10 Superfoods that keep you young

Stock your fridge wisely and you could slow down your body’s clock. Karen Fittall tucks into 10 must-eat-anti-ageing foods.

As the old saying goes, you are what you eat. And, in January this year, science proved it to be true with US researchers publishing a study that found a definite relationship between the regular consumption of certain foods and reduced mortality. Following their lead, we’ve chosen 10 everyday foods proven to help in the battle against some of the most common age-related health issues like heart disease, dementia, breast cancer and even wrinkles.

Egg

Protects against:

  • Age-related blindness – eggs contain the carotenoid lutein. Low levels of lutein are a major risk factor for macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in Australia. Lutein is present in other foods, but is better absorbed from egg because of elements in the yolk.

  • High blood pressure – some egg proteins mimic the action of certain blood pressure medications.

Eat:
The Heart Foundation recommends eating up to six eggs a week.
Boost the benefits by:
Choosing free-range eggs. US researchers say hens allowed to forage produce eggs that contain higher levels of vitamins and essential fatty acids, compared to hens fed a purely commercial diet.

Apple

Protects against:

  • Premature death – according to a Finnish study, an apple-rich diet has a positive effect on mortality, thanks to its high levels of flavonoids – plant pigments that have an antioxidant effect.
  • Heart disease – studies link daily apple consumption to a 22 per cent decreased risk of heart disease, and a 23 per cent drop in ‘bad’ cholesterol after six months.
  • Alzheimer’s disease – apples contain an antioxidant that helps prevent toxicity in the brain’s neurons, which is related to the development of Alzheimer’s.

Eat:
One medium-sized apple provides one serve of fruit
Boost the benefits by:
Eating the peel as well – it contains 75 per cent of the fruit’s dietary fibre and at least a dozen anti-cancer compounds.

Tomato

Protects against:

  • Cancer – tomato-based phytochemicals and carotenoids, like lycopene, have an anti-cancer effect. By encouraging skin to repair after sun exposure, they may even protect against skin cancer.
  • Osteoporosis – at least two studies have proven that dietary lycopene reduces the risk of osteoporosis. In 2009, a US study found that people eating more than 4.4 servings of lycopene a week experienced significantly fewer fractures.
  • Heart disease – University of Adelaide scientists say that eating at least 25mg of lycopene daily lowers blood pressure and reduces cholesterol by up to 10 per cent.

Eat:
One cup of uncooked tomato may contain 3.46mg to 21mg of lycopene. The Adelaide scientists say a daily 500ml serve of tomato juice or 50g of tomato paste provides protection against heart disease.
Boost the benefits by:
Eating cooked tomatoes.A tomato’s lycopene content increases by 54 per cent after two minutes of cooking and by 164 per cent after half an hour.

Spinach

Protects against:

  • Dementia – spinach is folate rich, and a deficiency can triple the risk of dementia.
  • Diabetes – eating an extra 1.5 serves of green leafy vegies every day could reduce type 2 diabetes risk by 14 per cent.
  • Wrinkles – a Melbourne study found that a vegetable-rich diet, with legumes and olive oil, protects against wrinkles.

Eat:
Three-quarters of a cup of cooked spinach equals 1.5 serves of vegetables, and provides 30 per cent of your daily folate requirements.
Boost the benefits by:
Choosing spinach that’s been exposed to fluorescent light in the supermarket. Researchers in Texas discovered that continuous light significantly increases spinach’s folate and vitamin content.

Red Cabbage

Protects against:

  • Alzheimer’s disease – a red cabbage extract reduces the build-up of the plaques in the brain that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Heart disease and cancer – red cabbage contains at least 36 anthocyanins, pigments that provide the vegetable’s colour, promote heart health and protect against cancer.

