Healthy Eats: 9 Foods for a Long Life
Dark green leafy vegetables protect your bones and eyesight, and are full of cancer-fighting compounds. Photo: Westend61/Getty Images
These fave foods are proven to fight disease, promote cardiovascular health – and potentially add years to your life. Of course, it’s important to have variety and balance, but certain choices are meant to be on the menu more often. Here, nine foods to help you live longer and better.
1. Olive Oil
Several studies have linked this versatile oil — the cornerstone of the oft-touted Mediterranean diet — to longevity. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats and is known to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. It may also offer some protection from Alzheimer’s disease. Gimme some skin If you’re going to live long, might as well have great skin! Olive oil can be applied as a moisturizer. Choose good-quality extra-virgin oil and use it sparingly.
All fruits are good for us. But intensely coloured berries in particular have a lot going for them: they are high in flavoids, known antioxidants. The anthocyanin pigments that provide their intense colour have a number of disease-protective properties. And you can eat their skins, in which healthy compounds are more concentrated, Berries have been shown to reduce high blood pressure and the risk of heart attack. Tip: Go outside the berry box and explore exotic berries like goji and acai.
Eating salmon appears to reduce heart failure, as long as it’s served healthfully – baked, not fried. Salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, an essential nutrient that we can only get from diet. It’s key in lowering inflammation in the body. Other top finned friends: mackerel and bluefish. You can take a fish out of water, but you can’t take the oil out of the fish Research has shown that fish oil supplements don’t provide the same protection against heart failure as eating actual fish.
4. Whole Grain Fibre
In a study that tracked more than 300,000 men and women over the age of 50, those who had the highest amount of fibre in their diets, especially from whole grains, were the least likely to die over the years that followed. (The same study revealed that they kept their looks longer, too!) Whole grains are known to help the heart, fight cancer and help ward off diabetes. You don’t need a whole lot Try a variety of whole grains like oatmeal, millet, brown rice, teff and amaranth.
5. Dark Chocolate
Does it still count as a superfood if it tastes like a supertreat? The cacao tree originally grew in Central and South America, and its beans were used as money. Research has linked consumption of cocoa to liver and cardiovascular health and mental fitness. Heart of darkness Take it dark (at least 65 per cent cocoa) if you want all the benefits. Milk chocolate and white chocolate don’t contain as many flavonols (antioxidants), plus they may be high in fat and sugar.
Nuts such as walnuts, almonds and pecans are known to improve your cholesterol levels and may help to protect against blood clots and heart attack. Research shows they can also control your blood sugar, curb your appetite and help you manage your weight. In a study of more than 100,000 men and women, the results showed that those who regularly ate nuts lived longer and healthier lives. Go natural. It’s a whole lot healthier to eat nuts without those sugary or salty coatings.
Yesterday it was spinach, today it’s kale, but it’s all good. Dark green leafy vegetables (other top choices are collards and turnip greens) are high in vitamins, magnesium, calcium and cancer-fighting compounds. They protect your bones and eyesight, and may contribute to a high-quality old age. What a bargain. Greens are high in fibre but low in calories, so they make you full without making you fat.
Studies show that a diet high in legumes (beans, lentils and chickpeas) appears to prevent coronary heart disease and improve blood sugar. An Australian study of seniors in four countries found they all had something in common: those who ate the most legumes were most likely to be alive seven years later. Are they nuts? Well, no. Peanuts are actually legumes. But in a 2013 study showing that people who eat nuts daily live longer, the peanut was one of the “nuts” studied. Another legume for longevity!
We like yogurt because it gives us all the vitamin, mineral and calcium benefits of a dairy product. But it also contains Lactobacillus acidophilus, a friendly bacteria that can wipe out disease-causing micro-organisms in our bodies. Yogurt is used to treat everything from high cholesterol to Type 2 diabetes to intestinal disorders. Eating yogurt appears to strengthen the immune system.
For the most health potential, pick low-fat plain yogurt with five grams of protein or more per serving.
A version of this story was originally published on April 2, 2019.