No discussion about foods that add years to your life would be complete without mentioning cruciferous vegetables, and Brussels sprouts are the best of the bunch. Thanks to their exceptionally high levels of antioxidants, fibre and vitamin K, regular consumption of Brussels sprouts can help ward off some of the leading causes of premature death, including cancers of the kidney, breast, stomach and prostate, as well as heart disease and diabetes.
Numerous studies have identified a strong correlation between diets high in fish and a reduction in all-cause mortality, and scientists believe fatty acids are responsible. Of particular importance are omega 3s and 6s, two closely linked nutrients that are incredibly difficult to find outside of seafood. Salmon is one of the best sources of these fatty acids, and it also boasts incredibly high levels of protein, iron, selenium and B vitamins.
Broccoli packs decent levels of fibre, vitamin C and vitamin A, but its most interesting compound is a phytochemical called sulforofane. Human and animal studies have linked sulfurofane to a dramatic reduction in the risk of heart disease and cancer, and it might switch on genes linked to longevity. To get the full benefits out of broccoli, cook it with mustard seeds to break the sulfurofane down and make it is as bioavailable as possible.
Once demonised for its high caloric content and levels of saturated fat, in recent years olive oil’s public image has been dramatically rehabilitated. A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is now touted for its wide range of health benefits, which include reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, fighting inflammation, warding off Alzheimer’s and protecting against various types of cancer. Many of these benefits are due to olive oil’s high content of monounsaturated oleic acid.
Up to one third of Americans consume insufficient levels of magnesium, an important mineral that helps regulate over 300 bodily functions. One of the best non-supplemental sources of magnesium is spinach, which – not coincidentally – is rarely eaten by Americans. As well as its high magnesium content, spinach also packs hefty levels of iron and folate, nutrients are important for maintaining bone and muscle strength into old age.
An increasing number of studies are indicating that a primarily plant based diet is strongly linked with longevity. Finding alternative sources of protein can be a struggle for regular meat eaters, but beans offer an ideal solution. As well as packing high levels of protein, beans also provide fibre, antioxidants, and other compounds that have been shown lower inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Blueberries are often considered to have given rise to the idea of ‘superfoods,’ and with good reason. The round, juicy berries may be small, but they boast impressive levels of a number of healthy nutrients. Of particular note are anthocyanines, compounds that give blueberries their colour and have been demonstrated to possess antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity properties. Although blueberries aren’t the only dietary source of anthocyanines, they are still amongst the best.
Nuts in general are a phenomenal source of heart-healthy fats and antioxidants, but when it comes to longevity walnuts come out on top. They may be a pain to get into, but their high levels of health-boosting compounds make the effort more than worth it. Walnuts contain alpha linoleic acid – an omega 3 – and polyphenols, both of which have been linked to reduced risks of heart disease and obesity, two of the leading causes of early mortality.
One of the single best dietary changes that can be made to enhance longevity is to ditch refined grains and starting eating whole grains instead. Studies show that people who eat two servings of whole grains a day are 25% less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of premature death in the United States. Whole grains – such as quinoa, farro and brown rice – contain high levels of antioxidants, polyphenols and fibre, many of which are stripped away when the grains are refined.
A genuine superfood, regular consumption of green tea has been linked to reductions in the risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke. Green tea’s health enhancing effects come from a unique polyphenol that seems to possess potent cardio-protective properties and can stop cancer cells from growing. As an added bonus, green tea also contains high levels of L-theanine, an amino acid that has been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
One of the current eras’ more trendy brassica, kale makes a great addition to smoothies, baked off for some crunch, or raw as a side salad. However you decide to consume it, you can expect a healthy dose of vitamins A, B, C and K, which can help with everything from eyesight to the immune system, and brain development. It has a high water content, meaning it’s filling without calories, and is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which explains why it goes so well with fish.
