Want to live a long, fruitful life? What you put on your plate could make a major difference. In addition to following an overall healthy eating pattern, moving your body regularly, and incorporating other healthy lifestyle habits, follow these basic steps could improve your health and increase longevity.
Ageing at the cellular level depends on a wide array of factors — including diet. New research is focusing on factors that could help extend life.
Many people think that life expectancy is largely determined by genetics.
However, genes play a much smaller role than originally believed. It turns out that environmental factors like diet and lifestyle are key.
When we think about ageing, we often consider the aesthetic implications of the inevitable march of time, such as greying hair or wrinkled skin. But the real ageing process happens on a level unseen to the naked eye. It is also a process that affects all organisms, not just humans.
Age-related damage happens at the cellular level as a result of biological processes within a cell, and the cause and extent of the damage depends on a myriad of factors, such as genes, environment and diet.
In recent years, during the research there has been a lot of attention on what’s referred to as the Blue Zones — or the five regions of the world with some of the healthiest people who consistently live to over 100 years old. In these regions there is an emphasis on eating mostly plant-based foods including 300g (3-10 cups!) of vegetables per day and regular legume and whole grain consumption. The Mediterranean Diet—which is also centred on plants—is another dietary pattern that is commonly linked to living longer.
While overall eating patterns make the biggest impact on longevity, there are many powerhouse foods that can help you live longer and healthier.
Research suggests that eating these top foods will help you live longer and age as gracefully as possible:
A staple in the Mediterranean diet, beans contain compounds linked to reduced cancer risk. Regularly eating beans may also reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, lower cholesterol, and reduce inflammation.
All beans contain important nutrients that can ward off disease and promote longevity, so aim for a variety, but most importantly, choose the ones you like.
- Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables are often talked about in their relation to a healthy digestive system (which is incredibly important for overall health), but eating these crunchy vegetables is also linked to a number of benefits related directly to living longer. They’re rich in fibre, antioxidants and vitamins A, C and K — all of which are associated with healthy ageing.
Berries have long been studied for health benefits ranging from reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, protection against cancer, and lower levels of inflammation.
- Dark Leafy Greens
Over and over again, data shows that eating dark leafy greens is linked to a slew of health outcomes, including reduced risk of early death. One meta-analysis of 13 studies found that regular leafy green consumption was associated with a 15.8% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
- Olive Oil
Research has also shown that regular olive oil consumption may slow telomere shortening. Telomeres are part of the DNA structure and shorter telomeres are considered a hallmark of ageing. One study among people over the age of 50 found that olive oil consumption improved the ‘successful ageing index,’ which measured a variety of physical health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease risk-factor along with social and mental health outcomes commonly associated with ageing.
For a long, fruitful life, fill your plate with mostly plant foods and follow a healthy eating pattern like the Mediterranean Diet. Aim to eat more of these powerhouse foods if you enjoy them, but know that no one food is going to determine how long you live—it’s your overall diet and lifestyle that makes the biggest difference.