Photo: Mackenzie Stroh
Out: Milk chocolate
In: Dark chocolate
Why: Dark chocolate (look for at least 60 percent cocoa) is a concentrated source of antioxidants, which protect cells from age-related damage; milk chocolate contains significantly smaller amounts. And chocolate's fat doesn't raise cholesterol. Preliminary results from my lab show benefits to blood vessels two hours after eating dark chocolate or drinking it in cocoa. Nibble an ounce, sip a small cup—the calories still add up.
Out: White wine
In: Red wine
Why: Compared with white, red wine, like dark chocolate, provides more antioxidants, in this case from the skin of grapes. And alcohol in general can keep platelets from sticking together, possibly preventing blood clots. Moderation is the key here, too; one glass of wine a day, according to studies, appears optimal for most women.
Out: White bread
In: Whole grain bread
Why: Whenever you replace white flour with whole grains—in bread, cereal, pasta—it's a strike against aging. Soluble fiber, found in oats and barley, has been linked to lower levels of insulin and bad cholesterol (think: diabetes and heart disease), and insoluble fiber in whole wheat reduces risk of gastrointestinal maladies like diverticulosis. Check out bread made with the new albino whole wheat—it tastes like the real white thing.
Why: A cup of tea infuses you with antioxidants instead of the wallop of sugar you get in a can of soda. Green, black, and especially white—drink it hot or iced: All offer the powerful nutrients and a boost of caffeine.
Out: 1/4 of the sugar in a baking recipe
In: The same amount of nonfat powdered milk
Why: Reducing sugar in cakes, cookies, and bread will start retraining your taste buds to prefer less sweetness in your entire diet—a good antiaging goal, because in addition to weight gain and diabetes, chronically high intake of sugar can lead to glycosylation. This is a process in which sugar molecules adhere to protein molecules, potentially damaging cells, increasing inflammation, and contributing to the blockage of arteries.
Out: Diet soda
Why: There is no better beverage than water to help you stay hydrated, which is important in keeping body systems running well. Diet soda quenches thirst, but some experts still worry that its artificial sweeteners—officially considered safe—may be linked to cancer. My main concern with them is that they propagate a sweet tooth, which leads to more sugar intake and the overall deterioration of the diet.