The edible seeds of the legume family, pulses incorporate beans, peas, and lentils. They form a large part of Middle Eastern and vegan diets, and for good reason, being one of the most fiber and protein-dense foods available. Research has linked balanced diets including pulses to a lowered risk of heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes and bowel cancer. This is attributed to their high vitamin and mineral content, being rich in magnesium, iron and zinc.
Corn provides the most calories per acre of any crop at 15 million, which matches rice. Anthropologists believe that is one of the key reasons behind the agricultural boom in North and South America, where corn originates. Rich in antioxidants and vitamin C and an excellent source of fibre, corn remains a staple food across the world thanks to its versatility, forming the bases of cereals, side dishes, stews and casseroles.
The signature fruit of millennials, avocado has become a global superfood. While its nutritional benefits might be drowned out a little as part of an eggs benedict, the monounsaturated fat content of avocados is actually really healthy, helping prevent heart disease and lowering blood pressure. Like most fruits, it’s also an incredible source of fibre and folates, which help the body absorb nutrients and have been linked with mental health improvements.
Gut health is an emerging area of health research that is showing a lot of promise. The microbiome of the intestines and stomach is essentially what breaks down food into the good and bad parts, and increased biodiversity is linked to all sorts of positive health outcomes. Getting more healthy bacteria into the gut can be tricky, that is where yogurt comes in. Filled with probiotics and endlessly versatile, yogurt is a cheap and tasty way to treat your body’s hardest workers.
This particular breed of soybean is rare among its peers as it contains a complete protein profile, providing the body with all nine necessary amino acids. They also offer a source of vitamin K, plenty of fibre, and antioxidants, all while being low-calorie and easy to prepare. Edamame beans also contain vitamin B6, which is commonly found in fish and poultry, making edamame beans a great option for vegetarians and vegans.
A favorite for gym preppers, sweet potatoes are absolutely packed with good things for your body and brain. High in vitamins and nutrients, sweet potatoes are also packed with beta-carotene, which protects the body from ‘free radical’ molecules. These damage cells via oxidation, which can lead to several chronic health conditions. Antioxidants protect against this process, with beta-carotene being one of the most effective ways.
Turmeric originates in South East Asia, and like most spices from this region it was initially used for preserving food as well as seasoning. Most spices contain high anti-bacterial properties and turmeric is no exception. Commonly used in natural medicines, turmeric has properties that help alleviate joint pain and inflammation. It also has a positive impact on gut health, and has been studied for its cancer-fighting agents.
Pickling is one of the first preservation techniques mankind created. Storing vegetables in a highly acidic brine, with about 2.5% salt by weight, causes a process called Lacto-fermentation. That’s what gives pickles their sourness and satisfying crunch, but also a huge amount of beneficial bacterial development. The probiotic compounds help with digestion and nutrient absorption, as well as being packed with vitamins and minerals.
An essential ingredient in sauces, stews, curries and salads, tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables in the world (even if they’re technically fruit). Their color comes as a result of lycopene, an antioxidant that reduces heart disease and certain kinds of cancers. There is also ongoing research into the effect of lycopene in preventing neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Due to their ubiquity, tomatoes have been closely studied for a while and are linked to better blood circulation, fertility and stronger immune systems.
Tinned fish does not appeal to everyone. Across Europe and South America, however, tinned fish is a delicacy, preserving their contents in a manner that often makes them ‘fresher’ than line-caught and flash-frozen fish that you might find in a supermarket. Quality aside, a study from Harvard found that eating just one or two servings of sardines a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by more than a third, thanks to their abundance of omega-3.
While prunes have obtained certain connotations as a natural digestion aid, this is far from the only benefit they provide. They provide high amounts of potassium and iron, help build bone strength, and can even help reduce cholesterol levels. They are also used as an appetite suppressant, thanks to their long digestion time and low glycemic content, meaning they release their energy slowly and keep you feeling full for longer.
It’s not always about the spice, as adding jalapeño to a dish can also provide many health benefits. Jalapeños are rich in vitamins A, B, and K, and full of the antioxidant carotene and folate. The spice chemical itself, capsaicin, is also very good for health. It has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease, aid in weight loss due to its effects on metabolism, and aid in pain relief. You can get these effects without the seeds if you need to.
