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Food and Nutrients for an Anti-Aging Diet and Improved Health

Linda Crampton is an experienced teacher with an honors degree in biology. She writes about nutrition and the culture and history of food.

Grapes–especially the darker coloured ones–contain resveratrol. This may be an anti-aging chemical.

Grapes–especially the darker coloured ones–contain resveratrol. This may be an anti-aging chemical.

Anti-Aging Strategies

Chronological aging is an inevitable process, but feeling older as the years pass certainly isn't inevitable. There are many things that we can do to maintain our health and energy as we grow older. One of the most important strategies for fighting the passage of time is to follow an anti-aging diet. This diet includes foods that are beneficial for everyone but are especially helpful for delaying or reducing the chance of health problems that may accompany aging. The diet can even improve the appearance of the skin. It can also be delicious.

For the best results, a nutritious diet should be accompanied by a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise and mental activities such as learning new things and solving puzzles are important components of this lifestyle. Harmful habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol intake should be avoided. The combination of these strategies can help us maintain a healthy and fit body, an active and inquiring mind, and a good memory as we grow older. It's a great lifestyle for young people as well as middle aged and older ones. Though it doesn't guarantee that we will be healthy and active in our later years, it greatly increases the probability.

Berries like raspberries are rich in anti-aging nutrients.

Berries like raspberries are rich in anti-aging nutrients.

A healthy and nutritious diet significantly improves the chance that we will remain active and in good health as we grow older, but it doesn't guarantee these outcomes. Anyone with questions about diet, nutrition, or exercise in their particular situation should consult a health professional.

An Anti-Aging Diet and Longevity

The goal of an anti-aging diet is to help a person stay fit, healthy, and alert throughout their lives, but it may also help longevity. The most famous example of this observation is probably the case of the Okinawan people in Japan.

The older people from the island of Okinawa who have followed a traditional diet throughout their lives are famous for living a very long time. They are also known for staying healthy, lean, and active as they age. Diseases that increase in prevalence in aging western people, such as heart disease, cancer, dementia, and osteoporosis, are delayed and often avoided completely in elderly Okinawans.

The health and longevity of the Okinawan people seem to be only partially due to genetics. Okinawans who leave the island and follow a diet more similar to the typical North American one appear to lose their anti-aging advantage. So do the younger people of Okinawa who no longer follow a completely traditional lifestyle. Some researchers estimate that the factors that control our longevity are about 50% genetic, with the remaining factors being environmental.

The traditional lifestyle of the Okinawan people involves exercise—including dancing, martial arts, walking, and gardening—as well as spiritual beliefs, which help to reduce stress. These factors may contribute to the people's longevity.

This is Romanesco broccoli. All forms of broccoli contain many anti-aging nutrients.

This is Romanesco broccoli. All forms of broccoli contain many anti-aging nutrients.

The Okinawan Diet

The traditional diet followed by Okinawan people is low in calories. The people traditionally eat until they are only 80% full. Their diet is high in vegetables, legumes or pulses—especially soy beans—and grains. Some of the grains are whole, but not all of them are. (Western nutritionists say that all the grains in our diet should be whole instead of refined.) Dark green vegetables and sweet potatoes are popular. The diet includes lesser amounts of fruit. Fish that contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids are eaten several times a week. Seaweed is eaten, too.

Meats and eggs are generally a smaller part of the Okinawan diet. Dairy intake is not common. Green tea is drunk regularly, and so is alcohol, but in moderation. Smoking is rare.

The diet recommended by most nutritionists is quite similar to the Okinawan diet, although Westerners may prefer to eat different amounts of some food types. This may or may not be a good idea.

The recommended diet emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods, especially those that come from plants. Green vegetables are an important component of the diet. Nutritionists recommend that we eat many different colors of produce, producing a "rainbow" effect on our plates, since plant foods in different colors have different health benefits.

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Foods and Drinks for an Anti-Aging Diet

The following food groups and beverages are generally recommended for an anti-aging diet.

  • Vegetables, especially green ones
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Fruits
  • Low-mercury fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids
  • Low-fat dairy products, including yogurt
  • Lean animal protein, such as skinless chicken and turkey, if desired
  • Eggs, if desired (Eggs are a very nutritious food and don't increase the blood cholesterol level in most of us, even though they contain a significant amount of cholesterol themselves.)
  • Nuts and seeds without added oil, salt, or sugar
  • Healthy oils, such as extra virgin olive oil
  • Herbs and spices
  • Healthy beverages, such as water, tea, herbal teas, and cocoa

Nutritionists generally say that the diet should be low in sugar, salt, saturated fat, and alcohol and moderately low in overall fat. Some research suggests that saturated fat may not be as bad for us as was once thought, though this idea is still controversial. More research is needed. The American Heart Association recommends that we limit the saturated fat in our diet. Artificial trans or hydrogenated fats should be avoided.

