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Best anti-aging foods: What to eat to look younger

What we eat can cut the risk of developing chronic diseases that make us old before our time.
/ Source: TODAY

What we eat can cut the risk of developing chronic diseases that make us old before our time: high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Abundant scientific research has shown how important food is to healthy aging.

What is meant by "anti-aging"? It's not a vague beauty term, it's markers are radiant hair, skin, daily physical activity, a positive mindset and preventing chronic disease.

Fifty may be the new 40, but one biological fact does change over time: Some nutrient demands do increase, and nutrient-DENSE foods become more important for as we age. Science-backed healthy eating plans, like the Mediterranean diet and the USDA's MyPlate strategy, have this in common:

  • abundant colorful fruits and vegetables
  • lean protein (both animal and plant sources)
  • heart healthy, unsaturated fats
  • fiber-rich grains
  • low-fat dairy products (or equivalent)
  • limiting processed foods with added salts, sugars, fats and calories

Consume these "double-duty" foods regularly or daily — they'll boost your intake of essential nutrients like protein, calcium, vitamin D and omega-3-fats, along with the “value-added” antioxidants, used throughout the body. You'll see and feel the difference, inside and out.

1. Brussels sprouts

Cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts are a category loaded with value-added antioxidants and specific nutrients linked to reducing cancer risk when consumed regularly over time.

Not a lover of Brussels sprouts? Other vegetables in this group include broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage. Cruciferous vegetables are also part of the spectrum of all colorful fruits and vegetables that are the foundation of health. They're loaded with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

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Consume at least three to five servings per day. A portion = ½ cup cooked, 1 cup raw; 1 fruit = size of a baseball.

2. Salmon

Fatty fish like salmon are rich in lean protein to build muscle and omega-3 fats, supporting heart and nervous system health, as well as shiny and healthy skin and hair.

If salmon’s not your favorite, include other oil-rich fish like blue fish, sardines, mussels, herring, trout or halibut. These are also low-mercury fish. Consume a minimum of two servings a week. A portion = the size of a computer mouse

3. Almonds

Nuts are an excellent non-animal protein, and loaded with heart-healthy fats, magnesium and zinc. But a little goes a long way, and stick to a handful a day to balance calorie needs with other nutrients. Walnuts and pistachio nuts are also other options. Let taste be your guide. Consume up to one serving daily. A portion = 1 ounce, or one handful.

4. Yogurt

Rich in calcium, protein and vitamin D, plain, low-fat yogurt supports strong bones, helps support muscle maintenance and is a digestive, plus it contains probiotics. Probiotics are healthy microorganisms and bacteria that support healthy digestive function by helping to balance the micro-intestinal environment.

RELATED: Probiotics can help the army of good bacteria in your tummy

Even those with lactose intolerance can often consume one serving a day of yogurt. Low-fat milk or cheese are other alternatives (minus the probiotics).Consume one to three servings of all dairy daily; it doesn't have to be yogurt. A portion = 6-ounce yogurt; 8-ounce milk; 1-ounce cheese

5. Quinoa

A protein rich plant product, quinoa also boosts intake of fiber, calcium and iron. It’s also gluten-free. Other protein/fiber rich options include buckwheat, chick peas and black beans.

Consume daily. A portion = ½ to 1 cup.

Quinoa Salad with Figs and Mint

6. Green tea

Yes, green tea is a beverage, not a "food." But it's an antioxidant-rich brew that deserves the hype. Whether from a bag or free tea leaves, skip the sweeteners and you'll get the full benefit of the flavonols which are well-documented for heart and circulatory health. Studies show that five cups a day, over time, are linked with health benefits, although less frequent intake is good, too.

Consume up to 5 servings daily. A portion = 6-8 ounces.

RELATED: How a daily cup of tea may improve your health

7. Blueberries

The deep blue/purple color comes from a compound called anthocyanin, an antioxidant in the flavonol family.

Blueberries and other berries are often considered nature's candy, with their natural sweetness.

Other berries containing potent antioxidants include: blackberries, strawberries and raspberries. Fresh or frozen (without added sugars), berries can be eaten alone, in yogurt or salads or mashed and eaten as a frozen pop. And red and concord grapes fall into this antioxidant family, and contain another health-promoting ingredient called resveratrol.

Since red wine is made from grapes, the antioxidants are both in the fresh fruit, and its fermentation product, wine. If you're a wine drinker, limit intake to one 5-ounce serving daily if you're a women, and two 5-ounce servings for men.

Consume at least 1 serving daily of berries, with two to three fruits every day. A portion of berries is 1/2- 1 cup.