What is their longevity secret? One particular study published recently (January, 2022), has found that a diet rich in certain food nutrients can add up to 13 years to our lives. Increasing life expectancy through diet is not just another “dubious” fad but a fact supported by many studies.
So how can we exactly live a longer and healthier life through diet? Researchers support that a more modern version of the Mediterranean diet with less carbs and grains is best for this purpose.
Here are the top food nutrients that contribute to longevity:
Flavonoids. Flavonoids are a class of antioxidant substances (flavones, isoflavones, flavonones, flavanones, and flavan-3-ols) that are naturally found in edible plants, fruits, and veggies. Due to their high antioxidant activity, they help minimise their damaging effects of free radicals and slow down aging. They have also been found to decrease the likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer.
Where to find them: grapes, apples, blueberries, berries, strawberries, peaches, kale, spinach, tomatoes, scallions, broccoli, cocoa, oolong tea, green tea, white tea, and nearly all tea varieties.
Healthy Fats. Healthy fats are a cluster of fatty acids e.g. omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 which present in plant and animal food sources, used by our systems as a form of fuel. A diet rich in healthy fats and particularly the Mediterranean diet has been found to prevent the onset of several degenerative diseases e.g. diabetes and nourish the body cells so that they can fight disease and aging better.
Where to find them: chia seeds, avocadoes, olive oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines, sea trout, sea bass), flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds.
High-quality Proteins. Mostly found in animal sources, high-quality proteins are the building blocks of our body’s connective tissue (muscles, bones, ligaments, and skin) and play a major role in several metabolic functions inside our bodies. Proteins along with other nutrients help support and add structure to body cells. Lack of proteins in the diet has been associated with bone problems, muscle pain, spine problems, and neurological disorders, especially after 50+ years of age.
Where to find them: lean poultry, lean red meats (pork, beef, lamb, goat), fish, seafood, grains, legumes (peas, chickpeas, beans, fava beans, lentils), and nuts.
Probiotics & Prebiotics. Probiotics are populations of good and beneficial bacteria that are naturally present in our guts. A healthy ratio of good bacteria Vs bad bacteria helps fight the damaging effects of bad bacteria in our systems. In fact, probiotics can help with various conditions--from digestive system problems to brain and neurological problems. Likewise, prebiotics are types of fibers that act as a food course for probiotics, helping to boost their number against bad bacteria.
Where to find them: yogurt, kefir, soft/creamy cheeses, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, fermented/pickled vegetables, miso soup, kombucha tea, artichokes, barley, berries, bananas, and cocoa.
B-complex Vitamins. B-Complex vitamins are a cluster of 8 vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12). B-complex vitamins have a major role to play in several metabolic and cell functions of the body. Among others, b-complex vitamins contribute to healthy eyesight, boost the absorption of other beneficial nutrients, contribute to healthy brain and nerve function, and help support digestion.
Where to find them: dairy, eggs, liver, kidneys, poultry, red meats, dark leafy vegetables, shellfish, and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, anchovies, sea trout, sea bass, etc).
Dietary Fibers. Dietary fibers are types of varied substances that come from plant sources that our bodies cannot fully digest, but are still useful for several body activities and especially digestion. A relevant study has found that fiber-rich diets like the Mediterranean diet, decrease the likelihood of premature death as well as the onset of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes by 19%. Some dietary fibers also act as food sources for probiotics.
Where to find them: dark leafy greens, carrots, celery, legumes, dried fruit, nuts, berries, avocados, pop corn, apples, and whole grains.
Complex Carbs. Carbs/Carbohydrates are a class of essential macronutrients that our bodies need to fuel cells. They are mainly made of starch, glucose (sugar), and fiber and come into two forms: simple carbs and complex carbs. Unlike simple carbs which are often demonized by weight loss and anti-aging diets, complex carbs can offer the same fueling benefits as simple carbs without any side effects. In fact, complex carbs have been found to energize the system gradually for longer periods of time and also prevent abnormal blood sugar levels.
Where to find them: sweet potatoes, carrots, parnships, whole wheat pasta, 80+% whole wheat breads, peas, beans, quinoa, oats, and barley.
Note: In addition to incorporating the above food nutrients in your diet, you have to make sure you are not getting anything “bad” inside your system. Certain foods and lifestyle habits can not only age you quicker, they may also cause chronic and serious illnesses.
Foods that you should avoid when following a longevity diet include:
- Processed red meats (salami, commercial sausages, spam, corned beef)
- French fries and deep-fried meats
- Margarine/vegetable shortenings
- Sugary sodas and sweetened drinks
- Canned fruit juices
- Corn Syrup
- White bread
- White pasta
- Processed/microwave meals
The above foods trigger inflammation inside the body, which is often the culprit of several degenerative disorders (heart problems, diabetes, cancer) and accelerated aging. Additionally, you want to stay away from harmful substances such as tobacco, drugs, and alcohol that will actually cut years off your life, as proven by several studies.
By following a diet rich in aforementioned nutrients, avoiding unhealthy foods, and maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle, you will pave the way for a longer and healthier life.