By EatingWell, EatingWell.com
Leaf-up your life. A 2006 study in Neurology showed that people who ate two or more servings of vegetables daily - especially leafy greens - had the mental focus of people five years their junior. Have a big green salad for lunch; serve some sauteed spinach at dinner.
Fight wrinkles with antioxidant-rich foods? Once recent (and widely publicized) study suggested that eating a diet that provides plenty of antioxidant-rich foods might help our skin age more gracefully. When researchers looked at the diets and skin-wrinkling patterns of 177 people, they found that those who ate the most vegetables, legumes and olive oil had the least skin wrinkling, while those who ate more full-fat dairy and red meat had the most. They speculated that antioxidants abundant in the former group's diets might have inhibited some of the free-radical damage (some caused by the sun's UV rays) that accelerates skin aging. While the premise is exciting, the study didn't show cause and effect and the science is still too preliminary to draw conclusions. But filing your plate with tasty vegetables and healthy fat is, no matter what, a beautiful thing.
Walk it off. It's true: 30 minutes of cardio exercise a day can improve your overall health. If the idea of jogging for half an hour has you making excuses to stay inside, keep in mind that just about any activity counts, provided it gets your heart rate up and increase your breathing. Raking leaves, vacuuming, walking the dog and taking a fast-paced stroll on your lunch break are all great ways to reach your daily 30. But don't feel you have to do it all at once - spreading exercise out over the day is just as effective.
Substitute heart-healthy oils for butter. Pick oils live olive, canola or walnut oil. These are high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, as opposed to butter, which is loaded with saturated fat. But keep in mind that even though unsaturated fat is better for your heart, these oils are still high in calories and need to be used in moderation to maintain a healthy weight.
Boost fiber with fruits. Eating a variety of fruits is a great way to get more fiber. Try including these top three fruits - each supplies 3 plus grams of fiber per serving - in your daily intake: pears (up to 5 grams per 1 medium), raspberries (4 grams per cup) and apples (4 grams per 1 medium).
Pepper your diet with purple. Research shows that people who eat blue and purple fruits and vegetables - blueberries, plums, purple cabbage, black currants, eggplant and purple grapes - have a reduced risk for high blood pressure and low HDL cholestrol (that's the good kind). Scientists believe that anthocyanins, the compounds that give purple foods the color, are responsible for these boons. Blue and purple foods make up only about 3 percent of the average American's fruit and veggie intake, so aim to eat more.
Snack on almonds. A 2006 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed an ounce of almonds provides as many flavonoids - compounds that fight free radicals and reduce inflammation - as a cup serving of brocolli or a cup of green tea. (Note: 1 oz. = about 24 almonds).