While food doesn't have the power to stop the aging process, your overall diet can certainly play a role in accelerating it or slowing it down. For example, a balanced diet that is full of fiber, lean protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants can help you age in a healthy way and lower your chances of age-related heart disease, dementia, and other conditions. This is one of the main reasons many centenarians across the globe live such long lives.
On the other hand, a diet that consists of excessive added sugars, processed foods, and saturated and trans fats (aka, the typical Western Diet) may contribute to a faster aging process and a higher likelihood of age-related disease.
If you're looking for some easy ideas on how to incorporate more healthy-aging foods into your diet, the snacks below may be a great place to start. They all contain vitamins, antioxidants, or nutrients that are proven to be helpful in the aging process. Read on, and for more healthy aging tips check out 6 Best Breakfast Habits to Slow Aging.
A simple plate of hummus and veggies is a super quick and easy snack that's also healthy and full of helpful nutrients.
"This snack provides healthy fats and antioxidants, both of which are a major contributor to brain health, with healthy fats being known for making the brain operate more efficiently," says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD at Balance One Supplements. "The antioxidants in the veggies help to reduce any inflammation that may be present and damaging to the brain."
All vegetables can provide their own unique makeup of antioxidants and vitamins, but some that are known for being the best when it comes to slowing aging are dark leafy greens, bell peppers, and broccoli.
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If you're looking for a sweeter snack that doesn't contain added sugar, fruit like raspberries can be an excellent choice.
"Raspberries are high in antioxidants, which have been shown to reduce signs of aging by fighting free radicals in the body, and these berries are also high in Vitamin C, which has also been shown to delay skin aging and can help reduce wrinkled appearance and skin dryness," says Courtney D'Angelo, MS, RD, author at Go Wellness. "Overall, berries that are high in antioxidants can calm the skin and help reveal a more youthful appearance."
According to Best, focusing on maintaining healthy muscles is an important part of the aging process.
"We have over 600 muscles in our body, so keeping them healthy by what we feed ourselves is vital to healthy aging because healthy muscles ensure we can continue moving our bodies in such a way to reduce our risk of disease, frailty, and weight gain," says Best.
Because of this, consuming lean proteins and getting enough protein in every meal is crucial. For a healthy, protein-heavy snack that will keep you full, hard-boiled eggs are an excellent choice. "This snack meets the definition of a lean protein by having low saturated fat, no trans fats, and a significant amount of protein," says Best.
RELATED: 5 Best Vegetables to Eat After 50
Greek yogurt is creamy, delicious, high in protein, and low in sugar (if you find the right ones—be sure to read the label).
"Greek yogurt contains probiotics, which are good for gut health and can also help promote skin health," says D'Angelo. "Mainly, probiotics can do this by helping to reduce inflammation throughout the body, which can help slow down the appearance of aging."
In a review published in Microorganisms, it was found that probiotics can not only help balance your gut microbiome but can also have a positive impact on your immune function as you age.
Legumes like black beans, chickpeas, and lentils are full of plant-based proteins and fiber, which can be beneficial to your health at any age. According to Best, these foods may have bone-health benefits as well.
"Legumes are rich in all the minerals beneficial to bone health, like calcium, magnesium, and fiber to name a few, and these minerals are essential for good bone development and to prevent bone loss," says Best.
Legumes may not sound like a snack item at first, but "there are a ton of legume-based snack options on the market like roasted chickpeas, dry roasted edamame, dark chocolate chickpeas, and roasted lentils," says Best.
"Protein bars are a healthy snack for many reasons, such as helping to build lean muscle and aiding in your weight loss goals. Not only that, but protein can also strengthen your collagen levels, which can help make your skin firmer and less prone to wrinkles," says D'Angelo.
If you need a boost of protein and want to opt for a protein bar, there are plenty of low-sugar, high-fiber choices out there. "Choose the ones that don't have too much added sugar though, or else you'll defeat the purpose, as added sugar can speed up the aging process," says D'Angelo.