20 foods that keep you young

Blueberries, broccoli, black beans—find out why adding certain superfoods to your diet will help you fight off aging's ugliest aggressors.
© 2013 Weider Publications // © 2013 Weider Publications

OK, so maybe we can’t actually stop the clock. But we can help you change up your diet so that you’re staying stronger, healthier and more energized throughout the year—and for many, many years to come. Sound good? Read on.

Men’s Fitness talked to David Grotto, RD, LDN, author of The Best Things You Can Eat, to learn which hard-working foods function like a fountain of youth, and we found out that these 20 top performers can aid in everything from shedding pounds to sharpening your mind. There are even some surprises along the way: Turns out, chocolate milk is good for you. Who knew?

--By Jessica Leigh Hester

1 of 22 A variety of healthy foods (AlinaMD/Getty Images)

Brain booster: Blueberries

Zoning out? This fruit may help you snap back. “Blueberries’ high flavonoid content has been found to help short- and long-term memory,” says Grotto. Remember to add a handful to a bowl of oatmeal or cereal.

More: 10 foods that reduce anxiety

2 of 22 Blueberries (Dana Hoff/Getty Images)

Skin saver: Grapes

The skin of red grapes contains resveratrol, an anti-inflammatory that helps keep your skin looking good. Grotto says that several studies have shown that resveratrol can help protect you from UV radiation damage that may lead to skin cancer, too. (Bonus: You can also score these benefits from a glass of red wine.)

More: Reduce your risk for type-2 diabetes

3 of 22 Grapes (Maciej Frolow/Getty Images)

Belly-fat buster: Barley

Carrying a little extra weight around your middle? Shed it by eating more whole grains like barley or amaranth (which, like quinoa, is a great source of protein). A Tufts University study found that people who ate diets rich in whole grains and limited refined grains had 10 percent less abdominal fat than those who didn’t eat this way.

More: 10 easy ways to eat more whole grains

4 of 22 Barley (MIXA/Getty Images

Cancer fighter: Black beans

To help protect against colon and prostate cancer, you may want to up your legume intake. Dried beans, peas and lentils are packed with dietary fiber, which helps speed waste through the gut, wiping out any carcinogens that may have built up there. What's more: Beans are a rich source of folate, which helps repair damaged cells, says Grotto.

More: 6 ways to eat black beans

5 of 22 Black beans (tycoon751/Getty Images)

Cholesterol conqueror: Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help decrease inflammation and fight plaque buildup. “Flaxseeds also contain two other components that target LDL cholesterol specifically: lignans and soluble fiber, the kind that rids your body of cholesterol,” says Grotto. Ideally, your LDL would be less than 100 mg/dl. In addition to sprinkling flaxseeds onto oatmeal or cereal, continue to combat cholesterol by avoiding saturated fat and exercising daily. (And if you smoke, stop. Period.)

More: 6 reasons to never neglect flaxseed

6 of 22 Whole flaxseed with ground flax seeds (Kristin Duvall/Getty Images)

Bone builder: Hard cheese

Yes, even dudes are at risk for osteoporosis, and when it comes to calcium, hard cheese is a champ, providing more calcium than softer varieties. Case in point: One and a half ounces of Parmesan has 500mg. These hard varieties also possess probiotic qualities to help your digestive system move smoothly, so...start grating. (It tastes great over salads and other vitamin-packed vegetable sides.)

More: Cheese: The next big thing in dental health?

7 of 22 Hard cheese (Maren Caruso/Getty Images)

Cancer fighter: Broccoli

Pile these stalks on your plate, because this cruciferous vegetable—full of phytonutrients that decrease inflammation—helps stave off lung, stomach and other cancers. Plus, “these natural chemicals also turn on tumor suppressor genes, which slow cell growth so that damage can be repaired,” says Grotto. Eat it in everything from salads to frittatas.

More: Steamed broccoli unlocks cancer-fighting benefits

8 of 22 Broccoli (Brian Yarvin/Getty Images)

Fiber find: Apples

This fruit packs a lot of pectin, a soluble fiber that helps prevent cholesterol buildup in blood vessels, reducing the risk of heart disease. Plus, their insoluble fiber helps keep your digestive system going strong. “But don’t peel your apple—two-thirds of the fiber and lots of antioxidants are found in the skin,” says Grotto.

More: 20 fittest foods

9 of 22 Apples (Vstock LLC/Getty Images)

Pre-workout fuel: Oats

Exercise is key to staying young, and this superfood will power you through your gym sessions. In a study published in the journal Metabolism, test subjects who consumed rolled oats 45 minutes before exercising had a significant performance advantage over subjects who had puffed rice or water. (We digest these carbs slowly, which means that our energy stays high long after we eat them.) So grab a spoon and get ready to be propelled through your workout like a teen who just drank Red Bull.

More: 6 non-boring ways to eat your steel-cut oats

10 of 22 Oats (Brian Yarvin/Getty Images)