As of 2010, the United States had approximately 53,364 living centenarians (people above the age of 100). What’s even more impressive is the fact that 39 people across the globe have lived to, or are currently, 115 years old!
Now, you may have read stories of centenarians who owe their longevity to drinking a beer a day, but these individuals should be viewed as rare cases.
So before I get your hopes up, this article is not about a secret diet pill or detox kit that’s guaranteed to make you live longer.
Rather, I’ll be showing you a combination of foods to help you become a full fledged centenarian yourself.
For starters, in order to surpass the double digits, you’ll need to protect yourself.
Environmental pollutants, harmful food additives, and certain medications are just a few foes working against your long lifespan. These result in the creation and spread of free radicals in your body.
Free radicals are essentially “highly reactive atoms” that set off chain reactions inside of us. These reactions have a domino-like effect so the response spreads to nearby cells. The problem is that free radicals damage our DNA and cell membranes, and as a result, our cells don’t function as they should. They can even die from this process.
That’s why antioxidants are such a lifesaver. You can think of antioxidants as powerful little ninjas that spend their days karate-chopping and fighting off free radicals.
By definition, antioxidants are “chemicals that can prevent or slow cell damage. An ‘antioxidant’ is actually not a substance; it’s a behavior”.
Antioxidants are not a magic pill that you take each day like a multivitamin – you must consume them in the foods you eat on a regular basis. Trust me, loading up on antioxidant-rich foods will solidify your spot in the forever-young centenarian squad. You literally cannot beat the longevity-boosting health benefits antioxidants provide.
These bad boys stop free radicals in their tracks and terminate the reactions before they lead to a health scare. Meaning your cells suffer less damage and keep on being healthy.
I’ve outlined some of my favorite antioxidant-rich foods in this superfoods article, but as a quick recap, here are a few foods to keep on hand at all times:
- Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, and strawberries
- Dark, leafy veggies like kale, spinach, and mustard and turnip greens
- Spices such as cinnamon, ginger, oregano, basil, thyme, and cumin
- Nuts like walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts
- Green tea
You’ll want to incorporate these foods into your daily meals starting today. Yes, today! Don’t put off protecting your cells another minute longer.
You probably don’t associate fiber-rich foods with living longer – I know I didn’t at first – but you will now because the health benefits of fiber are many.
Fiber is awesome because it:
- Helps control blood sugar levels
- Reduces our risks for serious conditions such as heart disease, diverticulitis, and stroke
- Lowers risk of developing hemorrhoids
- Prevents gallstones and kidney stones
- Helps promote weight loss
As you can see, fiber is similar to antioxidants in the fact that it protects us and keeps us healthy.
Since fiber can reduce our risk of chronic, and sometimes deadly conditions, while also helping us keep those extra pounds off, it’s a perfect ally for helping you live longer.
Adequate Amounts of Protein
In addition to eating more fiber-rich foods every day, you’ll also want to weave in adequate amounts of protein too.
Similar to antioxidants and fiber, proteins protect us by providing immune support so we’re able to fight off foreign invaders that want to make us sick.
But protein goes even further that that because it can also:
- Provides tissue support so we can stand and move
- Maintains proper fluid balances
- Transports essential nutrients
- Builds muscles and bones
- Balances our pH levels
Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) tells us that:
“High-protein food choices do play a role in health – and that eating healthy protein sources like fish, chicken, beans or nuts in place of red meat can lower the risk of several diseases and premature death”.
These diseases include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and osteoporosis.
However, according to HSPH, there’s growing research to support that it’s more about quality versus quantity when it comes to protein.
Consuming high amounts of red meat – I’m looking at you Atkins and Paleo followers – is not the route to take.
According to an article in LiveScience, one study “found that middle-age people who ate foods rich in animal proteins – including meat, milk and cheese – were 75% more likely to die of any cause than those who ate a low-protein diet within the study period”.
That’s why I recommend not only eating adequate amounts of protein (i.e. not going overboard or under here), but choosing the right kinds of proteins to help you live longer.
For an average (sedentary) man, 56 grams of protein is more than enough, while a female should aim for around 46 grams each day. Of course, these numbers will vary if you’re more active.
As for the types of protein to eat, try to replace the standard red meat in your diet with the following lifespan-lengthening options:
- Whey protein
Add Vegetarian Days to Your Week
They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and sometimes a bit of fiber and protein too.
Vegetables are essential on many levels because they reduce our risk of chronic disease such as stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Now, I’m not saying you should become a straight up vegetarian, but becoming a once or twice-a-week vegetarian is a sneaky, smart, and pretty painless way to add more veggies to your life.
As you can see, there isn’t one food you can eat to live longer, rather, it’s a culmination of powerful, natural ingredients working in harmony together. By eating whole, unprocessed foods, you’ll be one step closer to living past 100 and becoming part of the centenarian club.