5 Foods for a Longer Life

If you believe what you see on the silver screen, the key to extending your lifespan is finding a magical amulet or being a test subject in a shady government experiment against your will (or at least so says my grandson). In reality, a long and healthy life is much simpler to achieve. Eating well and staying active are two of your best defenses against creaky joints and chronic illness. More specifically, here are five foods that have the power to add years to your life.

Tomatoes

Whether they’re straight from your garden or crushed into a zesty pasta sauce, tomatoes are one of your body’s best weapons against inflammation. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which has anti-inflammatory properties as well as the power to lower your LDL (a.k.a. bad cholesterol) according to some studies. Research has also shown that eating tomatoes can decrease your risk of developing cancer and a variety of chronic diseases.

While you’re loading your plate sky high with tomato slices, consider adding some red bell peppers too. Like tomatoes, they also have the power to reduce inflammation thanks to the presence of phytochemicals and carotenoids, two antioxidants that studies have connected to longevity in women over 60. Red bell peppers — like most red fruits and veggies, actually — are also high in vitamins A, B6 and C.

Beans

I don’t have to tell you why beans get a bad rap. Here’s the thing: they’re positively packed with fiber, protein and potassium. What’s more, they’re cholesterol-free and low in sodium and fat (including saturated fat). Given all this nutrition, it should come as little surprise that recent research suggests this magical food can reduce your risk of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is the workhorse of the Mediterranean diet. From sauté pans to salad dressing, it’s virtually everywhere on the menu — and with good reason. It contains two key ingredients for a long life. First, it’s rich in monounsaturated fats, which are wonderful for your heart. Second, it’s full of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that’s demonstrated a variety of brain-boosting properties. More specifically, it’s been shown to combat cognitive decline and assorted memory impairments, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Yogurt

We’ve all seen those Jamie Lee Curtis commercials; you know the ones. Turns out the “Halloween” star is right: probiotics are a crucial component of a lengthy life.

The catch? Scientists aren’t quite sure why they can add years to your life. The leading theory is that they improve your body’s insulin usage and minimize the impact of stress. Whatever the cause, all research suggests that adding protein-packed yogurt to your diet is a smart move.

Red Wine

I know, I know: Wine isn’t a food. It is, however, part of a healthy, antioxidant-rich diet. That’s because it contains flavonoids, which are bioactive compounds that, in some trials, have shown increased longevity and decreased chronic illness in women over 60.

Don’t take this as a green light to drink a bottle of pinot noir every night parked in front of your home entertainment system. Instead, aim for 1-2 glasses per day to prevent health problems such as cancer, depression, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and cognitive deterioration.

If you don’t drink alcohol, opt for tea instead. Green tea has been proven to suppress the appetite, kick-start the metabolism and decrease stress, as well as reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Black tea, meanwhile, has demonstrated a power to lower your risk of cancer.

Incorporating plenty of these nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich foods (and drinks!) into your diet may take a little practice, but it’s well worth the effort. For a longer life, ditch the prepackaged items and eat colorful meals full of bold, bright and body-boosting natural foods.

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