How the healthy foods you eat today serve you well into old age.
Squeeze in Omega-3s
Some nutritionists call it the anti-aging fat: Omega-3s help cells function properly, lower cholesterol, and fight inflammation, and in turn can reduce risk of cancer, heart attack, and stroke.
A Journal of Nutrition study found that one omega-3, DHA (found in cold-water, fatty fish), is particularly helpful for maintaining the health of aging brains. Incorporate two 3-ounce servings of salmon, lake trout, herring, or other fatty fish in your weekly diet. Include daily servings of omega-3s from other sources, such as flaxseed, spinach, kale, or walnuts.
Fill up with fiber
The daily recommendation for fiber is 25 to 35 grams per day, but most Americans eat half of that or less. Not a good idea: Fiber may protect against cancer, promote heart health, and keep blood sugar levels steady.
In an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, researchers found that each additional 10 grams of dietary fiber consumed daily reduced the risk of death from coronary heart disease by 17 percent. To increase your consumption, try fiber powerhouses like cooked lentils (8 grams per ½ cup), raspberries (8 grams per cup), or cooked chickpeas (6 grams per ½ cup).
Commit to eating a variety of colors
You already know colorful foods are healthy, but the trick is fitting in a variety of vibrant fruits and vegetables. (Eating plenty of carrots alone won’t get you all the nutrients you need.)
Produce is packed with antioxidants, which slow the aging process by protecting cells from damage. But some antioxidants, like vitamin C, are water-soluble. That means they remain in the body for only four to six hours, and need to be replenished regularly. Include a fruit or veggie with every meal and snack, and aim to have at least three different colors each day.
Enjoy olive oil
Luckily, healthy veggies like kale and spinach taste wonderful with another powerhouse food: olive oil.
A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil contains the same powerful polyphenols antioxidants as many teas. Polyphenols may protect against certain cancers, such as breast and colon cancer.
One study in the journal Neurology found that older people who regularly used olive oil for cooking, salad dressing, or with bread had a 41 percent lower risk of stroke then their peers who never consumed it. Related research has found that people who regularly consume olive oil are less likely to develop heart disease.
“Rice” to the occasion
Skip the takeout box of white rice. The outer coating of brown rice, which is removed to make white rice, is what contains the bounty of age-fighting micronutrients.
Brown rice is a good source of fiber and may help protect against cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. It’s also a great source of magnesium, which works with calcium to help muscles contract and to build bones and teeth—important for elderly you.
Rural farmers in Asia who eat brown rice have been found to live longer and have a lower risk of disease than city dwellers, who typically eat mostly white rice.
Your body’s cells need daily repair, and protein provides the building blocks for the process.
Getting the right amount of lean protein (30 percent of daily calories, or 120 grams based on a 1,600-calorie diet) is necessary for health, especially as you grow older and cellular damage becomes more frequent.
Good sources of protein might include skinless white meat from chicken or turkey, or vegetarian options such as green peas, quinoa, nuts, beans, and tofu.
Kick back with wine
Some centennials attribute their lengthy life to red wine, a claim that appears to be backed by science.
A University of Virginia study found that resveratrol, a compound in red wine, inhibits a cancer-feeding protein. Drinking just one glass of red wine three or four times a week may be enough to fight off emerging cancer cells.
Related research has found that a red wine compound hampers the formation of beta-amyloid protein, an ingredient of the brain plaque found in Alzheimer’s patients. A brain-healthy suggestion from researchers: Flex your noggin with a crossword puzzle followed by a glass of red wine. But remember, moderation is key—going overboard too often can actually increase risk of cancer, along with heart disease and pancreatitis.
Practice good hydration
Fill up that water bottle. “Water is important in cleaning our body,”says Kristi King, MPH, RDN, LD, CNSC, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“It helps flush out toxins and also helps prevent constipation.” Another benefit of H2O? It lubricates our joints, so we can move a little easier, which is important as we age. Drinking plenty of water every day can also improve our mood and help with weight loss.
Cut down on sugar
Reducing the sweet stuff in your diet can decrease your risk of a host of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Too much sugar intake can also raise your risk of developing a condition that people don’t often hear about: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which occurs when the liver develops some cirrhosis and fatty deposits.
Plus, ditching sugar will save you money at the dentist—and save your teeth. And if you reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, you’re also likely cutting down on your overall caloric intake and preventing weight gain. “And then your knees are going to thank you,” King says.
Learn to cook
Figuring out your way around the kitchen will not only save you money, but it could also add to your longevity. By cooking at home, you can control what goes into the meals you make and the portion sizes. You’re also likely to consume fewer calories than in a restaurant or by ordering in.
Plus, getting creative with herbs and spices, and recipes can be a good stress reliever, King says. And breaking bread can also bring people together. “We encourage families to have at least one sit-down, table meal per day,” King says. “By learning to cook at home, that’s going to help foster that relationship.”