Aging is a natural process that cannot be reversed. The sooner we make peace with that, the sooner we can ensure that our aging process is slow and healthy. For decades, scientists have researched the effects eating on aging. What, when and how we eat has a big impact and a profound influence on how long we live.
Superfoods that have been proven to slow the aging process are a great way to start your journey towards healthy longevity - 'healthy' being the key word here. Additionally, we will look at so called 'Blue Zones' to borrow some tips from the longest-living people on the planet.
Oily fish, salmon and tuna are not just delicious, but they also help those who suffer from heart disease to live longer. Their Omega-3 Fatty Acids combat dangerous inflammation that damage your DNA. A study from 2009 conducted by the University of Hawaii discovered discovered that men who ate the most baked or boiled fish reduced their risk of heart disease related to death by 23%, as opposed to those who ate friend, dried or salted fish. The same study discovered that women who ate low-sodium soy sauce and/or tofu improved their heart-health.
A shot of booze
Tomoji Tanabe, the world's oldest man until 2009 when he died at the age of 113, said that his lifelong abstinence from alcohol was the reason why he was able to live so long. However, several studies showed us that small amounts of alcohol (at most 2 drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women) can improve heart-health, and reduce the risk of death up to 20 years after a heart attack.
Raymonde and Lucienne Wattelade who were the world's oldest twins in 2010 at the age of 98, said that their secret to longevity were a spot of whiskey, respectively pastis. The two sisters were on the French gymnastics team in the '30s, and credit their health to regular exercise, such as dancing.
Grapes, salads and broccoli
It's no secret that a diet rich in fruits and veggies is nutrient-dense, low in calories and they provide you with healthy fuel for a long and healthy life. But research shows that these 3 have specific life-extending benefits. These greens can lower the risk of heart disease by 76%, and as an extra bonus, their abilities to combat inflammation and improve circulation with the power of antioxidants, can reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Many people swear by the power of garlic - and not because it's a good vampire repellent, but because it helps them live longer. Studies have shown that the phytochemicals in garlic can suspend the formation of carcinogenic chemicals in your body. Additionally, women who eat more garlic have been found to have a lower risk of colon cancer.
Berries are known to be packed with antioxidants, which give your immune system a boost, and fight life-threatening disease. Blueberries especially are known to help slow the aging process. A study from 2012 conducted by the Harvard University found that one serving of blueberries, or two of strawberries every week can reduce the risk of cognitive degeneration in older adults.
A study from 2004 conducted by the Michigan State University researched the effects of a bean rich diet in elderly people in Japan, Sweden, Greece and Australia. They researches found that the subjects experienced a 7-8% reduction in death for every 20g of legumes consumed every day. Beans especially help increase butyrate levels, which is a fatty acid responsible for fighting cancer growth.
Another cancer fighting nutrient is lycopene. And the better source of lycopene are tomatoes. They are wonderful to eat raw or in salads, but eating them cooked, in pasta sauce or tomato soup is just as good. Consumed that way, they can actually increase the amount of carcinogen-fighting carotenoids that your body is able to absorb.
A study from 2009 conducted by the University of North Carolina found that eating vegetarian meals few times a week may live longer than those who base their diets around meats. Those who eat red meat every day face a higher risk of dying over a 10-year period than those who eat less of it. However, the same study found that white meats (chicken, turkey and fish) seem to have a lower risk of death than red meats.
While red meat can be bad for longevity, plant-based red foods are good for it. The colors of foods are closely related to the nutrients they provide, so eating rainbow salads is a great way to ensure you get a proper mix of nutrients. Red fruits and veggies are especially great for keeping your youth. Red cabbage reduces the risk of cancer and enhances your brain health, tomatoes lower your cholesterol, and beet juice lowers blood pressure, to name a few.
Grains and Seeds
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that whole grains and the fiber they provide lower the risk of death by 22%! Fiber is known to help protect against heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity and they are great for lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
The secret to longevity is nuts, literally! Nuts are a great source of protein, especially since eating less meat is recommended for a longer and healthier life. A recent study from the Harvard University found that the best protein source comes from nuts. Trading your serving or pork or beef for a serving of nuts can reduce the risk of death in middle aged people by 19%.
