Eating the right foods is one of the keys to a long, healthy life, but you don’t have to replace your entire diet with kale and broccoli. Just a few simple tweaks to your existing diet could add years to your life and help you think and feel better in your everyday life. Take a look at three changes to the diet that can affect longevity.
Eat a Diverse Range of Plant-Based Foods
The simplest change you can make is to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet. While that primarily comprises fruits and vegetables, you also want to eat plenty of nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. Plant-based foods tend to be nutrient-dense while staying low in calories, ensuring that you fuel your body without also adding extra pounds. Studies suggest that vegetarian diets, which are naturally high in plant-based foods, are associated with a lower risk of premature death, along with potential reductions in cardiovascular, renal, and endocrine mortality.
You should aim for about five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. If you are having trouble adding plant-based foods to your diet, the good news is that you don’t need to always go for fresh fruits and vegetables. While fresh produce is ideal, frozen and canned varieties are still just as healthy (assuming they do not include added salt and sugar). Packaged fruits and vegetables are readily available, generally cheaper than fresh counterparts, easy to prepare, and reduce waste.
Don’t forget nuts either. Nuts are an incredible source of protein, fiber, and antioxidants, along with healthy servings of niacin, folate, copper, and vitamins B6 and E. Studies suggest that the high concentration of unsaturated fatty acids and general density of nutrients may make nuts an important tool in maintaining cardiovascular health.
Choose Your Foods Wisely
Incorporating more fruits and veggies into your diet does not mean that you necessarily need to get rid of your meat, fats, or carbohydrates, but you should absolutely be more thoughtful about these foods and consider the nutritional content.
Meat tends to be the centerpiece of most meals in the Western diet. Try to maintain more plant-based sources of protein, including beans, nuts, and grains, which forgo the unhealthy fats often found in animal proteins. When you do eat animal-based protein, reach for fish, poultry, and other lean sources of protein instead of red meats. If you do need your beef, aim for leaner cuts.
In terms of preparation, avoid charring or overcooking your meats. This may add unhealthy carcinogens. Furthermore, try to avoid adding excess salt or fat to your meat.
Carbohydrates tend to have bad reputation thanks to their association with weight gain and ill health. In reality, carbohydrates play just as important a role in your health as any other foods, especially when you choose the right kinds. Opt for whole grains over refined, processed grains. Brown rice and whole oats are great, but consider quinoa, barley, kasha, and other lesser known whole grains.
Avoid trans fats, and use monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats and oils whenever possible. Your fat should be limited to about 20 to 30 percent of your daily total calories. Consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including trout, mackerel, or salmon, about twice a week. Omega-3 fatty acids may help to keep high blood pressure in check and maintain a healthy heart.
As you get older, you need more calcium to keep your bones healthy and strong. Yogurt and low-fat cheese are excellent natural sources of calcium. Vitamin D is also important to calcium absorption and metabolism. Your body naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun, but it can also be found in dairy, fortified foods, and fish.
Your calories fuel everything you do, from breathing to jogging a mile. Unfortunately, the average Western diet tend to include more calories than you actually need. Unused calories get stored as fat, contributing to weight gain and health issues.
Some studies find a link between calorie intake and longevity. Rodent studies suggest that a reduced calorie intake may increase lifespan. Studies on Okinawans have found a link between their traditionally low-calorie diet, extended lifespan, and a lower likelihood of disease.
That said, restricting your calories is not sustainable in the long-term and generally considered unhealthy. While calorie restriction may prevent weight gain, more study is necessary to determine the effects of limited calories on health.
However, if you feel that you may benefit from limiting your calories or too often find yourself overeating, experts recommend that the average adult should eat about 1,800 calories per day. Keep in mind that this does not take into account your general physical activity or metabolism.
Ultimately, eating for longevity comes down to what you have always been told: eat more fruits and veggies and avoid unhealthy, processed foods. Along with these simple diet changes, maintain a regular exercise regimen, and you should be well on your way to a longer life. To contribute to your longevity, consider taking a nutritional supplement from Sovereign Laboratories.