Blueberries, spinach and salmon have long been regarded as “longevity” foods. These, and many other healthy foods, deliver impressive amounts of unique nutrients and phytochemicals tied to healthy aging.
As part of an overall healthy diet, these foods have the potential to contribute to slower biological aging by fending off harmful radicals, dampening inflammation and providing necessary nutrients.
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In so doing, they help bolster our immune system, keep our muscles and bones strong, maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and support brain health, among their many other longevity benefits.
Keep in mind, though, it’s the combination of foods you eat on a regular basis that matters when it comes to healthy aging. That said, the following 25 foods (the list is far from inclusive) deserve a place in your healthy diet pattern.
Excellent source of vitamin E (60 per cent of a day’s worth in one-quarter cup), an antioxidant that protects brain cells from free radical damage. (Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells, contributing to illness and aging.) Almonds are also a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
Packed with heart-heathy monounsaturated fat, avocados are also an excellent source of gut-friendly fibre (13 g in one 200-gram fruit) magnesium, potassium, vitamin E and folate, a B vitamin used to make DNA, the genetic material in cells.
Beetroot contains betalains, phytochemicals that act as antioxidants, reduce inflammation and aid the liver’s detoxification system. Also a good source of nitrates, natural compounds shown to help preserve muscle strength and function. And the green beet tops are an outstanding source of carotenoids, phytochemicals that support brain health and vision.
Berries are rich in polyphenols, phytochemicals that protect brain cells by scavenging harmful free radicals, reducing inflammation and removing toxic proteins that accumulate with age. The MIND diet for brain health advises five one-half cup servings per week.
Black beans deliver, per one cup, 15 g each of protein and fibre, 120 mg of blood-sugar and blood-pressure-regulating magnesium (women need 320 mg daily; men require 420), along with brain-friendly choline and vitamin E. And thanks to the dark colour of black beans, their antioxidant content outranks that of other beans.
An exceptional source of carotenoids, antioxidants thought to guard against cognitive decline and heart disease. One cup of the cooked squash delivers 9.3 mg of beta-carotene, triple the daily amount experts recommend consuming to help prevent chronic disease. One cup also serves up a decent amount of fibre (6.5 g) and potassium (582 mg), along with folate, calcium and magnesium.
Chia seeds provide, per two tablespoons, 7 g of fibre, 127 mg of calcium and 3.6 g of an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha linolenic acid or ALA (females require 1.1 g of ALA daily; males need 1.6 g.) Research suggests that chia seeds can help lower LDL cholesterol and may have blood-sugar-lowering effects.
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Edamame deliver 16 grams of protein per three-quarters of a cup (shelled), as well as 8 g of filling-fibre, 8 mg of iron and a decent amount of blood-pressure-regulating calcium, magnesium and potassium. Also an excellent source of isoflavones, phytochemicals thought to help guard against breast and prostate cancer.
Outstanding source of anti-inflammatory alpha linolenic acid (ALA); you’ll find 3.2 g of ALA in two tablespoons. Also provides lignans, phytochemicals with anti-cancer properties.
Green tea is an excellent source of flavanols, phytochemicals shown to help reduce inflammation, relax blood vessels, improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. Drinking three to five cups of flavanol-rich green tea a day is tied to protection against cardiovascular disease. Green tea flavanols may also mitigate age-related memory loss by increasing the growth of neurons and blood vessels in the brain.
Excellent source of probiotic bacteria and yeasts, which help promote a diverse gut microbiome. Also a good source of protein, calcium (315 mg per one cup) and vitamin B12 (nearly three days’ worth per cup).
Exceptional source of satiating plant protein (18 g per cup) and fibre (15 g per cup), as well as folate, a B vitamin that helps keeps nerves working properly (one cup provides 358 mcg; adults need 400 mcg daily).
Oats offer B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and zinc along with prebiotic fibre, which nourishes beneficial gut bacteria. Also a good source of LDL-cholesterol-lowering soluble fibre and avenanthramides, unique antioxidants that protect LDL cholesterol particles from free radical damage.
Olive oil (extra-virgin)
Rich source of monounsaturated fat, the type that helps reduce inflammation and prevent blood vessel dysfunction. Also contains oleocanthal, a phytochemical thought to help protect brain cells from beta-amyloid, a protein involved in Alzheimer’s disease.
Citrus fruit offer plenty of vitamin C (70 mg per one medium orange), folate and potassium, as well some calcium, magnesium and fibre. Plus, citrus fruit contains flavanones, phytochemicals shown to protect brain cells, strengthen blood vessels and reduce inflammation.
Pomegranate seeds are packed with brain-friendly antioxidants called polyphenols, pomegranate seeds also deliver fibre, folate, vitamins C and K, along with a decent amount of potassium. They are also linked to heart health and gut health.
Pumpkin supplies, per one-half cup, an entire day’s worth of vitamin A, a nutrient that helps maintain a strong intestinal lining – a barrier against viruses and bacteria – and ensures that immune cells work properly. It’s also a decent source fibre, potassium and vitamin K (add it to smoothies and overnight oats).
Pumpkin seeds provide protein, fibre, iron, zinc, potassium and plenty of magnesium (191 mg per one-quarter cup). And they’re a very good source of manganese, a mineral that’s needed for a healthy immune system, strong bones and normal nerve and brain function.
Red rice delivers plenty of anthocyanins, the same powerful antioxidants found in berries and red grapes. Also an exceptional source of manganese (one cup supplies 80 per cent of a day’s worth); the mineral is also used to make to superoxide dismutase, an enzyme that defends the body from harmful free radicals.
Salmon is one of the best food sources of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA), anti-inflammatory fats shown to combat cell aging by preventing special sequences of DNA, called telomeres, from shortening; telomere shortening is linked with the aging process and poorer health.
Spinach is packed with beta-carotene (11.3 mg per one cup cooked), brain-friendly lutein (20.3 mg per one cup cooked) and vitamin E. One cup also provides a noteworthy amount of iron (6.4 mg) and both potassium (839 mg) and folate (263 mcg). Spinach is also one of the best food sources of betaine, a phytochemical that acts as an antioxidant and helps reduce inflammation in the body.
Sunflower seeds provide 80 per cent of a day’s worth of vitamin E and plenty of folate, magnesium and selenium. Preliminary evidence suggests that a daily intake of sunflower seeds, as part of a healthy diet, may help lower elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Swiss chard is an exceptional source of antioxidants including vitamin E, beta-carotene and lutein, a phytochemical that helps guard against cataract and macular degeneration. Also an outstanding source of blood-pressure and blood sugar-regulating magnesium (961 mg per one cup).
Walnuts contain plant protein, fibre, heart-healthy fats and plenty of the omega-3 alpha fatty acid linolenic acid (ALA). Also a good source of polyphenols, phytochemicals that help promote communication between brain cells and the growth of new brain cells.
Yellow bell peppers
Yellow bell peppers is an outstanding source of immune-supportive vitamin C (171 mg per one-half of a large pepper) and carotenoids, phytochemicals tied to heart, brain and eye heath.