Eat Your Way to a Younger You

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Story Updated: Nov 14, 2012

p>If you're one of those lucky people who looks and feels younger than their age, one thing you may be able to thank is your genes. Researchers who study the complex dynamics of aging think there may be certain genes associated with "successful" agers like centenarians, compared with those who have an average or short lifespan.

If genes aren't on your side, there's still hope for fighting off the effects of age. Things like stress, smoking, sun, sleep deprivation, excessive sugar and alcohol consumption can make you look older -- and do a number on your body and health too.

But that's not all. A 2010 study from the University of Bristol, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, shows that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can help you look healthy as well as be healthy, by giving your skin a nice golden glow.

Newer research shows that taking omega-3 supplements can help slow aging. How? By preserving tiny segments of DNA, called telomeres, in white blood cells. As we age, telomeres tend to get shorter. But in the study, the people who took omega-3 supplements had longer telomeres. If you'd rather eat than swallow your omega-3s, go for oily fish like salmon, sardines and herring.

What other foods can we add to our diets to slow down the effects of aging -- from losing bone strength to memory?

  • Eggs. They contain two carotenoids -- powerful antioxidants -- that protect vision, which tends to wane with age. Other sources of valuable carotenoids include carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, collard greens, papaya, bell peppers and tomatoes.
  • Greens. They contain folate, calcium and other nutrients to keep your bones strong. Greens like kale and spinach are also brain-and-memory boosters and help prevent age-related eye problems. And eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cabbage, may help lower your risk of memory loss and protect you from certain cancers, including colon and rectal.
  • Whole grains. They can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. And since they take longer to digest than processed grains do, they may help to guard against high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Berries. Blueberries and strawberries, which have the highest level of compounds called flavonoids, have been associated with lower rates of cognitive decline.
  • Tomatoes. Lycopene -- an antioxidant compound found in fresh tomatoes and tomato-based products like sauces and salsa -- can boost your skin's collagen production, which keeps it looking young and firm. Lycopene also helps lower the risk of heart disease and certain cancers like prostate, lung and stomach.

Which foods do you eat to stay young?

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Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, a nonprofit independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association, is part of a family of companies that finances and delivers vital health care services to 1.8 million people across upstate New York. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield provides access to high-quality, affordable health coverage, including valuable health-related resources that our members use every day, such as cost-saving prescription drug discounts and wellness tracking tools in our Step Up program. To learn more, visit www.excellusbcbs.com