In a recent poll, 75 percent of people over the age of 55 reported they ate a healthy diet (compared to 47 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds) [source: Adweek].
This is due in part to necessity: As we age, our awareness of health issues increases, as does our awareness of the important role diet plays in maintaining good health. Additionally, we develop a keen interest in extending longevity and slowing both the physical and mental effects of aging.
One contributing factor to aging that can be counteracted through diet is the damage free radicals cause to our cells. These oxygen molecules that run amok can hasten the onset of many different diseases, such as heart disease, osteoporosis and even Alzheimer's disease [source Zelman]. Antioxidants -- such as beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E -- are commonly found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. It's believed that antioxidants help protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.
While consuming antioxidants may help prevent disease and postpone aging, avoidance of other foods can have the same effect. Saturated fats and trans fats (as well as sugars and starches) pack on the pounds, put you at greater risk of heart disease and diabetes, and trigger an inflammatory response in your body that can cause cellular damage over time.
To stay healthy, you need access to healthcare, and that's one thing aging can secure for you. We'll talk about that next.