with vegetables.
Your Muscles & Joints
Loaded with all of the amino acids muscles need to grow and mend, whey protein is a virtuoso when it comes to helping you build a buff bod. While milk curd is used to make most cheeses, ricotta is produced from the whey that’s left behind in the cheese-making process. Mix low-fat ricotta with scrambled eggs, salsa, and broccoli sprouts for a killer breakfast.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Ditch fat-free dressings. Olive oil contains oleocanthal, an anti-inflammatory that may work like ibuprofen, report scientists in the journal Nature, and it’s known to lower bad cholesterol levels while raising the good. Start drizzling 2 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil onto your veggies before grilling or sautéing them.