The legendary fountain of youth doesn’t exist. There’s no hidden, over-flowing sacred spring tucked away in the mountains someplace where magical water will wash away all the bad things we’ve done to age our bodies prematurely.
The secret to a vital and long life comes down to what we do and don’t put in our bodies. Stay away from drugs and smoking, limit alcohol and caffeine consumption, and try to incorporate at least a few of the following superfoods into your diet each and every day.
Blueberries have more polyphenol antioxidants than any other fruits you’ll find growing in nature. You might be surprised to learn that despite their sweet sugary flavor, they don’t contain very much sugar. A handful of these berries every day can reduce your chance of an early death by as much as 30 percent! The antioxidants found in blueberries have also made them a popular brain food. In fact, this berry fruit has been affectionately dubbed the “Brain Berry” by the USDA’s Laboratory of Neuroscience (source). Blueberries and their European cousin the bilberry score higher in antioxidant content than all other foods and help prevent cellular degradation and destruction throughout the entire body.
Avocados used to get a bad rap among fat-fearing foodies due to their high fat content. The fact that a cup of chopped avocado has 21g of fat isn’t a bad thing though. Science has found conclusively that the human body thrives on using dietary fat from natural whole foods for energy, as well as skin and bone maintenance. Even better, dietary fat from natural foods like avocados helps the body balance cholesterol levels. This superfood is also loaded with fiber, B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium (more than that found in a banana.)
Bananas are often revered for their potassium content, but the real magic in this fruit comes from the folate. Folate is essential for tissue growth and maintenance, and has been proved to be helpful in preventing heart disease, stroke and many types of cancers. They also come with 20 percent of the recommended daily dose of vitamins C and B-6, along with 10 percent RDA of magnesium. Don’t load up on more than one a day though, as a single banana contains 24g of readily available plant sugar which will disrupt insulin levels if you over-consume them.
Apples are loaded with several antioxidants. Most notably quercetin; which helps maintain cardiovascular and respiratory system health, and also acts as a stress-busting enzyme to suppress excessive cortisol release in the body during high-stress situations. A single medium apple also has 4.4g of fiber with a perfect 50/50 ratio of soluble to insoluble fiber. While they’re often considered high in vitamin C, you’d have to eat a lot of them to get your full daily value. A medium apple has 14 percent of your D.V. of this vitamin. Keep in mind that the high sugar content (25g) means that while an apple a day is healthy, you don’t want to overdue it.
All legumes come loaded with tons of soluble and insoluble fiber in a relatively small serving size. Nearly all varieties are jam-packed with plant protein too, making beans an essential part of any vegetarian’s diet. It doesn’t matter what kind you choose, try them all! Black, pinto, fava, white, lima, navy, etc. Be careful to properly cook your beans, especially kidney beans, as the lectins in them can be toxic if they’re not cooked very thoroughly (learn more). Most beans are high in carbs but much of this energy isn’t digestible due to their high fiber content.
Particularly almonds and walnuts. Both are high in fiber and don’t rank high on the glycemic index. It’s often believed that the high fat levels found in most nuts make them an unhealthy diet choice, but if you eat them whole, in unprocessed form (ie., avoid nut butters altogether) they’re very healthy. In fact, a handful of Walnuts has over three times the levels of omega-3 found in a six-ounce portion of salmon. This Harvard study showed people who ate a handful of nuts every day were twenty-percent less likely to die of any ailment over a thirty year period. Go nuts!
Eggs pack a ton of protein per serving, at around 6 – 8g per egg. They’re also a brain-preserving food, offering more choline per serving than most any other food on the planet. Choline is essential for neurotransmitter activity which makes you smarter and more relaxed. Eggs also have plenty of the carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein; two major antioxidants responsible for keeping our eyes working optimally. Here’s something that most people don’t know about eggs: most of the choline, which is found in the yolk, is destroyed when cooked. You can offset this by gently poaching your eggs until they’re lightly cooked and the yolk is still liquid (how to poach an egg).
We’ve all heard about salmon’s high omega-3 fatty acid content. Many people have a hard time eating this fatty cold water fish though, since the taste is rather “fishy” when compared to the almost tasteless white meat found in halibut, tilapia, mackerel and other popular white-fleshed fish. Salmon is the healthiest of all pink-fleshed fish and the mighty Alaskan King variety have far more healthy fat and omega-3’s than others do. Six ounces of salmon packs over 24g of complete protein too. Like eggs, there’s plenty choline to be found in these fish, however, it’s best eaten as sushi or lightly cooked if you’re looking get the most out of it.
Wine can be a catch-22 when it comes to health improvement and longevity. Drink too much and you’ll quickly counteract the effects of the antioxidants it contains. Red wine often gets the nod over white, due to it containing a controversial natural phenol known as resveratrol that is believed to help prevent and treat heart disease, boost metabolism, stop cancer, and extend our lifespan. Studies have yet to prove any of this to be true. Whether you drink red or white, wine can make you live up to five years longer, provided you don’t overdue it: one glass per day for women, two for men.
Foods You Should Limit
Sadly, the list of things we shouldn’t eat in our modern “processed food society” is much longer than that which we should. Try to limit processed foods of all kinds and limit red meat consumption. Both are loaded with “solid fats” which can definitely lead to early heart disease, stroke, and have even shown to promote type II diabetes.
Processed foods of all kinds tend to have a massive list of ingredients, many of which cannot be pronounced, and also contain high levels of sugar which our body doesn’t need. The easiest way to avoid processed food temptation is to hit your local farmer’s market to do your shopping, instead of supermarkets and big box retailers like Walmart.
Stick to eating whole foods, like those listed on this page, and you’re sure to outlive your friends and neighbors who do not by at least 5 years!