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By Brierley Wright

EatingWell.com

adly, aging is inevitable. And there are many variables involved in how long you live. But you can also add years to your life by making smarter food choices.

Help keep your mind razor- sharp and body finely honed with these anti-aging drinks:

1. Pink grapefruit juice for smoother skin: Pink grapefruit gets its pink-red hue from lycopene, a carotenoid. Researchers have found that those who had higher skin concentrations of lycopene had smoother skin.

2. Green tea to quell inflammation: Even if coffee is your beverage of choice, don’t bag tea altogether. Lu Ann Gerace, owner of the Purr-fect Tea and Gift Emporium in East Aurora, says tea contains polyphenols, antioxidants and flavanoids that can help calm nerves, improve skin tone and, believe it or not, cool your body.

“You can even take a tea soak, and it can detoxify your body that way,” said Gerace, who offers more than 150 kinds of tea, nine types of coffee, hot chocolate and related accessories in her Main Street shop (for more info, see the shop’s Facebook page or call 714-9634).

Green tea is full of potent antioxidants that help quell inflammation. Chronic inflammation plays a significant role – as either a cause or effect – in many diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases and the three top killers in the United States: heart disease, cancer and stroke.

Researchers from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock recently found that green tea can inhibit oxidative stress and the potential inflammation that may result from it. “After 24 weeks, people who consumed 500 mg of green tea polyphenols daily – that’s about four to six cups of tea – halved their oxidative stress levels,” says the study’s lead author. The placebo group didn’t see a single change.

3. Cocoa for a healthier heart: The Kuna people of the San Blas islands, off the coast of Panama, have a rate of heart disease nine times less than that of mainland Panamanians. The reason? The Kuna drink plenty of a beverage made with generous proportions of cocoa, which is unusually rich in flavanols that help preserve the healthy function of blood vessels. Maintaining youthful blood vessels lowers risk of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and dementia.

4. Beet juice to beat dementia: Beets are rich in naturally occurring nitrates, which – unlike unhealthy artificial nitrates found in processed meat – may be beneficial. In a 2011 study in the journal Nitric Oxide, older adults who ate a nitrate-rich diet got a boost in blood flow to the frontal lobe of their brains – an area commonly associated with dementia. Scientists think that the nitrates’ nitric oxide, a compound that keeps blood vessels supple, helps increase brain blood flow.

5. Alcohol to ward off Alzheimer’s disease: Drinking alcohol – moderately, which is one glass a day for women and two daily for men – may ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. As we age, brain cells die, leading to gaps that slow nerve transmission within the brain and between the brain and the rest of the body. Moderate drinking appears to somehow prevent these “potholes.” Scientists aren’t sure why. In high doses, however, alcohol kills brain cells, leading to brain damage that may manifest itself as permanent memory loss.

6. Soy milk for firm skin and fewer wrinkles: The isoflavones in soy milk may help to preserve skin-firming collagen. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, mice fed isoflavones and exposed to UV radiation had fewer wrinkles and smoother skin than mice that were exposed to UV light but didn’t get isoflavones. The researchers think isoflavones help prevent collagen breakdown.

7. Milk to build muscle mass and strength: Studies show that we lose up to 1 percent of our lean muscle mass each year, starting as early as our 30s. Muscle strength also declines by up to 15 percent per decade. The amino acids in protein are the building blocks of muscle. One amino acid, called leucine, is particularly good at turning on your body’s muscle-building machinery. Once that muscle-building switch is flipped – you need to do this at each meal – you’re better able to take in the amino acids (of any type) from protein in your diet. Milk contains whey protein, an excellent source of leucine. Other dairy products, such as Greek yogurt, as well as lean meat, fish and soy, such as edamame and tofu, are also rich in this amino acid.

8. Carrot juice for memory: Carrots contain luteolin, a flavonoid believed to reduce inflammation that can lead to cognitive decline. In a 2010 Journal of Nutrition study, mice that ate a diet that included luteolin had better spatial memory (e.g., how quickly they found a platform in a water maze) and less inflammation than mice that didn’t get any luteolin. Luteolin also is found in bell peppers, celery, rosemary and thyme.

9. Coffee to protect against skin cancer: Drinking a single cup of coffee daily may lower your risk of developing skin cancer. In one study of more than 93,000 women, published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, those who drank 1 cup of caffeinated coffee a day reduced their risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer by about 10 percent.

10. Water for better breath: Water keeps your throat and lips moist and prevents your mouth from feeling dry. Dry mouth can cause bad breath and/or an unpleasant taste – and can even promote cavities.

11. Orange juice for eye health: Studies show that people with low levels of antioxidants are more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than those with higher levels. AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people over age 60. Vitamin C, abundant in orange juice, is one antioxidant that seems to be especially protective against the disease. Others include vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin.