“Foods that help you live longer… uh-huh.” I can feel your skepticism from here!
But hang with me!
As far-fetched as it sounds at first, your diet — and the foods that make it up — can, in fact, directly influence how your body ages.
See, food, like every other object in the universe, is made up of molecules. And when you eat a food, the molecules that make it up physically enter your body.
Once there, these molecules bum around in your bloodstream and your cells. And just like you do when you bum around your house, they mess with stuff. They move stuff around and turn things on and off. They clean things and make things dirty. Things are just different then if they weren’t there.
Now, one of the most common things food molecules mess with in your body are the machines responsible for clearing out toxins and mutagens (DNA-damaging chemicals). Some food molecules turn them off and some food molecules turn them up.
And this is a huge deal for aging!
This is because the accumulation of damage from toxins and mutagens that are allowed to stay in a cell is thought to be one of the main drivers of the aging process. The damage causes rapid declines in cell health and function, and without healthy cells, your body starts to age!
So, through their ability to kick toxins and mutagens to the curb and prevent cellular damage, there are certain foods that help you live longer.
Learn More: Natural Anti-Aging Secrets: Healthy DNA
What are the Foods That Help You Live Longer?
While many (if not most) foods can influence aging one way or another, based on the current research, there are seven that totally blow the competition out of the water in terms of anti-aging potency:
- Green Tea
- Leafy Greens
- Cruciferous Vegetables
- Dark Chocolate
Let’s check each of these out in more detail!
Every single one of your cells has the ability to produce energy. In fact, they have to produce energy to support their metabolic functions. Unfortunately, as a byproduct of energy production, your cells also produce molecules known as reactive oxygen species (ROSs).
If left unchecked, ROSs cause oxidative damage to your cells, limiting their ability to function effectively.
Though the production of ROSs is completely unavoidable (we need the energy to survive, so we certainly can’t stop producing them), they can be neutralized by antioxidants. As a result, cell damage from ROSs can only really happen when their production exceeds the number of antioxidants within the body.
And that is exactly where berries enter the discussion.
Berries (with specific emphasis on strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries) contain an absurdly high number of antioxidant compounds. That means that berries have the capacity to stave off the negative effects of ROSs within the body and slow the aging process.
As an added bonus, the consumption of these berries has also been suggested to improve the health of both your brain and cardiovascular system. This suggests that berries may not only allow you to live longer but that those extra years may also be more likely to be disease free!
Green tea is one of the most popular beverages on the planet. In fact, it has been consumed across the globe for centuries – and for good reason, too!
Similar to berries, green tea is full to the brim with antioxidants known as green tea catechins. Within the human body, these catechins have been shown to protect against cellular mutations (by limiting the effect of mutagens), fight against harmful oxidative damage caused by ROSs, and even reduce the risk of cancerous cell formation within the body.
As a result, green tea is one of the most potent beverages to reduce the cell damage that occurs with normal aging!
Many people may have blown off the increased kale consumption seen among the health conscious as nothing more than a fad. But on closer inspection, it looks as if they may have been on to something.
Leafy green vegetables (such as kale, spinach, and lettuce) are full to the brim with the key nutrients vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin K1, lutein, and beta-carotene. While the exact mechanisms remain unclear, these nutrients protect the brain against inflammation, neuronal damage, and nerve cell death.
With this in mind, the regular consumption of these vegetables has been shown to slow age-related declines in cognition in older adults. This suggests that these key vegetables may hold one of the keys to maintaining cognition well into your golden years.
Commonly consumed cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, and bok choy. These unique vegetables are some of the foods that help you live longer because they contain a unique group of compounds known as glucosinolates.
Glucosinolates are sulfur-containing compounds that give cruciferous vegetables their recognizable aroma and somewhat bitter taste. However, that’s not all these amazing nutrients provide us with.
You see, once they are in the body they are broken down into a number of key nutrients, including indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane. These compounds actually interact with the cells of the body in a number of different ways. They help protect your cells against oxidative damage and dampen cellular inflammation. With this, they also reduce cancer risk and induce the death and regeneration of damaged and poorly functioning cells.
All of these stave off age-related diseases and associated declines in function!
Prepare yourself for a mild deluge of nerdy information here. (Don’t worry, it will all be worth it).
On the ends of your DNA chromosomes, you have tiny little structures known as telomeres. Telomeres are specialized ‘caps’ that protect your DNA from damage when your cells divide. (Think of those little plastic things on the end of your shoelaces that stop them from unraveling). When your cells divide, telomeres prevent your DNA ends from fraying and make sure all your DNA makes it into the new cell.
This actually protects your cells from mutations, key drivers for the aging process.
But over time (as your cells go through an absurd number of replications) your telomeres gradually become smaller. This happens until they become so small that the cell can no longer replicate and be certain that all your DNA will remain safe.
When it’s no longer able to divide safely, it simply stops. This is a state known as cellular senescence. Cells in this state can no longer function in an entirely effective manner. And unfortunately, they are also unable to divide to produce new, high-functioning cells.
Cellular senescence is thought to contribute to age-related declines in tissue quality and function in a very big way.
But interestingly, many of the antioxidants found within nuts and seeds have been shown to increase telomere length. This slows the onset of cellular senescence, ensuring cells’ ability to function and replicate longer! And the longer your cells hum along happily, the more you’re able to slow aging!
Turmeric is fast becoming one of the more popular health foods at the moment (turmeric latte anyone?). While it has long tradition of use in Indian and Asian cooking, it’s only now gaining popularity throughout the rest of the world in response to the growing recognition of its health benefits.
And these health benefits come (mostly) down to a compound known as curcumin.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, exhibiting both powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects within the human body. Research suggests that it reduces chronic inflammation by suppressing the production and secretion of molecules that drive the inflammatory response. This can, in turn, promote cellular health and function, and reduce the inflammation-driven stress that leads to age-related declines in health.
As an added bonus, curcumin also induces apoptosis, or cell death, of cancerous or poorly functioning cells. By helping remove these cells from the body, turmeric can be considered one of the foods that help you live longer.
And, finally, while it almost sounds too good to be true, chocolate may also help you live longer. You see, cocoa contains a key group of compounds known as flavonoids.
In your body, these flavonoids actually interact with the brain and cardiovascular system at a cellular level to boost blood flow to the brain. This increased blood flow protects the health of your brain and nervous system, protecting it from damage caused by toxins and chemicals absorbed from the environment, all while reducing neuroinflammation.
That the consumption of dark chocolate (remember, the more cocoa the better) can stave off age-related cognitive decline and dementia. With this, it can even protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Chocolate can help ensure you maintain your mental capacity throughout the entirety of your life.
Take Home Message
Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean a slow and painful decline into a loss of function and independence. In fact, by ensuring you take the right steps, you can slow down the aging process significantly.
You can easily and effectively add these seven foods that help you live longer. They offer a simple (and delicious) way of limiting the negative effects of aging!