I love a healthy makeover, and smart eating is one of the best places to start. In fact, studies show that these easy tips can help add years to your life (just ask the good people of Okinawa, Japan). Follow these tips and add years to yours:
Or, as I like to call them, the "anti-aging fat." Why? Getting the recommended amount can help lower cholesterol, keep cells functioning properly, and combat inflammation, which reduces your risk of cancer, stroke, and heart attack. Flaxseed, walnuts, and some leafy greens contain omega-3s, but seafood is the best source. Research published in the December 2008 Journal of Nutrition found that DHA, an omega-3 found in cold-water, fatty fish, helps keep aging brains healthy.
Eat this: Have two 3-ounce servings of salmon, herring, lake trout, or other fatty fish a week; and a daily serving of ground flaxseed, walnuts, soybean oil, spinach, or kale.
2. Eat antioxidants every 4 hours.
These nutrients slow the aging process by protecting our cells from harmful free radicals. But some, such as vitamin C, are water soluble, which means they only remain in our body for 4 to 6 hours, so you have to replenish regularly. Vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables are loaded with these disease-fighting substances.
Eat this: Have a fruit or veggie at every meal and snack - and aim for three to five different colors a day.
3. Double your fiber.
It may help protect against cancer and can keep blood sugar levels steady and promote heart health. In fact, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, every additional 10 g of dietary fiber consumed daily reduces the risk of death from coronary heart disease by 17%. The daily recommendation is 25 to 35 g per day; most Americans eat half or less.
Eat this: Cooked lentils (8 g per 1⁄2 cup), cooked chickpeas (6 g per 1⁄2 cup), barley (16 g per 1⁄2 cup), apples (4 g in one medium), and raspberries (8 g per cup).
4. Stop eating when you're 80% full.
Centenarians in Okinawa, Japan, practice this eating ritual; they also consistently consume a lower-calorie diet - which researchers hypothesize is a key component to longevity. Eating slowly can automatically help control calories: A recent study found that women who ate at slower rates felt fuller and ate fewer calories than those who ate more quickly.
Do this: Stop when you're satisfied, not stuffed, and follow the zipper rule: If you have to unbutton or unzip anything, you've eaten too much.
5. Get about 25% of calories from healthy fats.
The good-for-you variety - like monounsaturated fatty acids - can lower bad LDL cholesterol and raise healthy HDL cholesterol. Plus, studies suggest that a higher intake of these fats may also contribute to longer life expectancy. For a 1,600-calorie diet, that's about 44 g per day.
Eat this: Healthy fats include 1⁄4 cup of pistachios (7 g), 1⁄4 cup of almonds (11 g), 1 tablespoon of olive oil (10 g), or 1⁄4 cup of avocado (3.5 g).
6. Pack protein into every meal and snack.
Protein provides essential building blocks for the daily repair of nearly every single cell in your body. Getting enough is critical to your health and vitality, especially as you get older, when cellular damage can become more frequent. Aim to get 30% of your daily calories (or 120 g based on a 1,600-calorie diet) from lean protein.
Eat this: Good sources of protein include skinless white meat from chicken, pork, or turkey (about 21 g per 3 ounces), fat-free milk (8 g per cup), egg whites (7 g for two), and beans (about 8 g per 1⁄2 cup).
[photo credit: Getty Images}More ways to eat and live healthy: