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.