As delicious as they are convenient, raisins contain far more antioxidants than most other dried fruits. They are shown to help lower blood sugar and blood pressure, as well as decreasing the risk of chronic disease. Raisins are also high in potassium while being low in sodium, which results in the body absorbing the potassium more effectively. As humans consume more sodium, their need for potassium increases, making raising an ideal on-the-go snack.
These tiny citrus fruits offer some huge benefits to the human body. Only slightly larger than a grape, kumquats are high in vitamin C and fibre and are about 80% water by weight. This makes them hydrating, refreshing and filling while keeping them low in calories relative to other citrus fruits. An abundance of phytosterols will also help block cholesterol absorption in your body, as they share a similar chemical structure.
Parsley is a common herb found mostly in garnishes or as a dry seasoning. While drying it out does remove some of its health effects, parsley has plenty to spare. A single teaspoon of the fresh stuff will get you 70% of your recommended daily vitamin K intake, as well as a large dose of vitamin A. It also contains a form of antioxidant known as apigenin which is being researched for its cancer-fighting properties. Dry parsley contains even more of this antioxidant.
Though they may be the worst nightmare of a Hell’s Kitchen contestant, scallops are dense with all kinds of sustenance. Low in calories and size, they are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which help balance blood pressure and heart health. Their high magnesium content also helps with circulation, as the mineral relaxes blood vessels, encouraging good circulation throughout the body. As if that wasn’t enough, scallops also taste incredible!
Usually consumed as a festive fall treat, pumpkin seeds are condensed balls of goodness. In the past they have been widely used across South America for their medicinal qualities, being high in protein, magnesium, manganese and zinc. They are also high in phosphorus, one of the most abundant minerals in the human body, which is responsible for healthy teeth and bones, a responsive nervous system and a healthy heart.
This seed was originally cultivated in Iran, but the majority are now produced in America. Almonds are highly celebrated for their delicious flavor and numerous health benefits, including vitamin and mineral content, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. They are also one of the world’s best sources of vitamin E, which studies have linked to decreased likelihoods of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. These qualities are present in all manner of almond products.
One portion of mustard greens can meet or exceed the daily recommended doses of vitamins K, A and C, as well as a host of minerals that will help keep your immune system strong. Additionally, the lutein and zeaxanthin present are shown to help protect your eyes from oxidative damage and reduce harm from certain kinds of light. On top of this, mustard greens have the usual benefits associated with brassicas, such as cancer-fighting compounds. These are popular as a pickled garnish in countries like Japan.
Abundant, tasty, healthy and cooks in seconds. It is easy to see how peas became a staple freezer ingredient. They contain over eight times the protein of spinach per cup, and 100% of your daily required vitamin C, alongside almost every other mineral and vitamin the body needs. While they lack the amino-acid content required to make up a complete protein, peas are rarely eaten on their own, which makes them an excellent health boost to any meal.
Almost every savory recipe in the world begins with peeling and chopping an onion. They form the base of cuisines from across the globe and are an essential kitchen mainstay. Luckily, they are also very good for you. Onions are high in quercetin, a flavonoid that activates proteins in the body responsible for blood sugar and blocking new fat cells from forming. In short, they’re a low-calorie addition to any meal that adds vitamins and antioxidants, and can help reduce cholesterol build-up.
Like all fruits, cherries have a whole host of vitamins. What makes them unique is how they affect weight and fat storage. Studies on mice have shown that a diet of antioxidant-rich cherries resulted in a 9% body fat reduction, versus other mice fed a more typical diet. The cherries also altered the way the fat genes expressed themselves, which presents a further incentive to study the already nutrition-packed fruit.
