Aging and health go hand-in-hand. However, age is not skin deep, nor is it a measure of your waist girth. It is the foods we eat, which bring out the inner spark in us visibly on our skins.

Medical research shows that foods rich in taurine (an amino acid) and antioxidants can bring you the same lengthy youthful life of a horseshoe crab which can live for 200 years. While we humans have no ability to molt and rejuvenate their skins and limbs like crabs do, we do possess the secret to health: nutrient-rich foods and certain nutrients.

These certain nutrients include taurine (brain and anti-aging), microbiome (immunity booster) and antioxidants (cell defenders such as beta-carotene).

So, when we talk of anti-aging foods, we refer to those with some of the above nutrients such as dark green leaves and nuts. There are also protein-dense fatty fish and natural yogurt.

Here are ten foods that are great for anti-aging;

1. Shellfish 

Eating scallops, clams, mussels, oysters and other shellfish may help stem the aging process because these ocean creatures contain taurine. In humans and animals, taurine is an amino acid that declines by up to 80% with age. Scientists recently made a discovery that adding supplements derived from shellfish to older monkeys led to better health and the same may apply to humans.

Though there is no strong evidence whether the taurine additives we find in certain energy beverages can actually boost brain function, it is true nevertheless that:

Shellfish is easy to cook. Just boil oysters for at least three minutes to remove sea impurities, then fry or bake them for ten minutes.

2. Tomatoes

Yes, your good old plum, cherry, Roma, you name it…can have a significant anti-aging impact on your life. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a dense b-carotene-processing pigment that not only gives tomatoes their red color, but defends against oxidation.

This means that eating tomatoes helps prevent cancer and boosts immunity. In fact, this carotenoid in tomatoes is the same color as human blood and is the most predominant compound in blood. Besides, it is thought to be among the most powerful antioxidants against cell damage.

Quick fact: Lycopene is only available in plants, and algae. So you can’t derive it from animal products!

Cook it: while eating them raw is best for health, tomatoes also cook well on a grill for 5 to 10 minutes. If roasting is not your thing, then pureeing, saucing or frying in broth may be a good option.

3. Watercress

Two things you might or might not know about watercress (Xi yang cai in Chinese):

  • It grows mostly in streams in Europe and Asia
  • Its dark leaves are pungent but edible

Other facts that you may be eager to hear is that watercress is a potent nutrient-dense vegetable full with minerals including calcium, potassium, manganese and phosphorus. It also brims with vitamins (A, B1/B2, C and K).

Watercress serves as a potent anti-aging plant because its antioxidant base of vitamins A and C fights wrinkle-causing free radicals. Eating watercress also helps circulate nutrients and hydrate the body, keeping it youthful internally.

Mix it: you can cook watercress in minimal oil the same way you cook mustard, a related vegetable. The leaves make for nutritious salad for rice meals.

4. Yogurt

A study published in May 2023 found that people who live to be 100 years usually have more microbiome (good pathogens such as gut bacteria) in their bodies than those who live average lifetimes. Now, which foods are rich in these gut biota? Yogurt or kefir comes up first in the list.

Yogurt, a product of fermenting whole milk with live bacteria cultures, is a good alternative to whole milk. This is because its lactose component is easier to digest than that in fresh milk owing to bacterial breakdown. As we age, the body needs proper digestion to prevent constipation, hence the need for yogurt.

Yogurt contains bacteria known as probiotics that help the body fight against ‘bad’ bacteria.  Besides, it also contains low fat and hence promotes low cholesterol, a secret to a youthful heart.

Only opt for low-fat yogurt with little or no sweetening. You can also make it less tangy by mixing it with oatmeal and fresh fruit!

5. Papaya

A pawpaw or papaya is one of the first foods for weaning babies for a good reason: it is tender, nutritious and digestible. This superfood is packed with antioxidants such as vitamin C and K, which minimize wrinkle formation and improve circulation, respectively.  Other nutrients include:

  • Minerals: magnesium, calcium and phosphorus.
  • Vitamins A, E, B1 and B12.

Like tomato with its lycopene, a papaya has an enzyme called papain, a natural ‘skin-shedding’ compound. To derive this skin rejuvenation property,  just drink a juice, puree or other product containing pawpaw and you will pass younger and feel youthful from the inside.

Other than eating papaya raw, you can also make a salad or fruit pie fortified with milk and water for a mighty breakfast!

6. Spinach  

Leafy vegetables such as spinach and kales have one thing in common: they are calcium-rich superfoods.  Spinach contains 260 mg of calcium per cup, the highest content in leafy greens for long-lived bones. It also has 46% vitamin C volume of the daily value (dv). Vitamin C promotes collagen production for youthful skin.

