Want to eat your way to 100? We’ll start with the scientific consensus: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, high in nutrients and low in calories, is your best bet for a long life.
Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight is also a clear contributor to the magic combination of longevity and quality. Even a few extra pounds can statistically take years away.
What else? The length of our telomeres, the protective structures found at both ends of our chromosomes, is another factor linked to lifespan and chronic disease. We may even be able to influence our telomere length with diet and maintaining a lean weight. Researchers believe that a diet high in antioxidants (which is to say, a diet based on whole plant foods) protect telomeres from destructive oxidative stress.
It likely goes without saying that high-sodium, high-sugar diets are not the way to go. So which foods keep us at our best, longest?
A recent nutritional study was conducted in partnership with the people of a remote region in China, where residents regularly live to be 100+ years old. One glaringly prevalent part of their diet? Sweet potatoes. High in flavonoids, vitamin C, fiber, carotenoids, and slow-burning carbohydrates — the sweet potato is one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
Eat all of the plants
This one takes a while for people, particularly in the US, to embrace. Populations whose diets are primarily plants tend to live longer. Many of us were raised with a meat-based protein as the focus of dinner, and veggies were a side dish. Well, flip it. In fact, consider cutting the meat out entirely. Plant based diets have been proven to decrease inflammation, lower blood sugar, and improve digestion, and yes you can get all of the nutrients and protein you need.
More mangoes and papayas, please
A big part of eating well isn’t just adding things to your diet, but replacing. Most of us have a little bit of a sweet tooth. It may take a bit of training, but you can teach your body and brain to love fruit again. Instead of reaching for that sugary fat free frozen yogurt, reach for a papaya. Better yet, make a papaya smoothie. It’s a sweet way to end a meal or satisfy an afternoon craving with the added bonus of vitamins and minerals.
Eat your broccoli.
Nutritional powerhouses filled with fiber and vitamins, like broccoli, can lower your risk of heart disease by 76% and may even play a role in decreasing your risk of breast cancer. As an added bonus, the inflammation-fighting and circulation-boosting powers of the antioxidants in fruits and veggies can banish wrinkles.
Healthy fats and lycopene
Ready for a delicious double-win for longevity? Add an avocado and tomato salad to your daily routine. Avocados can lower your LDL “bad” cholesterol while raising your HDL “good” levels, and they help your body absorb heart-healthy vitamins like beta-carotene and lycopene. Lycopene is also an important nutrient in the fight against cancer, and there’s no better source than rosy red tomatoes.
The bottom line: if you want to follow the example of centenarians around the world, a whole-food, plant-based diet should be the foundation of your lifestyle choices. We are always working to provide clean options to ensure that those choosing to transition to a plant based lifestyle have easy access to the nutrition they need to lead a healthy, active life. It’s never too late to start.