In general, the best diet to live longer is based on 3 simple rules:
Rule 1: Less carbohydrates.
Not only less sugars, but also fewer starches. So, fewer sugary foods, but also reduce intake of bread, potatoes, pasta and rice. Replace these starchy foods more with vegetables, legumes, mushrooms or quinoa.
Rule 2: More healthy fats.
This includes fats from walnuts, chia seed, flax seed, fatty fish, dark chocolate, avocado, olives, olive oil, and so on.
Rule 3: Less animal protein.
If you eat animal protein, substitute red meat with white meat (poultry, like chicken and turkey) and fatty fish when possible.
However, there are specific foods that are very healthy and can slow down aging. These are foods like:
1. Blue fruit: blueberries & blackberries
You want to protect your brain against aging? Think blueberries! Blue fruit contains many brain-friendly, neuroprotective substances like anthocyanidins, which have powerful health effects. Blueberries can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and slow down brain aging in general. They are associated with a reduced risk of heart attacks and lower blood pressure (R), and animal studies show that blueberries added to the diet show a considerable reduction in cardiovascular disease. A study with more than 120,000 participants showed that a handful of blueberries per day can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Blueberries can protect DNA against damage, even against strong cosmic radiation, as studies have shown. That’s why NASA even studied blueberry intake to protect the DNA against cosmic radiation for their astronauts in space.
2. Green leafy vegetables: kale, broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts
People who often eat green leafy vegetables have brains that are up to 11 years younger. Also, their blood vessels are much healthier. People who regularly eat leafy greens had about 16 percent less risk of a heart attack (R). Of course, if you combine eating leafy greens with other healthy foods, and with exercise, your risk of getting a heart attack goes down even further. Green leafy vegetables are full of important vitamins, minerals, and health-promoting substances like sulforaphane. Long-lived people who live in Longevity Zones often eat lots of great leafy vegetables.
3. Dark chocolate, containing at least 70 percent cacao
Dark chocolate has been associated with less risk of heart disease, hypertension and even a reduced risk of dying (R). Giving pre-diabetic patients dark chocolate lowers their blood pressure. Dark chocolate contains flavanols, which have various health effects, like reducing inflammation, keeping your blood vessels flexible and even slowing down the aging process itself. Dark chocolate can even improve skin aging (R). This makes sense, because the skin and blood vessels are made of many similar building blocks (such as elastin and collagen).
4. Fatty fish: salmon, sardines, anchovy, herring
These foods have been linked to less cardiovascular diseases, auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, and healthier brains. Fatty fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and are important components of the cell membranes, especially in the brain, eye and blood vessels. Consuming omega-3 rich foods protects against Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease and aging-related eye diseases, like macular degeneration.
5. Seeds, like pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and flax seeds
These little nutritious kernels are filled to the brim with vitamins, minerals and health-promoting substances, such as omega-3 (especially in chia seeds and flax seeds). They are also full of fiber. Such little fire bombs help you to drastically increase your fiber intake, which can also reduce your risk of heart disease and dying (R).
6. Nuts, especially walnuts
Many studies show that people who eat a handful of walnuts have considerably less risk of a heart attack (R). Nuts also protect the brain against Alzheimer’s disease and improve cognitive functioning, even in young people. Walnuts contain many substances that are healthy for our brain and blood vessels, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and many other phytochemicals. Nut intake has been associated with less insulin resistance (R,R), improved endothelial function, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension (R), and even colon cancer (R).
7. Green tea and white tea
Green and white tea are very beneficial for our blood vessels. People who regularly drink green tea have less risk of heart disease, hypertension and stroke. But green tea can also reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
8. Coffee, in moderation
Coffee can be healthy, as long as you drink it in moderation, which means a maximum of 3 to 5 cups per day. Coffee can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and various cancers. Coffee mitigates these health benefits through myriads of ways, like reducing inflammation, especially the kind we see creep up during aging (inflammaging) (R). Specific components in coffee, like caffeine, can slow down the protein clumping that plays a role in aging by virtue of their anti-amyloidogenic activity. Coffee can also have some draw-backs, like an increased risk of osteoporosis, but if you look at the big picture, and the aggregate of all studies done, you clearly see that coffee intake in moderation has far more benefits than drawbacks.
9. Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, peas
Legumes can reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes (R). Legumes are healthier alternatives to potatoes, rice or pasta, which are very starchy foods that can cause high sugar peaks and that are essentially empty calories. In contrast to potatoes, pasta and rice, legumes contain more fiber, less starch, and more healthy micronutrients, like potassium and magnesium. In fact, every portion of rice that is replaced with legumes reduces the risk of the metabolic syndrome by 14 percent.
10. Mushrooms: oyster mushrooms, enokitake, portobello
Mushrooms could reduce the risk of cancer (R,R) and boost the immune system, through specific mucopolysaccharides, beta-glucan, and lentinan-like molecules. They are excellent alternatives to starchy foods like potatoes, pasta and rice, given these foods cause high super peaks, which is unhealthy and accelerates aging. Mushrooms cause much lower sugar peaks. Mushrooms can also be great alternatives to meat. Too much meat, especially red meat, increases the risk of various diseases of aging.
11. Herbs, especially ginger, rosemary, oregano and garlic
Herbs have anti-inflammatory, DNA protective, and even epigenetic effects. They also have a beneficial impact on the gut microbiome.
12. Olive oil (and olives)
Olive oil reduces inflammation. It’s also good for the skin when taken orally. Olive oil can also reduce the risk of aging-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease (R).
Apples are a bit of an under-appreciated food, despite being powerful health contributors. Apples contain various substances that can reduce the risk of asthma (by reducing inflammation), heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer (R). One apple per day could reduce the risk of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx by 18%, esophagus by 22%, colorectal with 30%, larynx by 41% and breast and ovary cancer by 24% (R,R). Another study found that women who consumed more than 71 g of apple per day had a 43% reduction in heart disease mortality compared to women who did not eat apples (R).
The health effects of apples can be explained by the many healthy substances they contain like hydroxycinnamic acids, flavonols, dihydrochalcones, anthocyanins and flavanols that improve the health of the blood vessels, immune cells, brain cells, and even the microbiome.
14. Fermented foods, like natto, sauerkraut, kimchi
Fermented foods contain healthy bacteria, which are important to maintain a good microbiome. Your microbiome consists of tens of thousands of billions of bacteria that live in your gut and have a big impact on your health, and even emotions and cognition. Fermented foods are foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and natto. Natto, widely consumed in Japan, contains also large amounts of vitamin K, which is very healthy for the blood vessels, bones and skin. Women who consumed large amounts of natto and vitamin K-rich foods in general had considerably less risk of osteoporosis (R).
Pomegranate keeps the blood vessels young and flexible. It improves endothelial function (endothelial cells are the cells that line the inner walls of our blood vessels), reduces the stickiness of blood platelets, and lowers oxidation of cholesterol particles, which otherwise become sticky when too oxidized, clinging to the blood vessel walls and contributing to atherosclerosis. Pomegranate is also very healthy for the skin (R,R,R). Specific components of pomegranate can also be converted by the microbiome in substances that slow down aging, like urolithin A (R).
There are many ways to increase your intake of these foods.
For example, make a vegetable smoothie with pomegranate, or add lots of blueberries to your breakfast quinoa porridge, or make lots of soups which are a great way to increase your vegetable intake. Instead of snack bars you eat nuts with a piece of dark chocolate, or just a plain old simple apple.
Because you know, an apple a day keeps aging a bit more at bay! 😉