Longevity tip: 6 everyday foods eaten by those who live longer

Feb 06, 2022
Growing your own vegies has its own health benefits. Source: Getty

In a world saturated with healthcare advice, it can be difficult to keep up with which foods are still recommended by dietitians and which aren’t.

A simple way of approaching this is by looking at the diets of those living in the “Blue Zones”. According to Healthline, the term “Blue Zone” was first used by the author Dan Buettner as a label given to the geographic regions of the world “in which people have low rates of chronic disease and live longer than anywhere else”.

In his novel titled, The Blue Zones, Buettner identifies five Blue Zones: Icaria (Greece), Ogliastra (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica), and the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California (USA).

Each Blue Zone is unique in itself, varying in its customs, food choices, environmental influences, and other defining lifestyle factors of the region. However, according to an article published by Well+Good, there are five consistent factors that each Blue Zone has in common, including their tendency to maintain a strong inner purpose, community connection, and powerful social relationships.

In addition to these factors, a diet consisting of predominantly plant-based, anti-inflammatory food choices is said to be largely at play for prolonging the longevity of people living in the Blue Zone regions. According to research conducted on these kinds of foods, a diet of fruits and vegetables, beans, olive oil and fish have been identified as the main food groups for combating illness, disease, inflammation and, consequently, premature death.

Here’s the list of six anti-inflammatory foods/food groups that are said to work wonders for longevity:

 1. Olive oil

Olive oil (the natural oil derived from olives) is said to be hugely beneficial for a healthy heart due to it being full of beneficial antioxidants and healthy monounsaturated fats, predominantly oleic acid, which makes up 73 per cent of the oil extracted. Olive oil is hugely versatile and can be used in essentially any kind of cooking, whether it’s simply “wetting the pan” or increasing flavour and adding depth.

 2. Whole grains 

We’ve long been told that we should eat more grains, constantly being prompted by others to “opt for that wholegrain over the white”, but many of us don’t fully understand the benefits whole grains can offer for longevity. Whole grains, which fall under two primary categories – grasses and pseudo-grains – digest slowly in the body, which means they provide us with highly-beneficial, prolonged sources of energy. Wheats, oats, corn, amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat are all nutritious whole grains and worthy choices, with individually distinct benefits for your diet.

3. Fresh fruit 

We have long known that eating fruits and vegetables is better for us in the long run but we haven’t often been told what fruits are the most beneficial or the kinds of benefits they provide. Fruits are rich in antioxidants, especially berries, which are said to have the largest anti-inflammatory properties. According to registered dietitian and nutrition expert, Sharon Palmer, “Berries, like blueberries, have anthocyanin compounds that act as potent anti-inflammatory agents. They have multiple benefits for the brain, heart health, and can help stave off chronic illness.” Squash is another great fruit option, and contains Omega-3 fatty acids that work to support inflammation and heart health.

4. Vegetables 

Freshly grown vegetables are an essential addition to a well-rounded diet. Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables including spinach, kale, Brussel sprouts, broccoli and cabbage are just some examples of high-antioxidant options to include in your everyday meals. They also contain sulphur compounds that have been linked with cancer protection. The associated benefits from growing your own vegies are said to exceed just the nutritional and health benefits and extend to mental wellness, helping reduce stress.

5. Beans 

Beans are definitely one of the more underrated foods on this list, with many having little knowledge of the truly wonderful benefits they can offer. Beans are packed with plant-based protein, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that all work to reduce inflammation in the body. Some great bean options include white beans, chickpeas, and fava beans, which are particularly popular choices in the Blue Zone, Sardinia, whereas black beans are the beans of choice in Nicoya. Whatever the selection, beans of all kinds are said to inspire good inner health and are a great carbohydrate substitution for things such as white bread or white rice.

6. Nuts and seeds 

Nuts and seeds are well-known and loved for their nutritional and longevity benefits. They are rich in heart-healthy fats, which work to decrease the risk of illnesses such as heart disease. As with any food group, there are a few particular standouts in terms of the benefits they offer, with walnuts (omega-3s), almonds (healthy fats), and pistachios (protein and healthy fats) taking the prize for some of the best nuts your body will thank you for. Just make sure you keep your serving size to a small handful.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

How many of these do you include in your everyday diet?

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