The secret to longevity is bananas! I know I said it was nuts, but it's also bananas! Arthur Gilbert, the world's oldest triathlete at age 91 says his diet is rich in fruit and veggies, and he especially loves to eat bananas. These are incredibly healthy and they enhance cognitive functions and combat cognitive degeneration.
Originating in China, this tea is known to strengthen the immune system with the power of its antioxidants. It is reach in cell repairing compounds and it helps relieve stress. Have a cup of Pu-erh tea with lemon and honey every day at tea time.
A study from 1999 conducted by the Harvard University found that found that men who ate moderate amounts of chocolate 3 times a month lived an year longer that the men who didn't. Another study from 2009 conducted by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found that the subjects who suffered a heart attack reduced the risk of dying in the following 8 years by eating chocolate once a week. What makes chocolate great for longevity is its flavonols, the antioxidant from cocoa beans. So to get the most of it, go for dark chocolate instead of other types of chocolate.
Incorporating these superfoods into your weekly diet will do wonders for your anti-aging process and help with longevity, in the healthiest ways. But this is not all you can do to live a longer and healthier life! Let's look at a few Blue Zones and see what are the eating habits of some of the longest-living people on Earth.
Blue Zones are hot spots of longevity, where people live to 100 and beyond. Some of the most famous Blue Zones are the Greek island of Ikaria, Sardinia, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, and the famous Okinawa in Japan.
Eat Meat Twice a Week
People in most of the Blue Zones eat meat sparingly. They make it a side dish, rather than a main dish. Limit your meat intake to 2 ounces of cooked meat five times a month. That really doesn't sound like much, but doing this will aid your longevity and you can get your protein from other sources instead of meats. Use organic chicken, lamb and turkey. The meat in the Blue Zones come from farm animals that are graze happier and enjoy more freedom. This makes them more likely to have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
Eat Fish Every Day
Fish is a different story. One study found that people who include a small portion of fish in their daily veggie-dense meals lived longer than those who didn't. Fish is a common part of daily meals throughout the Blue Zones. Sardines, anchovies, and cod are some of the best sources of fish, especially in the Blue Zones where they are less likely to be exposed to high levels of mercury and other chemicals.
Get 95% of your food from plant-based sources. Whole grains and beans are the dominant ingredients in the Blue Zones. People enjoy the greens the season offers to them and they have them in large portions. The excess they get, they either dry or can/pickle. Ikaria teaches us that the best longevity foods are leafy greens. They have more than 75 varieties of them over there! One study found that having a cup of cooked greens every day reduced the risk of death by half than those who didn't have any greens.
All Blue Zones consume bread. But we know that bread is not that great, right? Well, the bread in the Blue Zones like Sardinia and Ikaria is made entirely from whole grains like wheat and rye which are rich in nutrients and fibers. Other Blue Zones prefer sourdough bread, which is made with bacteria that dissolves the glutens and starches while they helps the bread raise. This also lowers the glycemic load of the meals. So have bread - whole-wheat or sourdough bread!
You will not see the people in the Blue Zones going to fast-foods, that's for sure. Home cooking is the best way to know exactly what you're eating. A study from 2012 conducted by the Cambridge University found that those who cook 5 times a week have a 47% higher chance to live over a 10 year period than those who don't cook at all. Plus, all the grocery shopping and the process of cooking is a great way to keep you mobile and active.
Some studies have already shown that organic food has more nutrients that non-organic food. A study from 2011 from the Newcastle University found that because organic food is higher in nutrients, it can help extend the average lifespan with 25 days for men, and 17 days for women. Plus, foods grown without chemicals and pesticides have higher levels of vitamin C and antioxidants.
We cannot live forever, but if we can extend our lives to enjoy it for longer, why wouldn’t we sign up for it? The secret to a long and healthy life seems to be modest eating and enjoying the food that gives you life. It’s an “I eat to live, I don’t live to eat” matter. It’s all about being aware of your food choices and the ingredients that go into your meals.
It seems like the best way, as well know by know, is to eat clean. And eating clean means eating organic, from sources that are not altered or processed. Choose your food from local sources, farms and even your own backyard. And cook it yourself! While it takes a while to do it, the focus on your food will suppress your craving and you’ll end up eating exactly what you need, and not what you think you want. Follow this advice and incorporate these foods and habits into your diet, and live to 100 and beyond!