Step away from the drugstore aisle of anti-aging beauty products and nutritional supplements. Now, open wide, and eat your way to optimal health and youthful good looks. By Ava Feuer, REDBOOK.
Get glowy again with broccoli - really
When sleepless nights leave you feeling - or looking - a little blah, reach for this crunchy green. A half-cup serving contains more than two-thirds of your recommended intake of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the immune system. It's also high in sulforaphane, which promotes liver detoxification. "Over 80 percent of toxins are neutralized through the liver, and a buildup of toxins in our bodies can cause dull and dry skin, hair and nails," says beauty nutritionist Paula Simpson.
Sip cocoa for your heart
Another reason to enjoy this tasty treat: It helps to maintain healthy blood vessels, which support healthy circulation and a healthy heart. Opt for antioxidant-rich cocoa beans, which contain twice the amount dark chocolate does without much the added pro-aging fat and sugar, says Cheryl Forberg, RD, and author of Positively Ageless: A 28-Day Plan for a Younger, Slimmer, Sexier You. Choose "natural" cocoa powder - when processed, added alkali reduces its antioxidant numbers.
Oranges, a wrinkle-free fruit for a wrinkle-free you
Besides being the most touted way to get your vitamin C, this juicy fruit is chock-full of skin-firming collagen. Add one to your breakfast to one-up those who choose injectables. "Cellular renewal takes place within deeper dermal layers, having many experts believe a nutritional approach will provide the best results for healthy skin aging," explains Simpson.
Related: Top 5 Worst Lunch Foods for Kids
Go fish to ward off disease
Phish Food might cheer you up, but new studies praise the sea creatures' head-to-toe benefits. "Omega-3s can help prevent cancer and quench the fire of inflammation," which weakens the immune system, says Forberg. Fish ranks among the foods highest in the fatty acids, and good options include herring, salmon, halibut, and anchovies. An added perk: those who eat diets high in omega-3 rich foods experience fewer chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis and rosacea.
Get a boost from flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
For vegetarians, those who don't like fish, and parents with children who balk at seafood for dinner, flaxseed oil has a different type, but near equal amount omega-3s. Add a tablespoon to smoothies, or sprinkle ground flaxseeds into cereal, oatmeal, homemade baked goods, or on top of vegetables.
Clean up with a cup of spinach
Not only did Popeye grow big and strong, we're willing to bet he was largely disease-free. Dark-colored fruits and veggies - spinach among them - are the best way to get provitamin A carotenoid, which converts to vitamin A in our bodies, and helps to keep the digestive system as spotless as you'd like your kitchen floor to be. Forberg suggests non-animal foods for Vitamin A because unlike meat and dairy sources, they contain the vitamin in a form that carries no risk of becoming toxic within the body.
Related: The 50 Most Iconic Beauty Looks of All Time
Grow thick skin with sweet potatoes
You can now say yes to that side of sweet potato fries guilt-free. With their deep orange color, these spuds too make an appearance on the list of best foods in which to find vitamin A. Since they also contain mineral copper, which facilitates collagen production, Simpson recommends the starchy vegetable to ward off loose, thin skin.
Get revved up by eating beans and legumes
No protein means no energy, and who can afford that? "In addition, your body needs a steady supply of protein to keep your muscles strong. When your muscles are weak, you may be dragging," says Forberg. Vegetarians and meat-lovers alike can keep their bodies in tip-top shape with protein-packed beans and legumes. A cup of soybeans packs protein comparable to a four-ounce serving of chicken or steak. Throw them atop salads, stir into hearty soups and sneak into homemade hummus.
Related: Fall Shoe-spiration: 100 Must-Buy Shoes
Chow down on chicken to stay young
Chicken, again? Don't feel bad about serving this standby - when you put it on the table, you're holding up a stop sign to the aging process. Poultry is high in zinc and selenium, two minerals that balance hormones and promote collagen production. It also defends against free radical damage, which harms cells and accelerates aging. The result: you're the spring chicken.
Sip green tea for a clean bill of health
When that morning (and afternoon, and evening) cup of coffee gets boring, consider swapping it for hydrating, metabolism boosting green tea. Aside from its anti-inflammatory properties, studies have shown that the soothing drink has the potential to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of diabetes and stroke, and stave off dementia. Oh, and did we mention that four cups day can burn off an extra 80 calories? That's a cookie you could be eating.