What you eat can affect your health and your longevity. Here, the best foods for a long life -- and which ones to avoid.

Longevity isn't just about delaying death -- it's about enjoying more years of health and vitality. In her book, The Longevity Diet, dietician Leslie Beck outlines the ways food choices affect the aging process and help to delay the onset of age-related chronic illnesses.

First, certain foods can cause or prevent inflammation in the body. We're not just talking arthritis; chronic inflammation also contributes to illnesses like Alzheimer's disease, heart attack and type 2 diabetes. Foods that are high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fat and phytochemicals promote the production of anti-inflammatory compounds. In contrast, foods which are high in fat, refined sugars and refined starches can promote inflammation. (See Can food fight inflammation? for more details.)

Second, foods containing high levels of antioxidants combat the harmful effects of free radicals -- compounds which can damage proteins, cell membranes and genes. Free radical damage accumulates over the years when the body can't produce enough of its own antioxidant enzymes to keep up. You've likely heard some of the big names like polyphenols, phytochemicals (such as flavonoids, beta carotene and resveratrol), vitamins C and E and selenium.

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Finally, as we age, our bodies become less sensitive to insulin and the pancreas has to work overtime to compensate. The result: a condition known as insulin resistance which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Maintaining low, consistent levels of insulin is essential for longevity, and we can help by choosing foods which release glucose more slowly rather than causing spikes in blood glucose levels. These choices are known as low glycemic foods -- the ones that score the lowest on the glycemic index (GI).

So what are the top foods for a long life?  Click through to see some of Beck's top choices.

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Elizabeth Rogers