Aging is inevitable. Sadly. And there are many variables involved in how long you live. But you can also add years to your life by making smarter food choices. Keep your mind razor-sharp and body finely honed with these 11 anti-aging drinks.
—Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
Pink grapefruit gets its pink-red hue from lycopene, a carotenoid that’ll keep your skin smooth according to a study published in the European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics. Researchers found that of the 20 individuals studied, those who had higher skin concentrations of lycopene had smoother skin.
Drinking alcohol—moderately, which is one glass a day for women and two daily for men—may ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. As we age, brain cells die, leading to gaps that slow nerve transmission within the brain and between the brain and the rest of the body. Moderate drinking appears to somehow prevent these “potholes.” (Scientists aren’t sure why.) In high doses, however, alcohol kills brain cells, leading to brain damage that may manifest itself as permanent memory loss.
The Kuna people of the San Blas islands, off the coast of Panama, have a rate of heart disease that is nine times less than that of mainland Panamanians. The reason? The Kuna drink plenty of a beverage made with generous proportions of cocoa, which is unusually rich in flavanols that help preserve the healthy function of blood vessels. Maintaining youthful blood vessels lowers risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and dementia.
Beets are rich in naturally occurring nitrates, which—unlike unhealthy artificial nitrates found in processed meat—may be beneficial. In a 2011 study in the journal Nitric Oxide, older adults who ate a nitrate-rich diet got a boost in blood flow to the frontal lobe of their brains—an area commonly associated with dementia. Poor blood flow contributes to age-related cognitive decline. Scientists think that the nitrates’ nitric oxide, a compound that keeps blood vessels supple, helps increase brain blood flow. Cabbages and radishes also naturally contain nitrates.
Even if coffee is your beverage of choice, don’t bag tea altogether—especially green tea. Green tea is full of potent antioxidants that help quell inflammation. (Chronic inflammation plays a significant role—as either a cause or effect—in many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases and the three top killers in the United States: heart disease, cancer and stroke.) In fact, researchers from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock recently found that green tea can inhibit oxidative stress and the potential inflammation that may result from it. “After 24 weeks, people who consumed 500 mg of green tea polyphenols daily—that’s about 4 to 6 cups of tea—halved their oxidative stress levels,” says Leslie Shen, Ph.D., the study’s lead author. (The placebo group didn’t see a single change.)
The isoflavones in soymilk may help to preserve skin-firming collagen. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, mice fed isoflavones and exposed to UV radiation had fewer wrinkles and smoother skin than mice that were exposed to UV light but didn’t get isoflavones. The researchers think that isoflavones help prevent collagen breakdown.
Studies show that we lose 1/2 to 1 percent of our lean muscle mass each year, starting as early as our thirties. Muscle strength also declines by 12 to 15 percent per decade. The amino acids in protein are the building blocks of muscle—and one amino acid, called leucine, is particularly good at turning on your body’s muscle-building machinery. Once that muscle-building switch is flipped—you need to do this at each meal—you’re better able to take in the amino acids (of any type) from protein in your diet. Milk contains whey protein, which is an excellent source of leucine. Other dairy products, such as Greek yogurt, as well as lean meat, fish and soy, such as edamame and tofu, are also rich in this amino acid.
Carrots contain luteolin, a flavonoid believed to reduce inflammation that can lead to cognitive decline. In a 2010 The Journal of Nutrition study, mice that ate a diet that included luteolin had better spatial memory (e.g., how quickly they found a platform in a water maze) and less inflammation than mice that didn’t get any luteolin. Luteolin is found in bell peppers, celery, rosemary and thyme.
Drinking a single cup of coffee daily may lower your risk of developing skin cancer. In one study of more than 93,000 women, published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, those who drank 1 cup of caffeinated coffee a day reduced their risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer by about 10 percent. And the more they drank—up to about 6 cups or so per day—the lower their risk. Decaf didn’t seem to offer the same protection.
Water keeps your throat and lips moist and prevents your mouth from feeling dry. Dry mouth can cause bad breath and/or an unpleasant taste—and can even promote cavities.
Studies show that people with low levels of antioxidants are more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than those with higher levels. (AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people over age 60.) Vitamin C—which is abundant in orange juice—is one antioxidant that seems to be especially protective against the disease. (Other antioxidants include vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin.) While it’s not completely clear how antioxidants protect your eyes, it seems that they accumulate in the retina where they can mop up free radicals, compounds that damage cells by starving them of oxygen.