Soybean products in general have been found to have a number of positive effects, from lowering cholesterol and protecting lean body mass. Tofu wins out because it is relatively inexpensive and easy to prepare compared to other proteins, but it has also been found to help the body in ways unrelated to its protein content. The lecithins, saponins and isoflavones present in tofu have been shown to reduce hypertension and hyperglycemia, and even possibly improve kidney health in adults.
Everything in moderation, of course. That being said, high-quality dark chocolate is among the most potent sources of antioxidants and minerals in food. The cacao bean, being a seed, is also full of soluble fibre. Fatty oils like oleic acid, the same kind found in olive oil, have a positive effect on heart health, which alongside the antioxidants, can how a powerful effect on overall health. Research has also linked dark chocolate with healthier skin.
This natural nectar has been used in cooking and as a medicinal aid for thousands of years. It’s baffling that something anti-septic can taste so incredible, yet honey is cheap and has a myriad of uses. It can help with symptoms of anemia, as natural sugars like glucose and fructose provide energy and increase blood flow while being safer than refined sugars. Few other ingredients help you combat a cold and taste perfect drizzled over pancakes.
Cheese as an ingredient is most commonly used alongside other, quite unhealthy things. On their own, however, many kinds of cheese have high mineral contents, introduce probiotic diversity and of course, contain plenty of calcium which is key for building strong bones. Parmesan contains tyrosine, an amino acid that activates the same dopamine receptors as sugar, which can eliminate those sweet treat cravings. It also offers a good amount of calcium and protein. Be sure to tell the waiter all of this before they shave it over your Sloppy Giuseppe.
A fermented milk produced from grains, kefir contains all the benefits you would imagine from that description, plus several more. It’s high in fibre and wonderfully creamy. While it may be an acquired taste, kefir’s fermentation process ensures that it is loaded with healthy probiotic bacteria, which leads to better gut health, a stronger immune system and stronger digestion. It also helps fight bacterial infections, pausing the growth of hostile infections like salmonella and e. coli.
While a little old-fashioned, root vegetables are an essential component of many styles of cuisine, and beets are one of the healthiest options. They’re lower in calories than potatoes and much higher in vitamins and minerals, particularly manganese for bone strength, and copper, which aids energy production and the creation of certain neurotransmitters. In juice form, beet has become a favorite of athletes, as the nitrates seem to increase performance.
An essential flavor in virtually anything, garlic packs a burning punch that nothing else can quite match. Its medicinal qualities as a supplement have been shown to increase your protection against colds, reduce blood pressure and increase athletic performance. Garlic has also been observed to protect the organs from heavy metal toxicity, outperforming a drug prescribed for such conditions, due to the sulfur content.
Ginger is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Its benefits include aiding with digestion, reducing nausea, and helping to fight off the common cold. High in gingerol, this tasty root is packed with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Add ginger to your diet and watch your health improve.
Not just a tasty treat, kiwis are also one of the most wholesome snacks you can eat. Boosting your intake of vitamin C, the zesty fruit helps your body maintain healthy blood pressure, reducing the risk of strokes and heart disease. Furthermore, kiwis are also a fantastic source of fiber.
Eggs can supply almost every nutrient your body needs. They contain all nine essential amino acids, while providing some hard-to-find nutrients like vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Eggs are also a great source of choline – used for memory, brain function, and cell membranes. Though eggs once got a bad reputation for being high in cholesterol, if eaten in moderation they’re a health-boosting superfood.
Bananas are a prime source of antioxidants, including flavonoids and amines. These antioxidants prevent damage to your cells caused by free radicals, helping you live longer. Packing roughly 422 milligrams of potassium in each banana, it’s a fruit you don’t want to skip out on. Plus, they’re easy to have on the go – meaning you can sneak in your vitamins while you’re out.
Chia seeds may be small, but they’re mighty when it comes to health benefits. Full of minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and fiber, these yummy seeds are a sure way to live a healthy lifestyle. Chia seeds are easy to add to your meals, too, whether it’s on your morning porridge or poured over your lunchtime salad.
