Healthy Food Choices for a Longer Life

healthy salad 150x150 Healthy Food Choices for a Longer LifeIs it safe to assume that a person who maintains a healthy body weight is making better food choices and will live longer? Many people feel that making healthy food choices is more about achieving a desired weight than it is about longevity. Yet many of the same strategies used for weight loss also slow the aging process – making nutritious food choices more important than ever.

Here are some practices that increase your chances of living a long, healthy life:

Increase Antioxidants

Everybody knows that they should be eating more fruits and vegetables, but it is easier said than done. In our world of tempting fast foods, sugary treats and quick pre-packaged foods, fruits and vegetables can be easily forgotten. However, these are the very foods that are loaded with antioxidants which protect our bodies from harmful free radicals that can speed up the aging process. Many fruits and vegetables have been dubbed “super foods” and with good reason. Dark colored produce is loaded with disease fighting substances that you will not want to skip. Aim for having a fruit or vegetable at every meal and snack with a variety of colors, or try adopting a vegetarian diet at least once a week. Vegetarian diets are responsible for lower death rates that are associated with common critical health conditions according to Everyday Health.

Include Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The food we eat not only effects our physical body, but our mind as well. You know about omega-3′s for their role in lowering cholesterol. Did you know that they can help keep your brain healthy as you age as well? The Journal of Nutrition has published research to substantiate that omega-3′s found in cold water fish, walnuts, soybean oil and ground flaxseed can keep your brain sharp over the course of a lifetime. DHA is critical in fetal brain development, but the need for omega-3 fatty acids does not go away after infancy. It is just as important in the elderly population, since omega-3 levels can diminish with age – contributing to Alzheimer’s or strokes later in life. Omega-3 fatty acids help with routine memory function as well. Aim for at least two servings of fish per week, as well as an ounce of walnuts or ground flax seed each day.

Eat Less

Calorie restriction can be a key component in living longer. Until recently, it was not understood why this made a difference. A recent study in Nature Communications found that calorie restriction in mice can increase the good bacteria in the gut, boosting immunity. Additionally, mice who ate less calories and fat have less harmful bacteria in the gut, which can lead to reduced blood based bio-markers for inflammation. More research needs to be done to translate this information to humans, but it is safe to say that eating less is worth the effort. Stop eating when you are satisfied not stuffed. Try eating more slowly, as this will help you feel satisfied with less calories.

But Don’t Skip the Protein

Protein is packed with building blocks that are necessary for daily repair of almost every cell in the body. As you get older, protein becomes even more important, as cellular damage increases with age. Good sources of protein include skinless white meat chicken, turkey and pork, as well as fat free milk, egg whites and beans/legumes. Aim to get roughly 30% of your daily calories from lean protein.

Chances are, if you are making choices about what to eat in order to live longer, you will also naturally maintain a lower body weight. It’s a win-win strategy for a lifetime of health.

Jennifer Stinson is a contributor to Everyday Health and its healthy living and nutrition content and tools.