Eating spinach regularly will also boost your mental health. A 2018 research found that people who consumed 1 to 2 daily servings of leafy veggies such as spinach had sharper brains than those who never ate them. The reason for this was:

  • Phylloquinone, a vitamin K nutrient
  • A-tocopherol, a vitamin E nutrient
  • Lutein antioxidants.

Spinach has one of the fastest cooking times among vegetables, meaning you can enjoy it tender in no time. You can cook it as a smoothie or salad without compromising nutrition.

7. Sweet Potatoes

They may be starchy, but sweet potatoes offer vitamin-related anti-aging benefits. For a starchy tuber, it is rather of a surprise that it is packed with these vitamins:

  • Vitamin A: their yellow-orange flesh is rich with beta-carotene which promotes clear sight with age.
  • Vitamin C (32% daily value): for potent antioxidant action against free radicals and to boost immunity.
  • Vitamin E: for clear glowing skin and hair.

Besides, sweet potatoes promote good digestion, an essential part of life beyond 40s: the older you grow, the lower your ability to digest becomes and hence the need for anti-constipation foods.

Sweet potatoes give you 6% food energy and you can derive this energy by baking them for up to 45 minutes till they are tender. Serve them with butter.

8.  Avocado

Avocados are lush with monounsaturated fatty acids and carotenoids, which promote skin health.

A study published in 2022 found that women who consumed avocados regularly emerged with tight healthier skin than those who didn’t. The conclusion was that eating avocados raw brought positive skin-aging results. There are still no conclusive findings whether avocado consumption actually has an anti-aging effect on the skin, but it does improve the skin.

How to eat it: guacamole is one of the best ways to prepare avocados without compromising on nutrition. You just need to mash the ripe fruits with a pestle and embellish the gooey stuff with sea salt.

9. Nuts

Nuts are not only packed with food energy but also provide a higher fruit protein than berries. Besides, they have anti-inflammatory properties.

Key nuts to try include:

  • Almonds: one of the most versatile low-fat, high fiber anti-aging nuts.
  • Walnuts: rich in omega-3 fatty acids for protecting against harmful UV rays on the skin
  • Apricots: they serve you with 2.3 grams of protein per cup, the highest in nuts.

Macadamia nuts: rich in energy.

Nuts fight heart disease due to their monounsaturated fats. Eat them, however, in moderate levels as their sweet pectin content may increase calorie intake.

You can munch them raw but nuts go magically well with raw salads and yogurt, a mixture that provides a well-balanced diet.

10. Berries

Berries are rich in dietary fiber and protein. Kiwifruit, for instance, provides 2 grams a cup, while blackberries and raspberries provide 1.5 to 2 grams of protein a cup.  Berries promote gut health with their fiber, an important part in the anti-aging battle.

They also espouse potent antioxidant action, which is associated with wrinkle-free skin. Additionally, their antioxidants help protect against UV ray skin damage. Thus, berries such as strawberries, raspberries and others may be your best bet to beat sunburns this summer.

Like nuts,  berries go well with raw salads and yogurt.

11. Kale

The earliest humans lived on wild vegetables and berries. One of the earliest of these is kale, a source of lutein, carotenoids and Omega 3. All these compounds are linked to anti-aging and detoxifying abilities.

Kales are the most potent source of vitamin A among leafy vegetables with 100% daily value content of this vitamin. Extracts of kale are used to make anti-aging drugs because they are rich in retinol, a compound associated with anti-aging properties.

To get the best nutrition out of kale, you can fry it in olive oil for just five minutes. You can add taste to the neutral aroma by spicing the leaves with red pepper and garlic.

12. Red Bell Pepper 

Besides their vitamin C content (123% dv), bell peppers are a must-have for their antioxidant power, which is associated with anti-aging.

Vitamin C improves collagen formation in the skin, while antioxidants in the form of carotenoids reduce cell damage and curb inflammation. The carotenoids also protect the skin against UV rays’ damage from too much sun exposure.

Red bells make for good spices for various dishes such as casserole, fruit salads and stir-fries.

13. Green Tea

Green tea not only supports gut function but also promotes healthy cell growth. These two benefits of green tea derive from polyphenols.

Polyphenols give aroma to your favorite beverage and are the main active antioxidants in tea.  This means that they beat diseases such as cancer and diabetes, hence promoting a youthful body.

The daily recommendation for green tea is 3 to 5 cups daily in order to gain the best of catechins (the proper name for tea polyphenols). You just need to infuse green leaves in boiling water, and add a sweetener or drink it without, and you are done!

As you may have discovered from the above list, most selections contain a compound or two with antioxidant potential.