Asparagus feeds good bacteria to the gut, acting as a prebiotic. It’s also a rich source of folate, which helps to create healthy red blood cells and is important for cell division. Not only that, but some studies suggest that this fibrous vegetable can even help in fighting a hangover.
We all know that oranges are a rich source of vitamin C, but did you know that each orange contains over 100% of the daily vitamin C content your body needs? It may also surprise you to learn that oranges are also a great source of calcium, helping to keep your bones nice and healthy.
Both canned and fresh tuna are excellent sources of healthy proteins, though it’s best to find a water-based rather than oil-based can. Fresh tuna is even better still, boasting the claim of being the fish with the most health benefits. Filled with omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, minerals and an assortment of vitamins, it’s one fish you certainly want to add to your dinner plate.
Pomegranates are thought to help people with diabetes, inflammatory issues, and other health problems. The National Institute of Health claims that the succulent fruit can also help with treating or preventing prostate cancer, though further studies are still underway. Containing all sorts of nourishing nutrients, the pomegranate is a delicious fruit full of goodness.
It’s true – carrots are good for your eyesight! An abundant source of beta-carotene and lutein, carrots can prevent eye damage caused by dangerous free radicals. This tasty veg also stabilizes your blood sugar, supports digestive health and can prevent damage to your skin caused by the sun.
Blackcurrants promote eye, gut, brain, kidney, and liver health. These delicious currants carry a whopping four times the amount of vitamin C as oranges, and double the amount of antioxidants as blueberries. They can also soothe sore throats, strengthen your immune system and improve blood flow. Even the leaves can be used to make a nourishing tea infusion.
Chicken, unsurprisingly, is a rich source of protein, essential for building and repairing muscle. Chicken breasts also contain selenium, a trace mineral that helps proper immune function, fertility and thyroid health. It’s also a great choice in food that makes you feel fuller – removing the temptation for any unhealthy late-night snacks.
‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ is a phrase you’ve probably heard hundreds of times – but there’s truth to it. The fruit can lower your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, while promoting gut and brain health. All types of apple are good for you. Green apples have less calories and more fiber, while red apples are higher in beta-carotene and antioxidants.
Oats are a great source of protein – boasting a higher content than most other grains. Their main claim to fame is their high fiber content, with a 40g bowl containing roughly a third of your recommended daily fiber. They also contain a wide array of minerals including zinc, manganese, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and selenium.
Arguably the tastiest fruit out there, strawberries are also a great way of giving your body a little boost. These juicy berries have benefits related to blood sugar levels and heart health, while also being plentiful in vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B9, and manganese – all of which your body needs.
Watercress is an easy, healthy addition to incorporate into your diet. This little miracle leaf contains over 50 vital minerals and vitamins, containing more calcium than milk and more vitamin E than broccoli. Furthermore, watercress can help to slow skin aging, lower blood pressure, and maintain healthy iron levels. Sprinkle a handful of watercress over your dinner and watch the benefits roll in.
While radishes and beets may look very similar, they belong to different vegetable families. Although beets contain more dietary fibers and protein than radishes, the latter contains less calories and significantly smaller amounts of sodium. They’re also good for the heart, and support liver and digestive functions.
Cauliflower is a heart-friendly veg that brags a nutrient-filled profile. High in glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, the fluffy vegetable is thought to slow the growth of cancer cells, while its anti-inflammatory effects can boost overall immune health and fend off heart disease. You can also use it as a replacement for rice – sneaking more nutrients into your diet.
Turnips can be used as a replacement for potatoes, being put in casseroles, cooked into stews, or used as an alternative for mash. This mighty root veg is rich in bioactive compounds, which protect against harmful bacteria. Dubbed as a superfood, turnips are rich in calcium, a variety of vitamins, and potassium.
Lemons have been described by some members of the health industry as being the healthiest food on Earth. The sour fruit is a powerhouse when it comes to vitamins and minerals, lowering your risk of cancer, heart disease, and kidney stones. When life gives you lemons, it’s best to accept them into your diet with open arms.