It’s not news that the foods you eat – or don’t eat – can help you live healthier, longer. It’s well known, for example, that people who follow Mediterranean and vegetarian diets have longer life expectancies.
Your diet may slow aging in a number of ways. Antioxidants fend off harmful free radicals, unstable oxygen molecules that damage cells and contribute to aging. Omega-3 fats, monounsaturated fat and flavonoids dampen inflammation, a contributor to many chronic diseases. Monounsaturated fats may also benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control.
Certain nutrients also help preserve the length to telomeres, sequences of DNA that protect the ends of chromosomes from damage. Telomere shortening – which happens every time a cell divides – has been linked to aging, cancer and a higher risk of dying.
What to eat
Research suggests the following 10 (plus one!) nutrient-packed foods have the potential to slow aging in cells and promote longevity.
They’re packed with anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats along with plenty of folate, a nutrient that helps repair DNA and rids the body of homocysteine.
Add avocado to salads, soups and tacos; spread mashed avocado on whole grain bread instead of butter or mayonnaise.
These root vegetables are loaded with cancer-fighting anthocyanins and are a good source of folate. Beets also contain phytochemicals shown to reduce inflammation and homocysteine.
Add grated raw beets to salads and sandwiches; roast beets along with other winter vegetables; sauté cooked beets with a grated orange rind and a splash of orange juice.
A diet high in fibre – especially from cereal grains – is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular death. Fibre-rich cereals help keep blood cholesterol and blood pressure in check and improve insulin action.
Mix ½ cup of 100 percent bran cereal with your favourite breakfast cereal; add ¼ cup bran to a smoothie; sprinkle bran cereal over fruit salad and yogurt.
High in fibre and vitamin C, blackberries are also packed with anthocyanins.
Stir blackberries into yogurt, blend them in a smoothie or add a handful to breakfast cereal; toss into a spinach salad; mix blackberries to muffin and pancake batters.
This cruciferous vegetable is packed with glucosinolates, phytochemicals that mop up free radicals and help the liver detoxify carcinogens. You’ll get more anti-cancer benefits if you eat cabbage raw or lightly cooked.
Add shredded cabbage to salads, soups, wraps and fish tacos; include cabbage in stir-fries; make a homemade coleslaw with shredded carrot and fresh dill.
They’re high in plant protein and fibre, not to mention an outstanding source of folate – one half cup delivers nearly half a day’s worth.
Add lentils to pasta sauce instead of ground meat; toss cooked lentils into green salad; stir lentils into soups and stews.
Extra virgin live oil
Along with plenty of monounsaturated fat, extra virgin olive oil also delivers olecanthal, an anti-inflammatory phytochemical.
Drizzle olive oil over grilled or roasted vegetables; add olive oil to mashed potatoes instead of butter; made homemade salad dressing with olive oil and red wine or balsamic vinegar.
The juicy seeds of this fruit are an excellent source of potent antioxidants called polyphenols. They’re also source of fibre, folate and vitamin C.
Add pomegranate seeds to fruit and green salads, sprinkle over oatmeal, blend in smoothies, stir into yogurt and mix into muffin and pancake batters; top roasted vegetables with pomegranate seeds.
It’s an excellent source of alpha-carotene, a phytochemical shown to block the growth of cancer cells. Research suggests higher blood levels of the compound guard against death from cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Add pure pumpkin puree to smoothies, muffin, loaf and pancake batters; make a homemade soup with pumpkin puree, orange juice and curry power. (Pumpkin puree is sold in cans; unlike pumpkin pie filling it has no added sugar, fat or spices.)
As one of the best sources of omega-3 fats, salmon may protect from heart disease, Alzheimer’s and macular degeneration. Higher blood levels of omega-3’s (they type in fish) are also related to a slower rate of telomere shortening.
Add cooked salmon to an egg white omelet; grill salmon and vegetable kebobs; top a spinach salad with canned salmon as a change from tuna.
This leafy green delivers when it comes to lutein (for eye health) and vitamin K (for strong bones). Like lentils, spinach is also an exceptional source of folate.
Add spinach leaves to pasta sauces, soups and omelets; use spinach instead of lettuce in sandwiches; serve steamed spinach with a splash of raspberry vinegar.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.