Human life expectancy has generally increased over time as people learn more about how the body works. Thanks to advances like vaccines, diseases like measles no longer carry off countless children in infancy. Thanks to longevity foods, people can choose diets that help them live longer.
However, the trend has recently reversed — at least in the U.S., where the average longevity has decreased in the past two years. While many factors have contributed to this decline, diet is one of them. Reliance on ultra-processed foods high in refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats has created a ticking time bomb for many. For example, over 80 million Americans currently live with prediabetes, often without knowing it.
Improving your meal choices might be the best way to live a longer, healthier life. What are longevity foods? Here’s your guide to making meaningful, no-nonsense choices that improve your chances of seeing your grandkids graduate.
What are Longevity Foods?
Let us assure you that the longevity plan doesn’t prevent you from occasionally indulging in your favorite treats. You won’t have to cut out entire food groups or feel deprived. One of the pillars of the longevity diet is to eat mindfully and include more of the good stuff, including whole foods close to their natural forms, like deep, leafy greens and fresh-caught fish.
That said, there are some foods you should consume in moderation. For example, alcohol can shorten your life span by up to 26 years if you drink heavily. An occasional glass of wine at dinner won’t hurt you, but you should avoid making it a daily event.
Refined carbohydrates are another food group that deserves a skeptical eye. These foods absorb quickly, causing an energy spike followed by a cravings-filled crash that ups your diabetes risk. To make matters worse, bleached flour often contains a chemical byproduct that destroys your pancreas, your insulin-creating organ. Talk about a double whammy.
All fats are not created equal. It’s beneficial to cut back on saturated fats from animals and avoid trans fats. Additionally, pay attention to your omega-3 to omega-6 balance. While you need a balanced ratio for health, Americans typically consume an omega-6 heavy 1:16 ratio — which may increase systemic inflammation and raise your risk of chronic diseases.
According to the pillars of the longevity diet, it’s okay to enjoy a slice of birthday cake or donut. However, these foods should be occasional visitors to an otherwise healthy meal plan, not a staple.
10 Best Foods for Longevity
What should you eat to join the centenarians club someday? Here are ten of the best foods for longevity. Instead of hyperfocusing on what you should avoid, concentrate on getting more of these in your diet.
1. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish are among your best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Why is it so critical to balance your omega-6s with these fats? Here’s a short list of what omega-3’s can do for your body:
- Decrease blood pressure
- Lower triglycerides
- Combat plaque in your arteries
- Reduce your arrhythmia chances
- Decrease your stroke risk
- Lower your chances of sudden heart failure
2. Dark Greens
Dark greens are considered longevity foods because they’re chock-full of foxy phytonutrients your body needs. For example, a single cup of kale contains a hefty dose of vitamins A, K, B6 and C, all for only 33 calories.
Salads are an obvious choice, but you can also get your fill by adding a few leaves to your lunchtime wrap or mincing them to add to soups, stews and various sauces.
Berries are rich in anthocyanins, an antioxidant particularly good for brain and heart health. Recent research reveals that they play a crucial role in decreasing the inflammation typical of many disorders like Alzheimer’s. Best of all, it’s a cinch to sprinkle the dried versions on salads or include the whole fruit in parfaits or cereal.
4. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are mighty mineral powerhouses. They contain high levels of three critical to brain health — magnesium, selenium and zinc.
Seeds, in particular, might also help the female reproductive system. They contain lignans, which act as phytoestrogens to naturally balance your hormonal levels.
Eggs are back to superfood status because they contain plenty of heart-healthy omega-3s. They’re also a lean protein source, with only 70 calories per serving. A helping in the morning for breakfast keeps you full until lunch but won’t weigh you down or leave you sluggish like harder-to-digest meats.
Flax is the plant-based superpower you didn’t know you needed in your diet. Why? It’s probably the best non-animal source of omega-3’s at a 4:1 ratio — pay attention if you follow a vegan diet.
Better yet, flax makes the perfect substitute for all those omega-6-laden vegetable oils most people use in their baking, contributing to the imbalance. Replace each 1/3 cup of vegetable oil with a cup of ground flax, and your reward is a delicious baked treat you can also feel good about eating. It’s moist, flaky and, best of all, healthy for you. You can also replace vegetable oil with flaxseed oil at 1:1.
Carbs aren’t your enemy — refined carbohydrates pose the threat. That’s because manufacturers strip away the nutrient-rich bran and chaff, leaving you with a fast-absorbing sugar-like substance. You already know the rest.
Quinoa is an ancient grain that you can use in recipes. It’s safe for most people with gluten intolerance, and it’s also okay to eat whole. Want to add more plant-based protein to a vegan salad and increase your fiber content? Sprinkle a bit of quinoa over your lunchtime salad.
Low-grade systemic inflammation is a hallmark of nearly every chronic disease, but this mighty root herb can help tame it. Turmeric, an orange root herb used in much Indian cuisine, contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory that some people swear by more than aspirin.
For best results, add black pepper to turmeric to amplify your body’s ability to use it by 2,000%. What if you’re not a fan of chicken tikka masala? Just add a bit of the ground root with some pepper to your morning coffee or tea. It gives the most subtle hint of chai — most people find it delightful.
Ginger is another Asian root herb with healing properties. You might know about its effect on your stomach — it’s a well-known antidote for gastrointestinal upset. However, most colas contain none or only a mere trace. Instead, chew a piece of the dried root or a candied bit.
Ginger is another fabulous anti-inflammatory. It’s one of the three principal ingredients in trikatu, an Ayurvedic staple that some authorities cite as a possible COVID-19 remedy.
Life needs a hint of sweetness. To get yours in a healthier way, look to our buddies, the bees.
Honey does spike your blood sugar, so you should consume it in moderation. However, it’s also a rich source of carbohydrates for energy and has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties to mitigate the glucose effects.
Make Longevity Foods the Pillars of Your Diet
Do you want to live a longer, healthier life? Altering your diet may be the best thing you can do. Heeding the pillars of the longevity diet may extend your life span. Enjoy more of these longevity foods and have more energy and vitality to add life to those years.