Purple potatoes contain beneficial pigments called anthocyanins.

Purple potatoes contain beneficial pigments called anthocyanins.

The requirements for absorption of a particular nutrient are important to explore. For example, vitamin C is destroyed by heat. It also dissolves in water and can be lost if the water is discarded. Some nutrients are fat soluble, so eating a small amount of a healthy fat or oil with them may be helpful.

Anthocyanins and Vitamin C

Unsweetened berries are an excellent food for an anti-aging diet. Like many fruits and vegetables, they're rich in phytonutrients, which are also known as phytochemicals. Phytonutrients are chemicals in plants that aren't essential for our survival but are believed to fight disease.

One important family of phytonutrients that is present in berries is the flavonoid family. The anthocyanins form a sub-group in the flavonoid family. Anthocyanins are blue, purple, or red pigments. They are present in many berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries, in some vegetables, such as red cabbage, purple cauliflower, and purple potatoes, and in red, purple, or black rice.

Anthocyanins are important because they act as antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which are made in the chemical reactions that take place in our bodies. Free radicals damage our DNA. They are thought to trigger inflammation and contribute to diseases such as heart disease and cancer. They are also thought to play a role in the aging process.

Another antioxidant in raw berries is vitamin C. This vitamin controls the production of collagen, a protein that supports the structure of skin. In combination with other antioxidants, vitamin C reduces skin damage caused by ultraviolet light. Some research shows that a diet high in vitamin C reduces the formation of skin wrinkles, although not all research supports this idea. Research in humans is sometimes hard because many factors can affect the outcome.

An anti-aging star in the berry world is the blueberry. Multiple researchers have shown that blueberries have memory-preservation and memory-boosting properties. Their flavonoids may improve learning and reasoning skills as well.

Oranges and tangerines are rich in vitamin C, which is an antioxidant.

Oranges and tangerines are rich in vitamin C, which is an antioxidant.

Red and Purple Grapes and Resveratrol

Red and purple grapes contain resveratrol. This substance has been found to reduce functional aging in mice and increase their longevity. According to the results of mice and isolated cell experiments, resveratrol reduces inflammation, acts as an antioxidant, increases blood flow, reduces cardiovascular disease, and prevents the growth of some cancerous tumors. It's unknown if the substance has the same effects in humans, but it may do.

Red wine contains resveratrol, too, but since it's an alcoholic beverage it has some drawbacks. Purple grape juice produced from Concord grapes also contains the chemical, especially if it's made from grapes that were still covered with their skins when they were crushed. It's a good substitute for red wine when fresh grapes aren't available, but it's high in sugar and should be drunk in moderation.

Fruits such as peaches and pluots contain beneficial phytonutrients, especially when eaten with their skins.

Fruits such as peaches and pluots contain beneficial phytonutrients, especially when eaten with their skins.

Some Anti-Aging Vegetables

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are nutritious foods. For example, spinach, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts contain lutein and zeaxanthin, yellow pigments that are believed to help maintain vision and reduce the chance of macular degeneration. (Eggs contain these pigments as well.)

Leafy greens also contain beta-carotene, an orange or yellow pigment that boosts the activity of the immune system and is an antioxidant. Greens often contain vitamin K and calcium as well. These are essential nutrients for maintaining bone density. Weight-bearing exercise also helps to maintain the density of our bones as we grow older.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables belong to the plant family known as the Brassicaceae (or the Cruciferae) and contain important compounds called glucosinolates. Evidence suggests that a high intake of glucosinolates from cruciferous vegetables reduces the risk of some types of cancer. Examples of cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. Radishes and mustard are also members of the cruciferous group.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a good source of nutrients. The orange type, which is known as a yam in North America, is loaded with beta-carotene. All sweet potatoes seem to be healthy foods. Unfortunately, those eaten by the people of Okinawa and often claimed to be a reason for their longevity are a distinct type that isn't generally available in western countries.

Anti-aging beans and vegetables with low-fat cheese

Anti-aging beans and vegetables with low-fat cheese

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Wild salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids that help to maintain brain health and lower the level of triglycerides (fats) in the blood. They may also lower the risk of cardiovascular problems and reduce inflammation. Wild salmon is low in mercury. Sardines are another low-mercury source of the chemicals.

