By making smarter food choices, you just might be able to add years to your life. There are many unknown variables when it comes to life expectancy, but by living a healthy lifestyle, getting exercise and eating a nutrient-rich diet, you can help slow the aging process and maybe even ward off age-related diseases such as osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease. Try adding these seven super foods to your diet to get started.
- Olive Oil – Years ago researchers from the Seven Countries Study concluded that the monounsaturated fats in olive oil were largely responsible for the low rates of heart disease and cancer on the Greek island of Crete. Now we know that olive oil also contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that may help prevent age-related diseases.
- Yogurt – Soviet Georgia was once rumored to have more centenarians per capita than any other country. Nutritionists speculated that their consumption of yogurt was the secret to their longevity. The age-defying powers of yogurt have never been proven directly, but yogurt is rich in calcium, which can help ward off osteoporosis and it contains “good bacteria” that help maintain gut health and diminish the incidence of age-related intestinal illness.
- Fish – Researchers have always been interested in why the native Inuits of Alaska are remarkably free of heart disease. Scientists have come to believe that it is the extraordinary amount of fish they consume. Fish is an abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help prevent cholesterol buildup in arteries and protect against abnormal heart rhythms.
- Chocolate – The Kuna people of the San Blas islands, off the coast of Panama, have a rate of heart disease that is nine times less than that of mainland Panamanians. How, you ask? The Kuna drink tons of a beverage made with generous proportions of cocoa, which is unusually rich in flavanols that help preserve the healthy function of blood vessels. Having healthy blood vessels can lower the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and dementia.
- Nuts – Studies of vegetarians show that those who eat nuts gain, on average, an extra two and a half years of life. Nuts are rich sources of unsaturated fats, offering benefits similar to those associated with olive oil. They’re also concentrated sources of vitamins, minerals and free radical-fighting antioxidants.
- Wine – There have been many studies on the French, their diet and their alcohol consumption. Red wine has been the focus of much of the research. Scientists have found that red wine contains resveratrol, a compound that likely contributes to its benefits—and, according to animal studies, may activate genes that slow cellular aging.
- Blueberries – In a landmark study published in 1999, researchers at Tufts University fed rats blueberry extract for a period of time that in “rat lives” is equivalent to 10 human years. These rats outperformed rats who were fed their regular diet on tests of balance and coordination when they reached old age. Compounds in blueberries (and other berries) mitigate inflammation and oxidative damage, which are associated with age-related deficits in memory and motor function.