Let’s face it, we all want to stay young and youthful forever. But the truth is, growing older is a natural and inevitable part of life. However, just because we can’t stop the aging clock doesn’t mean we can’t strive to age gracefully and live longer, healthier lives. And while there’s no magical formula for immortality, what we put on our plate plays a vital role. That’s right, certain nutrients have been linked to improved longevity and a reduced risk of age-related diseases, and this is important regardless of age. Shown to support cognitive function, cardiovascular health, and overall well-being, a well-balanced diet may be the ultimate longevity hack.
Ahead, learn the top nutrients for longevity and overall health. Plus, how to incorporate them into your diet with ease!
Food As Medicine: Why A Healthy Diet Is Key to Longevity
Based on data, a healthy diet — full of nutrient-rich whole foods — can lead to a long, healthy life. According to research published in The BMJ, individuals who adhered to a Mediterranean-style eating plan (based on foods like fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains) experienced a 25% reduced risk of premature death compared to those who did not adopt such a diet.
Plus, there’s research to suggest that consuming diets rich in plant-based whole foods can not only reduce the risk for serious diseases (such as diabetes and heart disease) but can also increase overall “health gains” for people of all ages.
The Top Nutrients for Longevity
When it comes to nutrients for longevity, vitamin D is vital. It doubles as both a vitamin and a hormone, and is not only needed for bone health, but it also plays a significant role in numerous physiological processes. In fact, optimal levels of vitamin D are associated with a reduced risk for chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory disorders. Plus, it’s needed for a healthy immune system, bone health, and mood support, which are all important aspects of living a healthy life.
How to boost your vitamin D levels:
- Spend daily time in the sunshine
- Increase your intake of fatty fish, including salmon, mackerel, and sardines
- Incorporate vitamin D-fortified foods such as tofu, yogurt, and dairy and non-dairy milks
- Incorporate more mushrooms, such as maitake and shiitake, into your diet
- Include the egg yolk when enjoying eggs
- Speak with your doctor about checking your vitamin D levels and discussing whether or not supplementation is necessary
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases and cognitive decline, and shown to improve brain health, heart health, and inflammation, omega-3s are a must-have nutrient to include if you’re looking to prolong your life and improve your health.
Multiple studies have shown that a higher intake of omega-3s is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. Plus, omega-3 fatty acids possess potent anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to help reduce inflammation (a culprit for chronic disease) in the body.
Foods rich in Omega-3s include:
- Fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines)
- Shellfish (such as clams and oysters)
- Egg yolks
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
Oxidative stress caused by free radical damage is believed to be a major culprit linked to cellular aging and chronic disease. But, the good news is that antioxidants, as their name implies, can help protect against and counteract this harmful free radical-induced damage. Linked to improvements in cognitive function, cardiovascular health, and overall well-being, antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin A, polyphenols, and flavonoids have been shown to support longevity and anti-aging.
Not only do they improve internal health, lowering inflammation and blood pressure, improving blood flow, and reducing the risk of chronic conditions, but they’ve also been shown to benefit the skin and reduce physical signs of aging. Considering oxidative stress contributes to skin aging, including wrinkles, age spots, and loss of elasticity, it makes sense that antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E, along with compounds like polyphenols and carotenoids, have been shown to reduce inflammation, improve skin texture, enhance collagen production, and promote a youthful appearance.
Found in a variety of whole foods like fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds, here are some of the best sources of antioxidant-rich foods:
- Berries, such as raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries
- Dark leafy greens, including kale, spinach, and collard greens
- Sweet potatoes
- Nuts, including almonds and walnuts
- Seeds, such as pumpkin and chia seeds
- Citrus fruits
- Green tea
Fiber is one of those nutrients that seemingly does it all! It improves digestion, increases satiety, supports gut health, promotes microbiome diversity, regulates blood sugar, supports weight loss… the list goes on. So, it’s not surprising that a high-fiber diet has been consistently linked to better digestive health, cholesterol support, and even a reduced risk of chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
Fiber is also important as it serves as a prebiotic, providing nourishment for beneficial bacteria in the gut. Research suggests that a diverse and balanced gut microbiota is crucial for optimal immune function and overall health. In fact, a healthy gut is associated with a lower risk of various diseases, including gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and even improved mental health.
Ideally, we should aim for 25-30 grams of fiber per day.
To boost your intake, include fiber-rich foods such as:
- Fresh berries, including strawberries and raspberries
- Chia seeds
Did you know that magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body? It supports bone health, helps regulate blood pressure, and helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Involved in so many vital functions, it’s one of the best nutrients for longevity and overall health!
Magnesium-rich foods include:
- Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dark chocolate
One of the most widely recognized benefits of vitamin C is its role in supporting immune function. In doing so, vitamin C helps defend the body against illnesses, infections, and diseases. While this can enhance short-term health, a robust immune system is also crucial for maintaining optimal health as we age, as it helps protect against age-related diseases and supports the body’s ability to repair and regenerate cells.
Vitamin C also plays a significant role in promoting longevity, particularly in relation to collagen synthesis and skin health. By supporting collagen synthesis, vitamin C helps counteract the effects of aging (particularly supporting skin strength, elasticity, and firmness), promoting healthier and more youthful-looking skin.
Vitamin C-rich foods include:
- Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes
- Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries
- Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard
- Bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
Probiotics & Prebiotics
Gut health has become the topic of discussion in the wellness world, for good reason! A growing body of research has revealed the intricate connection between our gut and overall health. Thus, they are must-have nutrients for longevity.
According to numerous studies, probiotics, the tiny organisms in our gut, play a vital role in regulating our immune system, cardiovascular health, weight, and even our mental and emotional health. With so many important roles, of course, we want to keep these gut microbes healthy, happy, and well-nourished. And how do we do this? By feeding them with prebiotics! Prebiotics are gut-supportive carbohydrates that work synergistically with probiotics to promote a flourishing gut environment.
To support gut health and longevity, consider adding these prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods to your diet.
Prebiotic-rich foods include:
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Green banana
- Dandelion greens
Probiotic-rich foods include:
Eat Your Way to Longevity
When considering healthy aging hacks, it’s important not to overlook one of the most fundamental aspects of longevity: our diet! As the saying goes, “Food is medicine,” and when it comes to supporting longevity, the nutrients we consume play a vital role. Of course, our diet is just one piece of the puzzle. Prioritizing self-care, and staying mentally and physically active, and getting adequate sleep is vital, too! However, incorporating nutrients like vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants into your daily meals can provide a solid foundation for a healthy and vibrant life and serve as a powerful longevity hack, supporting our well-being from the inside out.