Some plant oils contain omega-3 fatty acids too, but they are in a different form from the animal molecules. The animal form is the most useful type for us. Luckily, our bodies can convert plant omega-3 molecules into animal ones, although in limited amounts. Plant foods that contain significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids include flax seeds and walnuts. Some algal oils contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), one of the omega-3 molecules that is most commonly found in animals.

Wild salmon is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Wild salmon is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Some Other Foods to Maintain Health

Oats and barley are great sources of soluble fiber, which lowers the level of LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) in the blood. The chemical is a normal and essential component of our body but is harmful if an excessive amount is present. Reducing the amount to a healthy level decreases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Whole grains also contain insoluble fiber, which helps to prevent constipation and may also reduce the risk of colon cancer, although the evidence for this is mixed.

Spices have a variety of health benefits and are a tasty addition to food. It's a good idea to have as many as possible in the kitchen. Turmeric is an especially interesting spice. It contains a yellow pigment called curcumin that may have specific health benefits.

Curcumin has been found to decrease inflammation in people with metabolic syndrome. There is some evidence that curcumin—or a chemical derived from it—can reduce the presence of the beta-amyloid plaques in the brain of lab animals that have a condition resembling Alzheimer's disease. In preliminary tests in lab equipment and animals, curcumin has been found to be helpful in preventing and treating cancer. More research is needed to confirm curcumin's benefits, however. There are many questions that need to be answered.

It should be noted that the concentration of curcumin in the amount of turmeric normally used in food may not be especially helpful. In addition, bioabsorption of curcumin is a problem. Black pepper or piperine, a chemical in black pepper, is said to enhance absorption.

If you plan to take curcumin as a supplement instead of turmeric as a food, it's important that you consult your doctor. You need to ask about medication interactions and about a suitable dose of curcumin for your situation.

Spices such as star anise add a delicious taste to foods and often provide health benefits.

Spices such as star anise add a delicious taste to foods and often provide health benefits.

Some Potentially Healthy Beverages

Green Tea

Green tea contains substances called polyphenols. These are thought to have a wide range of health benefits. The most important polyphenols in tea are the catechins. Green tea reduces the risk of heart disease and decreases the blood level of LDL cholesterol. It may also help to prevent cancer, although this claim is somewhat controversial.


Cocoa can be drunk as a hot drink or eaten in the form of a small piece of dark chocolate if preferred. Chocolate needs to be limited in the diet because of its high sugar and fat content. Cocoa improves the health of the cardiovascular system, decreases blood pressure, and reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes. Like tea, cocoa contains catechins. Also like tea, cocoa may decrease the risk of cancer.


Coffee is not often thought of as a health food, but it's been found to protect against some of the diseases that are more common as we age, including cardiovascular problems, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson's disease. The article from the Harvard School of Public Health listed in the “References” section below is informative. It describes health benefits linked to coffee consumption in large studies. It also describes suitable intake of coffee, necessary precautions, and situations in which coffee should be limited in the diet. The information in the quotation below is important to note.

The extra calories, sugar, and saturated fat in a coffee house beverage loaded with whipped cream and flavored syrup might offset any health benefits found in a basic black coffee.

— Harvard School of Public Health

Unpeeled apples are a healthy food, but the peels should be washed.

Unpeeled apples are a healthy food, but the peels should be washed.

Sugar in the Diet

Most people use the term sugar to refer to sucrose, or table sugar. In nutrition science, there are other substances that are classified as sugars. Monosaccharide sugars include glucose, fructose, and galactose. A disaccharide sugar is made of two monosaccharides joined together. A maltose molecule is made of two glucose molecules, for example. A sucrose molecule consists of glucose joined to fructose. A lactose molecule is made of glucose and galactose. Disaccharides are broken down into their component monosaccharides during digestion.

Some people think that when food is sweetened by honey or a syrup like agave nectar, it doesn't contain sugar. These sweeteners may not contain sucrose, but they are concentrated sources of other sugars and are best eaten in small amounts.

I think that someone trying to follow a healthy diet needs to be honest with themselves about sugary treats. Eating a treat once a week could be enjoyable and would be unlikely to be harmful for overall health—unless its consumption encourages a person to eat foods that are high in sugar or unhealthy fats more frequently. If this is the case, it would be better to eliminate the treats completely and find a healthy but enjoyable substitute instead.

Unrefined brown sugar has a slightly higher level of nutrients than refined white sugar, but it still consists of mainly sucrose.

