Fad diets come and go, but healthy eating remains the same. It should come as no surprise that focusing on good nutrition is one of the best things you can do to up the odds of living to 100. Do your best to increase the length and quality of your life by incorporating these foods for longevity into your diet.
“We all want to live longer, but the key is living healthy for longer,” says Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, writer, speaker and host of the “Nourishing Notes” podcast. She says research on the Blue Zones – places with a disproportionately high number of people who live past the age of 100 – shows that lifestyle factors impact healthy aging.
Of course, there is no magic food guaranteed to lengthen your life. But even during the COVID-19 pandemic, heart disease remained the leading cause of death in the United States. The good news is that you can choose foods that boost your heart health, dramatically improving your odds of a long, healthy life.
“Think of your body like a nice car and food like gas,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN and inclusive plant-based dietitian in Stamford, Conn. “You need to fuel your body with quality foods that help every aspect of health, from heart health to bone health and more.”
So, what are the best foods for longevity? Below, Gorin and Shanta Retelny recommend eight foods that help to keep your body running smoothly and ward off life-shortening diseases.
Salmon, sardines and canned, light tuna all contain omega-3 fatty acids, good fats which Shanta Retelny says help “[fend] off inflammation in the brain and cardiovascular system.” In other words, eating fatty fish can reduce your risk of life-shortening heart disease, and possibly even dementia.
Pro tip: Shanta Retelny recommends aiming for at least two servings of fish per week.
There are many health benefits to plant-based eating, according to Gorin. “Eating a vegetarian diet can help lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease,” she says.
But if you’re reducing meat consumption or eliminating it entirely, it’s essential to incorporate plant-based proteins. Gorin suggests tofu.
Nuts and seeds can also help fill your protein quota. Shanta Retelny says pistachios offer the most protein per serving.
“With aging, our bodies become less sensitive to insulin,” she adds. “Eating higher protein snacks like pistachios can help keep your blood sugar in a healthy range.
Arugula is a food for longevity because it’s brimming with nitrates. Gorin says research suggests that eating one cup of nitrate-rich vegetables each day can “dramatically lower your risk of heart disease.”
Pro tip: Gorin recommends eating arugula in a salad, like this one with a vitamin C-rich citrus dressing.
Are you worried about shortening your life because of high cholesterol? Eat more oatmeal!
Shanta Retelny says the fiber in whole-grain oats helps keep cholesterol in check and your heart healthy. “Oats have a number of beneficial compounds that can fend off inflammation and promote healthy aging,” she adds.
Both Gorin and Shanta Retelny promote eating berries for longevity. Healthy cholesterol levels help prevent heart disease, and people who regularly eat berries tend to have lower cholesterol.
Shanta Retelny says that wild blueberries pack an especially heart- and brain-healthy punch. “According to the MIND Diet, creating a berry habit at least twice a week can keep your brain healthy and functioning well in your older years,” she says.
Pro tip: Think of berries as more than just a snack. Gorin suggests incorporating them into everything from pancakes to homemade ice cream.
Pomegranates are packed with antioxidants, which can “fend off damage from free radicals that cause our cells to age,” explains Shanta Retelny. They’re also tasty when pressed into juice – just be sure to get whole-pressed fruit juice for the full benefits.
Pro tip: Shanta Retelny suggested making a longevity-boosting spritzer by combining POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice with sparkling water.
Research suggests eating five or six prunes per day can help prevent bone loss, and that’s great news for anyone hoping to live to 100.
“Bone health may be a surprising thing to think about when it comes to longevity, but think about hip fractures, for instance,” says Gorin. “Within the first year of injury, they can come with an increased risk of death.”
Pro tip: Gorin suggests boosting your daily intake by blending prunes into smoothies or adding chopped prunes to salads.
In general, cutting down on processed items and incorporating these foods for longevity into your regular eating habits will help you feel better, for longer. Your doctor or nutritionist can also help guide you in the right direction.
Which of these longevity foods do you love? Share your favorite ways to enjoy them in the comments below.