9 Foods To Eat Every Day for a Longer Life

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September 19, 2022
handful of blueberries
Courtesy of andrew welch on Unsplash

Living a long, happy, and healthy life is a goal for most of us, but how exactly are we supposed to do that? While many determinants of life expectancy are out of our control, science tells us there are a few things we can do to increase the length and quality of our lives, and that includes changing how we eat.

A 2022 modeling study found that by changing from a typical Western diet (high in red and processed meat, refined carbohydrates, and sugar-sweetened beverages) to a more optimal diet including fruits, veggies, whole grains, and other plant foods, men and women could expect to increase their lifespan by an average of more than a decade.

While there’s no magic pill, research shows us that eating more of these foods every day could help you live a longer and healthier life.

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1. Salmon

Fatty fish like salmon are rich in the essential omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. Omega 3’s have long been known to support a healthy heart by influencing blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammation in the body.

Researchers followed over forty-two thousand men and women for 16 years. They found that those who ate the most fish had an 8% to 9% lower risk of death compared to the people who ate the least fish, per a 2018 study in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

Need some inspiration? Try one of these 11 quick and delicious salmon recipes!

2. Blueberries

To keep your heart and your brain young, make sure you have a steady supply of blueberries in your diet! These dark-colored berries are high in antioxidants, notably anthocyanins, that can help protect your heart and your mind when eaten regularly.

Researchers analyzed the results of the landmark Nurses Health Study of over 16,000 women over age 70. They found that the women who ate the highest amount of berries were able to slow down their cognitive aging by an average of 2.5 years.

When it comes to keeping your heart healthy, a cup of blueberries a day may be all you need to reduce your risk of heart disease. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition studied 115 adults with metabolic syndrome and found that just one cup of blueberries a day led to a 12% to 15% reduced risk of heart disease compared to those who ate half a cup or fewer blueberries daily.

soup with pumpkin seeds

Courtesy of Cala on Unsplash

3. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of the mineral zinc. Just a quarter cup of shelled pumpkin seeds has 25% of your daily value of this essential mineral. When it comes to aging, not having enough zinc can create some serious problems for your health including hair loss, diarrhea, eye and skin sores, and loss of appetite. It’s a key player in immune health, cell division, making DNA and proteins, the ability to taste and smell, and healing wounds.

Try some of these other high-zinc foods to boost your immunity and support healthy aging.

4. Mushrooms

Portabellas, Shitaki, or cremini – whichever mushroom you prefer should be a routine part of your diet for a longer life. Two antioxidants found in mushrooms — ergothioneine and glutathione — are potent free-radical fighters, helping to save your cells from oxidative damage.

So, which mushroom has the highest amount of antioxidants? Researchers found that porcini mushrooms have the most while white button mushrooms come in at the bottom (but still have more than most other foods).

5. Olive oil

The Mediterranean Diet has a reputation as one of the healthiest eating patterns in the world, and some of that credit could belong to olive oil. Several studies have found a relationship between eating olive oil versus other fats and lower incidences of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and some cancers.

Researchers in Greece studied the effects of exclusive olive oil intake versus not eating any olive oil among older adults. They found that exclusively eating olive oil (versus other fats) was significantly associated with a successful aging index that included health-related lifestyle, social, and clinical factors compared to eating no olive oil. These benefits are thought to be related to the antioxidant properties in olive oil that help to fight free radical damage.

three different kinds of beans in spoons

Courtesy of Tijana Drndarski on Unsplash

6. Beans

Beans have fiber, antioxidants, protein, and plant sterols, making them a true “superfood.” A half cup of black beans has 7.5 grams of protein, 7.5 grams of fiber, and is a good source of iron, folate, and phosphorus.

Researchers analyzed seventeen different studies on the effects that beans had on the incidence of death. They found that the risk of death from all causes decreased by up to 16% with increasing beans in the diet up to 150 grams (about 3/4 cup) per day.

Not sure how to eat this superfood each day? Here are 7 easy ways to use a can of black beans tonight at dinner!

7. Leafy Greens

The darker the better when it comes to your leafy greens. Greens like kale, spinach, swiss chard, and bok choy are dark in color and high in nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, folate, magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, and fiber.

In a study of 960 adults ages 58 to 99, researchers found that those who ate an average of 1.3 servings of leafy greens per day had slower cognitive aging, equal to 11 years younger!

Tried kale and didn’t like it? Toss some of these other 10 nutritious leafy greens in your cart!

8. Garlic

Besides warding off vampires and making your marinara sauce award-worthy, garlic has many health benefits that could improve your lifespan. It’s loaded with important plant chemicals like antioxidants, potassium, sulfur, and over 20 different polyphenolic compounds that may have potential health benefits.

Studies have found that garlic supplements may help improve some bone diseases, lower cholesterol, and reduce inflammation, but the effects of the food itself have not been studied extensively.

There’s limited and early evidence that garlic may protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s. More research on garlic and its health benefits is needed.

9. Dark Chocolate

What would a long life be if you didn’t have a bit of chocolate to enjoy in it? The research is in that you can enjoy your chocolate in moderation of course, but you may want to stick to the dark stuff.

Dark chocolate, specifically, has flavonoids that help to release nitric oxide in the body, improving blood flow and heart health. Milk chocolate and white chocolate has little to no flavonoids and are often higher in sugar, so you won’t get the same health benefits from them.

Read next: People in Blue Zones Eat These 7 Foods  — and They’ve Been Shown to Increase Longevity

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