Unrefined brown sugar has a slightly higher level of nutrients than refined white sugar, but it still consists of mainly sucrose.

Sugar, AGEs, and Aging

Glucose, fructose, and galactose undergo a chemical reaction with proteins known as glycation. After glycation takes place, further reactions occur to produce advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. AGEs can form outside the body in processes such as cooking or inside the body as a normal part of our metabolism (the chemical reactions in our cells).

In some situations more AGEs are formed than usual, such as in diabetes. They also accumulate in our bodies as we age. The chemicals can create problems because they form cross links that bind molecules together, which may damage or kill cells. AGEs are believed to contribute to various diseases, including cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's disease. It's also thought that they contribute to skin aging by interfering with the structure or properties of collagen and elastin, two proteins that help to maintain the elasticity and structure of youthful skin.

The possibility of reducing skin aging is one of many reasons to follow a diet that is low in sugars. It's also a reason to avoid over-cooking foods. However, dermatologists say that the most important thing that we can do to reduce skin aging is to wear sunscreen regularly.

Fruits have important health benefits and should definitely be part of the diet, despite containing a fairly high level of fructose. Whole fruits are higher in fiber than fruit juices, especially if they're eaten with their peel. They are also a less concentrated source of sugar.

A Nutritious Diet for Health

There are many discoveries being made about phytonutrients in different plants and their possible or probable health benefits. Many vegetables and fruits are being touted as "super foods". For someone seriously concerned about following a healthy anti-aging diet, choosing the right foods can sometimes become overwhelming.

Instead of thinking "I must eat this food" whenever we read about a new discovery, it might be a better idea to simply eat a wide variety of whole and unprocessed foods, concentrating on those that come from plants and eating new types whenever possible. A nutritious diet doesn't have to be expensive, as the video above shows.

It's fun to try new vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, or spices. It's also fun to grow edible plants at home. A garden isn't necessary for some plants, which can grow well on a balcony or even indoors. Herbs grown on a windowsill and freshly picked add a delicious flavor to foods. Fresh herbs and vegetables are the most nutritious kind. The wider the variety of plants that are eaten, the more interesting the taste combinations that can be produced. An anti-aging diet can be very tasty as well as healthy.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Linda Crampton


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 07, 2020:

Thank you, faithbuilder23.

faithbuilder23 from Pennsylvania on November 07, 2020:

Very informative! Thanks for the information.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 06, 2017:

Thank you very much for the comment, Anita! I appreciate your visit.

Anita Hasch from Port Elizabeth on August 05, 2017:

Thank you for a fantastic hub. I agree with you that we have to include especially fruit and veggies. I buy raw peanuts every month for their reveratrol content and of course they are delicious.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 04, 2017:

Thank you, Linda. I'm interested in anti-aging nutrition, too. I think it's an important topic.

Linda Courtney from Bloomsburg, PA on August 04, 2017:

I'm always trying to keep up with anti-aging nutrition. I learned a few new things on here. Thanks for the great info!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 10, 2017:

Thank you very much, Anita. I didn't like coffee when I was younger, but I do now.

Anita Hasch from Port Elizabeth on March 10, 2017:

Such an interesting hub. I did not know that coffee can protect you from diseases. As I love coffee, that is good news.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 24, 2013:

Thank you very much for the comment, DoctorScottHealth. It's nice to meet you!

Dr. Scott McLeod. PharmD from Los Angeles on November 24, 2013:

Great compilation of information. The Okinawan diet and enhanced longevity in their culture was new to me. Thanks for the great introduction. I love hearing about various cultures and their approaches towards health and nutrition.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 08, 2012:

Thank you very much for the comment and the vote, Thelma Alberts! I try to eat as many of these foods as can. I enjoy eating them, too!

Thelma Alberts from Germany on November 08, 2012:

What an informative hub! I did not know that sweet potatoes are included in anti-aging food. I eat almost all of these fruits and vegetables and I hope I´ll stay healthy all the time. Thanks for SHARING. Voted up and all...

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 17, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, unknown spy. Yes, fruits and vegetables are important in the diet. Their antioxidants and other phytonutrients are very beneficial!

