Aging. Sigh. It happens to us all, but as you may have noticed, it seems to happen to different people at a different rate, and yes, there are reasons for that. There is a genetic component to how well people age, but it is surprisingly small. Looking just at longevity (how long you live), experts estimate that about 20-35% is heritable, and the rest has to do with where and how you live (nature versus nurture).

But what about aging gracefully, which is less about how long you live and more about how vibrant you feel as you age? You can’t control your genes, but you can, to a large extent, control your environment, and there is no more powerful way to do that than to eat in a way that is most supportive of graceful aging. To stay vibrant, your body needs good nutrition, with enough protein, complex (not refined) carbohydrates, and healthful fats like the kind in seafood, avocadoes, and walnuts, but on top of that, there is one very important dietary strategy to emphasize: Antioxidants. Here’s why.

Antioxidants are vitamins and other plant compounds that combat the aging influence of free radicals, which cause oxidative damage to your cells. Neutralizing free radicals reduces the chance of getting the most common diseases of aging, including heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Bonus: They also brighten and tighten skin. Vitamins C, E, and D are antioxidants. So are carotenoids, polyphenols, resveratrol, and curcumin.

Topical serums, like combinations of vitamin C and E, are amazing for protecting your skin from oxidative damage (like from pollution), but you’ll get the most power when you combine topical treatments with antioxidants that work from the inside-out—in other words, through food.  Any fruit or vegetable with a bright color will have antioxidants, but the most antioxidant-rich foods you can easily include in your regular diet, according to research, are:

  • Apricots, especially dried
  • Artichoke
  • Bell peppers
  • Berries, all types
  • Cherries, especially dark
  • Chocolate, dark, (70% cocoa or higher)
  • Citrus fruits (all types—oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, Clementines, lemons, limes, etc.)
  • Coffee, especially espresso (for adrenal health, I suggest limiting your consumption to two cups per day)
  • Grapes, especially blue and purple
  • Herbs and spices, especially dried spices like turmeric, cinnamon, curry powder and cloves.
  • Kale and other dark leafy greens
  • Kidney beans and black beans
  • Mangos
  • Mustard, especially Dijon
  • Okra
  • Olives, especially green and Kalamata
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Pomegranates
  • Prunes
  • Tea, especially green tea and matcha
  • Tomatoes, especially sauce and paste
  • Walnuts
  • Watermelons
  • Wine, especially red wine (I advise limiting to one small glass per day maximum)

Focus on anti-oxidant-rich foods as the center of your diet, and you’ll be attacking aging and amping up your vibrant score with every meal.