If we want to live longer, healthier lives where our risk of suffering from major illnesses and health conditions is minimized, cleaning up our diets is a must. According to WebMD, the amount of research we now have access to is proving that there could be such a thing as a “longevity diet.”
Most people grasp the general understanding of what a healthy diet looks like. We know it’s all about fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good fats and lean sources of protein while keeping processed foods at a minimum. But are there any specific foods we should be focusing on adding to our diet that contribute to longevity?
Well, we’d have to look at the research. Here are some healthy foods that might as well be a part of a “longevity diet” based on how they’ve been shown to impact people’s health and wellbeing.
In one study, people who ate more than three servings of nuts per week — especially walnuts — had a reduced risk of dying from from cardiovascular disease or cancer when compared to those who didn’t consume nuts. More recent research also shows that walnuts may actually alter gut bacteria in a way that reduces colon tumor development from colon cancer, which is the third most prevalent cancer type in the world.
2. Seafood and Plant-Based Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are well known for helping heart health and potentially preventing age-related cognitive decline. A 2010 study found that heart patients with an increased intake of omega-3s also possessed longer stretches of DNA called telemores, which is linked to longer lifespans. Good sources of seafood-based omega-3s (DHA and EPA) include wild Pacific salmon, anchovies, herring, mackerel, lake trout and some other types of cold water fish. A couple of your best sources of plant-based omega-3s (ALA) include flaxseed and chia seeds.
There’s been a lot of research on coffee, and it seems as if the findings have been all over the place. While it may offer a lot of benefits, it may also have some drawbacks, too. At least one study that examined coffee consumption among nearly 75,000 adult women found that higher consumption of coffee (both caffeinated and decaffeinated) was linked to a lower risk of death.
4. Whole Grains
Whole grains may not have much of a place in a low-carb or paleo diet, but it’s an essential part of the Mediterranean diet — a diet that has been associated with lower risks of heart disease, lower levels of bad cholesterol and an overall lower risk of death. Based on recent research, the American Heart Association says that three servings of whole grains per day can help people lower their risk of death by nearly 20 percent compared to those who eat fewer or no whole grains at all.
5. Dark Chocolate
Chocolate is healthy as long as it’s dark (ideally 70 percent or more) and consumed in moderation. Researchers have found that this sweet treat helps lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease. In a study that observed the health habits of nearly 21,000 British people for over a decade, only 12 percent of those who consumed dark chocolate died of cardiovascular disease compared to 17.4 percent of those who did not consume chocolate.
Many berries lend themselves to promoting good health, but some like blueberries (and also strawberries), are significantly powerful for being rich in chemical compounds called anthocyanins. They help lower blood pressure and promote elasticity in the blood vessels. Data taken over an 18-year period from almost 94,000 young women showed that those who ate the most berries experienced a reduced risk of suffering a heart attack by 34 percent compared to those who ate the fewest berries.
7. Leafy Greens
We all know that making vegetables a part of every meal, every day is one of the healthiest things you can do for your diet. Leafy greens may be ultra low in calories, but there’s been some research to say that they may help prevent dementia. For the study, eating habits and cognitive function of 950 older adults were tracked for about five years, with results showing that those who ate 1 to 2 daily servings of leafy greens experienced a decreased rate of cognitive decline compared to those who ate no leafy greens.
Now you know what to put on your grocery list the next time you head out to the store or to your local farmers’ market. And if you already eat some of the above mentioned “longevity” foods, then keep it up! Your future self will thank you for it.