Life Under Construction from Neverland on September 17, 2012:

these foods are full of antioxidants that could really help protect our cells from harmful free radicals. Glad that i'v stopped by. hubs like these always inspired me to go fruits and vegies only and avoid unhealthy ones like junk foods.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 21, 2012:

Thank you very much for the lovely comment and for all the votes, Martie! Yes, anti-aging strategies are important for everyone. Nobody wants to be be ill and infirm as they grow older, and most people want to have a long life as well as a healthy one.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on August 21, 2012:

Alicia, this is such an interesting and informative hub about food with anti-aging qualities, I just need to take it to heart. After all, aging is the last thing we want to do, or what am I saying?

So this hub of yours goes straight to my personal library to be printed and penned to my fridge.

Thanks a lot!

Voted up across the board except for funny :)

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 20, 2012:

Thank you for the comment, breakfastpop. I appreciate your visit!

breakfastpop on August 20, 2012:

Thanks for this comprehensive wonderful list of great healthy food!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 19, 2012:

Thank you very much for the comment and the votes, Mama Kim 8! I appreciate them. It is hard to avoid sugary foods sometimes, but I find it gets easier for me when I find healthier substitutes that are still delicious.

Aloe Kim on August 19, 2012:

Well I just love all those healthy foods so I guess I'll live to be old and wrinkly! Oh.. but I do like my sugar too.. so maybe I'll just live an average life. ^_^ Wonderfully presented and written hub, great job! voted all over the place!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 17, 2012:

Thank you very much for the comment and for voting, Tom. I try to eat healthy food too. It's an important anti-aging strategy!

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on August 17, 2012:

Hi my friend, a very well written and put together hub that is very interesting and informative . I have enjoyed reading your hub and had started many years ago to eat more healthier. Well done !

Vote up and more !!!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 17, 2012:

Hi, Lesley. I'm becoming very concerned about following a healthy diet as I get older, too! Thank you for the visit and for the comment and the vote.

Movie Master from United Kingdom on August 17, 2012:

As I get older I have become a lot more aware of the importance of a healthy diet, fortunately I am eating a lot of the foods you mention!

This is a very detailed and useful hub, thank you for this information, voted up!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 17, 2012:

Hi, GoodLady. Thank you very much for the comment. Yes, legumes - including beans, lentils and peas - are so important in the diet and are such healthy foods. Many people here seem to like baked beans - canned white beans in tomato sauce - and green peas, but those are often the only legumes they eat (apart from peanuts). I was once in the same situation, but now I've discovered the wide range of legumes that I can buy. I add herbs and spices to them and think that they're delicious!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 17, 2012:

Thank you, teaches. I appreciate the comment and the votes. I'm lucky, because there is an excellent produce store near my house that sells a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, many of them organic. It makes finding interesting plant foods to eat easier!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 17, 2012:

Hi, ignugent17. Thanks for the comment and the vote! Yes, sweet potatoes do contain a lot of carbohydrate, but the sweet potatoes with orange flesh (which we call yams here, although they aren't true yams) are also a superb source of beta carotene and are rich in other vitamins and in minerals. too. Some of their carbohydrate is soluble fiber, which is another benefit. Even the lighter colored sweet potatoes have some beta carotene.

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on August 17, 2012:

It's an exhaustive piece of research and information with wonderful pictures. Aside from veg and fruits and all the things we hear about more often, the legumes as you point out, are most important and not as much a part of people's lives as they should be. When was the last time you visited someone and they had prepared a lentil soup for dinner, or a beans casserole or beef and barley meal It's out of fashion and I so wish it weren't. Glad for the legumes pitch (we call them pulses here)...or maybe i have something wrong? I'm talking about things like beans, (mentioned by you a nice few times) and lentils and garbanzo beans.

Rainbow foods is nice; all those colors in our foods every time we eat!

Voting up. Great Hub!

Dianna Mendez on August 17, 2012:

It's good to know that I am eating most of the right things according to your post. I see that there are other items I am going to have to pick up and try as well. Voted up and interesting. Great job!

ignugent17 on August 17, 2012:

This is very useful and interesting hub. A lot of people are already aware of this but this one gives more information. It did not focus on fruits but it includes even fish.

I love sweet potatoes and I am glad it is included in your list. Before they are telling that it has only carbohydrates. Thanks for sharing AliciaC. Voted up and more.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 16, 2012:

Thank you, drbj. I appreciate your visit and comment very much, as I always do!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on August 16, 2012:

This hub, Alicia, is like an anti-aging atlas which everyone should have on hand. Thanks for putting all this relevant information in one place so I can handily refer to it.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 16, 2012:

Thank you very much for for the comment, billybuc. I hope you discover that you like the rest of the food suggestions if you try them!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 16, 2012:

Well, I like some of that stuff....guess I'd better learn to like the rest of it. Great informative article!

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