by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac ~

If you want to stay young, you have to make a long-term commitment to eating right. The word from researchers: Tipping the balance toward more nutrient-rich foods while you’re still young can go a long way toward keeping you healthier longer.

A study in the August 2012 issue of the journal Circulation shows that young people can prematurely age, too. In fact, researchers found cholesterol deposits in the arteries of teenagers and young adults. Indeed, the effects of aging start sooner than you might think.

“We age along a continuum, rather than all of a sudden”, says Robert Russell, MD, professor of medicine and nutrition at Tufts University in Boston. “You don’t wake up one morning to notice you’ve aged,” he says. “The age-related nutrition issues that confront seniors — from osteoporosis to heart disease — begin in the early adult years.”

How do you incorporate more healthy foods into your meals? The easiest move you can make is to add more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your daily menu. Most have no fat, cholesterol, or sodium — and they’re low in calories. What you do get is lots of fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins, which all play a part in keeping you functioning at your best.

Minerals from calcium-rich dairy foods and greens can strengthen your bones. Fiber from whole grains helps to keep bowel movements regular. And the antioxidants from fruits and vegetables help to prevent cancer from developing by fighting off free radicals, the byproducts of the body’s everyday processes that damage DNA, cells, and tissues.

In a study published in the April 26, 2000, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers reported finding that women who ate diets high in fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean meats were 30% less likely to die of any cause than women who didn’t eat such a diet during the study. The researchers tracked the women for about six years. But at exactly what age you need to begin eating well is anybody’s guess. What is clear is that heart attacks, osteoporosis, and other signs of aging take years to develop. Eating healthy foods slows that development, helping you to live better and longer.

1. Apples – “An apple a day could very well keep the doctor away,” says Chang Y. Lee, a food chemist at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY. “The fact is, most Americans barely eat one apple a week.”

Apples contain naturally-occurring chemical compounds known as phytochemicals, polyphenols, or flavonoids, some of which have been proven to have antioxidant activity that inhibits, or scavenges, the activity of free radicals in the body. The major antioxidant components in apples are polyphenols contained mainly in the skin known as quercetin glycoside, phloretin glycoside, chlorogenic acid, and epicatechin. Quercetin has been reported to reduce carcinogenic activity, inhibit enzymatic activities associated with several types of tumor cells, enhance the antiproliferative activity of anticancer agents, and inhibit the growth of transformed tumorigenic cells.

2. Blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries – are some of the most potent and age-fighting fruits on the planet! Antioxidant compounds found in blueberries, sweet cherries, strawberries and blackberries may fight arterial disease by preventing the oxidation of LDL (”bad”) cholesterol, according to a team of researchers at the University of California, Davis. In studies conducted at the University, Dr. I. Marina Heinonen, a visiting scientist from the University of Helsinki in Finland, and colleagues extracted antioxidant compounds from blackberries, red raspberries, sweet cherries, blueberries and strawberries. In a series of experiments in laboratory culture dishes, they found that blackberries and blueberries are of particular interest because of their high antioxidant capacity. They had the most antioxidant activity in one experiment and sweet cherries in another.

3. Bitter Melon, Cantaloupe, Honeydew Melon, Kiwi – Melons are related to cucumbers, pumpkin, squash, and gourds. They have been used for centuries for quenching thirst and relieving summer heat symptoms. These fruits are rich in antioxidants.

4. Citrus Fruits – Hundreds of studies have been conducted on the nutrients found in citrus fruit, including orange juice, and the role these nutrients play in reducing the risk of such diseases as cancer and heart disease, when part of a low fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

5. Oranges and Grapefruit – contain dietary fiber, including soluble fiber. Fiber helps in digestion and elimination, and, when part of a low fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables, may help reduce the risk of some cancers. Citrus juices like orange juice are natural sources of potassium, and all citrus fruit are sodium and cholesterol-free. Folate, a B vitamin commonly found in orange juice and green leafy vegetables, has been shown to help reduce the risk of certain types of birth defects. An eight-ounce glass of orange juice supplies 100 percent or more of the Daily Value for vitamin C.

6. Peaches, Pears, Plums – Peaches contain phytochemicals – which act as antioxidants that are critical to maintaining healthy skin. Peaches are a good sources of antioxidants. Pears are a good source of fiber. Just one medium pear has 16% of the fiber our bodies need everyday for good health. Plums are high in good carbohydrates and are an excellent source of vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium. Plums contain a substantial amount of vitamin C. Dried plums contain iron, potassium, vitamin A, magnesium and fiber. They are also high in antioxidants which help neutralize the damaging effects of oxidation on the ageing process, protect against certain cancers, including heart and lung disease.

7. Asparagus – was once cultivated for medicinal purposes as a natural remedy for blood cleansing and diuretic properties. Asparagus is rich in immunity boosting antioxidants and vitamins. Asparagus contains antioxidants including rutin, ferulic acid and ascorbic acid. Asparagus provides substantial amounts of antioxidants such as Vitamins A and C.

8. Beans – add color to any diet and serve up a nutritional punchl. These foods contain colored pigments with nutritious cancer fighting, heart disease battling compounds called flavonoids. Beans come in many colors from the green mung bean to the white great northern and navy beans, as well as the dark reds of kidney beans, brownish pink pintos, red adzuki beans to the richness of the black bean.

9. Broccoli – is vitamin-rich, high in fiber, and low in calorie properties. Not only does broccoli give you the best vegetable nutrition available, it also gives you many ways to lead a healthier, longer life. Broccoli has multiple cancer-fighting properties including vitamin C, beta carotene, and fiber. Rich in phytochemicals, indole carbinol and sulforaphane are different phytochemicals that are found in broccoli.

10. Cabbage, Cauliflower – are rich in antioxidants, which help prevent cancer, and prevent heart disease caused by oxidative damage to blood vessels. It is especially rich in Vitamin C – one cup of chopped flowerets or laces of cabbage meets a whole day’s requirement of this vitamin. Nutritionally cauliflower is similar to the cabbage.

11. Leafy Greens, Spinach– Greens are an excellent source of vitamin A and a good source of vitamin C. Leaf lettuce, beet greens, and spinach are just a few of these green goodies. Greens actually come in a wide variety of colors, textures, shapes, and flavors. Mix and match them to create an exciting salad! Spinach, kale, and collards are known for their mineral content, especially iron, calcium, magnesium including the vitamins folate, riboflavin (B2) and vitamin K. They are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, carotenoids, and vitamin E.

12. Black and Green Tea – According to the University of California Wellness Letter, Mar 2002, regular black tea is turning out to be just as healthful as green tea. The antioxidants in green tea offer protection against diseases, including cancer, and dental cavities. EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) is one of the most beneficial of these antioxidants and inhibited an enzyme that cancer cells need in order to grow. The evidence for tea’s health effects comes mainly from lab studies, though some human studies point to possible benefits in preventing heart disease and cancer.

Discover more about the secrets of graceful aging…