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Ten fountain-of-youth foods

A new book by a dermatologist says these foods will prolong health and fight the aging process.

health and fitness Updated: Sep 13, 2010 18:56 IST

If you want to maintain your youthful appearance, be sure to get your daily dose of wild salmon.

Why? Salmon and other cold water fish are packed with omega-3 essential fatty acids and antioxidants that fight inflammation, keep skin looking young and decrease body fat.

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It's one of many superfoods that can turn on protective genes and turn off negative ones, according to Dr. Nicholas Perricone, a dermatologist who has written several books on aging.

Perricone's most recent book, Forever Young, introduces a field he calls "nutrigenomics" or the study of how diet can affect the way genes work and prolong health.

Perricone's claims about foods activating and de-activating genes may be a stretch. "We have DNA that we have inherited from our parents, and it may carry the propensity for certain diseases and the aging process," he says. "But there are certain foods that are very effective in regulating the expression of our genes, to give us a more youthful appearance and prevent the onset of age-related disease." Perhaps. What's clear is that his list of recommended foods are packed with healthful properties.

Perricone recommends stocking up on "rainbow foods" like blueberries and eggplants, colorful fruits and vegetables that provide disease-preventive nutrients. These foods are rich in anti-aging antioxidants.

Eating a watercress salad with olive oil three times a week can work wonders for your health, says Perricone. Used by the ancient Greeks as a therapeutic energy enhancer for soldiers, watercress is dense with anti-oxidants and other minerals. Perricone claims that watercress activates a series of genes that flood the body with self-protective enzymes, improving the immune system. The green vegetable also has diuretic properties to help remove toxins from the body and is believed to prevent cancer as well as maintain eye and skin health.

On your next trip to the grocery store, make note of the nutritional value of foods, not the number of calories, advises Perricone.

"One of the most common mistakes people make in their diet is focusing on calorie restriction, which usually leads to nutritional deficiencies, rather than eating the correct categories of foods," Perricone says. "Follow the recommendations for food categories that stabilize blood sugar, keep insulin low and have anti-inflammatory properties."

Perricone recommends staying away from what he calls "pro-inflammatory foods," which turn off protective genes, resulting in poor skin. Cinnamon, for example, is a powerful anti-inflammatory spice that regulates blood sugar and keeps skin wrinkle-free, he says.

If your sweet tooth craves chocolate, it's OK to indulge in a piece. Like tea and blueberries, cocoa has a high level of catechins, antioxidants that can turn off damaging transcription factors and turn on protective ones. Cocoa contains procyanidin B-2, which protects brain cells from inflammation and can stop the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals that are released in the skin.

"The baby boomers are probably responsible for the big push to look and feel young," says Perricone. "Even with younger generations, everyone knows that by taking a proactive role in your health, eating the correct diet, getting moderate exercise and reducing stress, we can look 25 years younger than an identical twin at age 60 who didn't make the same lifestyle changes."

Twenty-five years may be a lot to ask from salmon and cinnamon. But Perricone's recommended foods are certainly high in nutrition and may even prolong youth.

First Published: Sep 13, 2010 18:48 IST