Joanna Foley, RD, CLT
Joanna Foley, RD, CLT, is a registered dietitian and the owner of a private nutrition consulting business at joannafoleynutrition.com.
No matter what age you are, taking care of your body is important and can help you both look and feel your best.
Since aging often happens from the inside out, paying attention to what you eat is the best place to start when it comes to the best foods for longevity.
Keep reading to learn why longevity matters for all of us, and the best foods to include in your diet to live not only a long life, but a healthy one, too.
Why does longevity matter?
Nearly everyone wants to live a longer life, but there’s a big difference between living until you’re 85 while able to be active and doing things you love, and being at the same age but dealing with significant health ailments that limit your ability to function and reduce your quality of life.
The goal of longevity should be not just to live longer, but to live better.
While your genetics and environment do play a role in how you age, research shows that your lifestyle plays an even bigger role.
What you eat can make a huge difference in your mental and physical health as well as your ability to be active and independent.
Diets rich in processed foods are linked to numerous chronic diseases including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Alternatively, fueling your body with natural, nutrient-dense foods helps you not only live longer, but be healthier while doing so.
Best foods for longevity
While there are hundreds of foods that can help promote your health and longevity, below are some of the best choices.
Spinach, kale, swiss chard, arugula, and lettuce are examples of leafy greens that pack quality nutrients for minimal calories. Leafy greens provide a good source of the plant compound carotenoids and the B vitamin folate, amongst other nutrients.
Folate is required for red blood cell formation, cell growth, and to make DNA, which are all necessary functions for healthy aging. Carotenoids are linked to a reduction in overall disease risk, and researchers have also found that the nutrients in leafy greens can help slow down brain aging.
Examples of fatty fish include salmon, trout, albacore tuna, herring and sardines. These all provide good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have powerful anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
Inflammation increases with age, and having too much can harm nearly all parts of your body and contribute to age-related diseases.
The American Heart Association recommends eating at least 2 servings of fatty fish per week, and doing so can help your whole body both feel and look younger.
Legumes include beans, lentils, peas and peanuts. These are rich sources of fiber which support numerous processes in your body including stabilizing your blood sugar, lowering cholesterol levels, controlling your appetite to help with weight management, reducing colon cancer risk, and supporting healthy gut bacteria for proper digestion and immune function.
Legumes also provide plant-based protein and key minerals like iron, phosphorus, and zinc.
Broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, cabbage and brussels sprouts are all types of cruciferous vegetables.
Research shows that these help support your bodys’ natural ability to detoxify itself, which involves the removal of toxins from your body that may otherwise cause health ailments like asthma and allergies and diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Cruciferous vegetables are also super nutrient dense and contain plant compounds that help fight inflammation, support normal hormone functioning, and more, which leads to a healthier, longer life.
Fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha, kefir, miso, and sauerkraut all provide natural sources of probiotics. These support a healthy gut microbiome, which is the balance of good and bad bacteria in your digestive tract.
This is especially important as you get older, since the microbiome tends to lose its diversity of bacteria over time. Probiotics support everything from proper digestion to immune function to disease prevention, and more.
Berries are a rich source of antioxidants including polyphenols and vitamin C, which have a slew of health benefits when it comes to longevity.
Antioxidants help protect your cells against the negative effects of toxins by fighting off free radicals that can damage your body. They also help fight against inflammation that is linked to a number of diseases.
Eating a diet rich in antioxidants supports longevity by protecting against memory loss, vision problems, boosting brain health, helping improve the look and feel of your skin, and reducing your likelihood of developing heart conditions and other ailments that come along with aging.
While all berries carry health benefits, blueberries are an especially great option.
This is a staple of the mediterranean diet, which is consistently proven to be the best eating style for longevity and overall health.
Olive oil provides monounsaturated fats, which are known to help reduce the risk for heart disease when they replace saturated fats in the diet, and consuming it can help improve levels of HDL cholesterol, which is the beneficial kind.
Nuts and seeds
The nutrients and health benefits associated with nuts and seeds are nearly endless. They provide everything from fiber to plant-based protein to healthy fats, antioxidants, and other plant compounds that help fight diseases.
Compared to other nuts, walnuts have one of the best ratios of omega 3 to omega-6 fats, which is important for overall health. Because there are so many different types and versions of nuts, they are easy to include in just about anyone’s diet.
This spice contains the compound curcumin, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Studies show it helps in the management of inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, high cholesterol and triglycerides, and more.
Consuming black pepper, or the compound piperine, along with turmeric helps boost its ability to be utilized by your body.
This is a class of vegetables that includes onions, garlic, leeks, chives, scallions and shallots. While these are great for adding flavor to your meals, they also provide significant health benefits for longevity.
Alliums are best known for their organosulfur compounds, which help the body fight off bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Diets rich in alliums help lower your risk for disease, and can help manage diseases that may already be present.
Mushrooms have been used as nature’s medicine for centuries. They are one of the few food sources of vitamin D, which has a slew of health benefits including strengthening bones.
Research shows that eating mushrooms may also support healthy immune systems, improve levels of inflammation, benefit the gut microbiome, and help keep your mind sharp to delay or prevent age related brain disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Ultimately, the best foods for longevity are those that are in their natural state and which contain a mix of fiber, healthy fats, and plant compounds like antioxidants. There are so many simple and delicious ways to incorporate these foods into your diet, so the options are endless.