We all know we can’t live forever. Not to be morbid or anything, but that’s just kinda how things work. However, what we all can do is be sure to take care of the bodies we’ve been so gracefully given by nourishing them the best ways possible, which will naturally extend our chances of a longer life. Though genetics can predispose us to many forms of disease, we should also give ourselves a little more credit when it comes to controlling our health. Dietary choices are among the most influential factors that change how we age, how long we live, and the quality of our life throughout the years. One of the best choices we can make is to work more plant-based foods into our meals however we can.
Why Plants Help Extend Longevity
A plant-based diet is one of the most well-studied diets in terms of extending longevity and reducing the risk of disease. Though people of all walks of life have different health needs and not one food can completely cure any form of disease, overall, plant-based eating is the way to go for the long-haul. Some of the most aging foods a person can eat are highly acidic foods (sugar, alcohol, refined grains), processed foods, and red meat. These foods have been linked to heart disease, obesity, diabetes and/or inflammation, among a host of other illnesses that only dampen our quality of life.
As you attempt to eat healthier to extend (and improve) your life, remember to focus on some of the most important foods and add them to your day however you can. This will help prevent you from thinking about what you aren’t eating, instead of what you can eat. Here are eight terrific foods to start with:
1. Leafy Greens and Green Vegetables
Green foods are a foundation food, if you will, the cornerstone of any healthy living plan. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, and are nature’s most alkaline-foods that we have available to us year round. Collards, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, arugula, herbs, and spinach are some of the best to choose since they’re rich in calcium, protein, iron, chlorophyll and magnesium, along with B vitamins, vitamin C and vitamins A and E. They’re also some of the best anti-cancer foods you can eat, have been shown to prevent disease and even reverse some major health issues.
2. Berries and Pomegranates
Berries and pomegranates are incredible anti-aging foods. They help keep the brain healthy by boosting mental health, protect the heart, prevent cellular deterioration that can lead to Alzheimer’s, and best of all, they’re low-glycemic so they will help keep you focused and ensure your insulin levels are balanced. Berries are also packed with fiber, which regulates your digestion, keeps your cholesterol in check, and they promote a healthy weight needed for optimal longevity. The dark hues in berries indicate their high antioxidant content, which ward off free radicals that cause aging and prevent the growth of new cells you need to stay healthy. Along with berries, pomegranates are also packed with antioxidants that promote a healthy heart and good circulation. They’re also an excellent anti-cancer food, and contain brain-boosting nutrients that can prevent memory loss and brain deterioration.
Cacao (raw chocolate) is not just any old superfood; it’s in fact one of the best foods to promote a healthy heart and brain for life. Cacao is rich in properties that lower your blood pressure, blood sugar, and its healthy fats are actually good for your body, unlike animal-based saturated fats. If you’re watching your fat intake, opt for raw cacao powder or even organic cocoa powder. Both cocoa (heated chocolate) and raw cacao are excellent heart-healthy foods that improve circulation, hormones, and even your digestion thanks to their benefits on boosting good gut-bacteria – another key health concern to focus on for longevity.
4. Orange Root Vegetables
Sweet potatoes, winter squash, pumpkin, and carrots are rich in beta-carotene (the plant-based form of vitamin A) that your body needs for optimal immunity. Orange vegetables are also some of the best anti-cancer and heart-healthy foods you can eat, along with a good source of fiber and complex carbohydrates that are metabolized slower in the body than most grains and refined carbs. This benefits your insulin levels and reduces inflammation that leads to life-threatening forms of disease such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Orange vegetables are also incredible anti-aging foods since they promote good skin health due to their high antioxidant content. Aim to eat at least one of these foods per day in some form or another.
Said to be “the new apple,” avocados are now adored not just for their taste, but also for their incredible heart health benefits. They’re one of the most nutrient-dense foods, containing vitamin E, protein, magnesium, B vitamins, little to no carbohydrates, and are a great source of anti-inflammatory fats that reduce aging in the body. Avocados are also a water-packed source of fat, which means they’re very easy to digest and absorb, which makes them easier on your body than processed or some animal-based fats. Be sure to consume them ripe, which is when their nutrients have fully developed and they’re best tolerated. Try using them to replace some of your favorite dairy dishes; they’re a great way to conquer cravings and are a fantastic multi-purpose food to use in the kitchen.
This healthy source of fat, fiber and protein is one that we all need to be enjoying however we can. Not just another source of calories, coconut is one powerful food for your immune system and brain, which both need to be cared for in order to prolong lifespan. Coconut helps the body produce adequate levels of cholesterol needed for the production of certain hormones that promote a youthful body, even though it’s free of added dietary cholesterol. This makes coconut and other plant-based fats a great option to consume in place of added dietary cholesterol from animal-based foods. Coconut is also anti-inflammatory, promotes healthy insulin levels, and is richer in fiber than any grain out there per serving. It’s also a terrific food to boost your gut bacteria, which keeps harmful microbes away that can lead to sickness and disease. Choose raw and organic forms of coconut however possible, and check out these other benefits coconut has to offer for more inspiration!
7. Walnuts (and other Nuts and Seeds)
Nuts and seeds are some of the best foods to add to your longevity diet plan because they reduce inflammation in all parts of the body, especially the heart and blood. Walnuts are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which improve brain health, heart health, and even your weight. Hemp seeds, flax, chia, and pumpkin seeds are other great sources of omega-3 fats. Almonds and cashews are also wonderful sources of magnesium and iron that promote a healthy metabolism and ward off fatigue and high insulin levels. Though high in fat, nuts and seeds can actually help regulate your metabolism, prevent cravings for unhealthy foods and are a good source of dietary fiber you need to stay healthy for life. Consume 1-3 ounces per day either in whole form or in the form of nut and seed butters.
Last, but certainly not least, apples are most definitely a food to add to your longevity plan. Whether they’ll keep the doctor away is hard to say for sure, but considering they’re one of the top anti-cancer and heart-healthy foods out there, we have no excuse not to give these incredible fruits a chance. Green apples are lower in sugar than red apples, boost gut health, and have also been shown to prevent cancer, though red apples are higher in some antioxidants. This means you should eat a variety of all types of apples to get the full benefits. This is easy to do since different varities are available all year round. Whether you go for a Granny Smith, an Opal apple, or just a simple Fuji or Golden Delicious, apples make a great everyday superfood to add to your grocery list.
Other great choices to extend your longevity include beans and legumes (if you tolerate them), mushrooms, cabbage, olives, and cauliflower. You should also aim to get in some heart-healthy exercise daily, even if that’s just a brisk 30 minute walk, some mild yoga, or walking around the park on your lunch break. Adequate sleep levels and stress management will also reduce inflammatory markers that promote aging and shorten our lifespan.
When it comes to your food choices and meals, be sure you explore all our recipes for plenty of ideas. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you when you find yourself needing more candles on the birthday cake with every healthy, passing year!
Lead Image Source: John Morgan/Flickr