Eat:
While half a cup of cooked cabbage equals one serve of vegetables, more is better. Because only 20 per cent of cabbage anthocyanins are absorbed easily, US researchers found that people who ate two cups of cooked cabbage per sitting absorbed the most.
Boost the benefits by:
Picking red instead of white cabbage – every time. Red cabbage’s antioxidant activity is at least six times higher, and while 100g of red cabbage contains 23mg of anthocyanins, white cabbage contains just 0.01mg.

Avocado

Protects against:

  • Dementia – avocadoes are a good source of vitamin E, and Dutch researchers found that people who consumed 18.5mg of the vitamin a day were 25 per cent less likely to develop dementia than people eating only 9mg.
  • General ageing – there is three times as much glutathione, an amino acid that  inhibits the ageing process, in avocadoes than any other fruit.

Eat:
A one-cup serve of avocado provides 3.29mg of vitamin E, 47 per cent of the recommended daily intake.
Boost the benefits by:
Eating avocado with other fruits and vegetables. The good fats contained in just half an avocado increase the absorption of carotenoids from other foods by as much as 15 times.

Oats

Protects against:

  • Heart disease – studies confirm that eating oats helps lower cholesterol because of beta-glucan, a soluble fibre that can block cholesterol re-absorption.
  • Oats also contain avenanthramides, which are anti-inflammatory compounds that help to prevent atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries – the most common cause of heart disease.

Eat:
Consuming 3g of beta-glucan a day has been shown to help lower cholesterol re-absorption. A 40g serve of porridge oats contains 1.5g of beta-glucan.
Boost the benefits by:
Choosing oats that are as unprocessed as possible. The glycaemic index (GI) of porridge made from rolled oats can be as low as 42 per serve, but the GI of quick oats jumps to 66.

Walnut

Protects against:

  • Memory loss – French research has shown that regular consumption of omega-3-rich foods, such as walnuts and walnut oil, can reduce the risk of dementia by 60 per cent.
  • Osteoporosis – plant-based omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids help to decrease bone resorption, or the breakdown of bones, a known factor in the development of osteoporosis.
  • Breast cancer – walnut-sourced omega-3s, antioxidants and phytosterols reduce the incidence of breast cancer, according to US research.

Eat:
Experts recommend enjoying a handful (30-50g) of nuts regularly. To help protect against breast cancer, researchers suggest eating a 56g serve of walnuts daily.
Boost the benefits by:
Storing walnuts properly. To do this simply place in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Fish

Protects against:

  • Dementia and stroke – eating at least three serves of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids a week may result in a 26 per cent lower risk of brain lesions that cause dementia and stroke.
  • Cancer – in studies in Sweden, marine-based omega-3s reduced the size of tumours and killed cancer cells.
  • Heart disease – regularly consuming marine-based omega-3s has been linked to a 45 per cent reduction in cardiovascular-related problems.
  • Age-related blindness – eating more than two serves of oily fish a week can reduce age-related macular degeneration risk by 39 per cent.

Eat:
The Heart Foundation recommends eating at least 500mg of marine-source omega-3s a day, achieved by eating two to three 150g serves of oily fish a week.
Boost the benefits by:
Choosing the ‘oiliest’ varieties of fish. Good choices are Atlantic and Australian salmon, gemfish, blue-eye trevalla, blue mackerel, canned salmon, tuna and sardines.

Celery

Protects against:

  • High blood pressure – celery contains 3-n-butyl phthalide, a chemical that relaxes the smooth-muscle lining of blood vessels, resulting in lower blood pressure.
  • Memory loss – luteolin, an antioxidant found in celery, protects against the inflammation in the brain that contributes to the development of dementia.
  • Breast cancer – celery stalks are a source of apigenin, a compound that prevents certain breast cancer cells from multiplying and growing.

Eat:
One cup of raw, diced celery provides one serve of vegetables.
Boost the benefits by:
Making celery a soup staple. The vegetable’s heart-healthy phthalides are tasteless, but increase the flavour intensity of other ingredients when they’re added to a soup.

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