vegetable is good for health. Credit: Pixelsvegetable is good for health. Credit: Pixels

There’s a reason the Mediterranean diet has been dubbed the longevity diet. Research shows that people who follow the eating plan — which favors fresh foods over processed — tend to live not just long lives, but long, healthy lives. Not coincidentally, it’s also the one most followed by people who live in the Blue Zones, those five regions of the world with the highest concentration of healthy centenarians.  ​

“People who live in the Blue Zones aren’t looking for the latest fad diet or magical elixir to wellness,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Cleveland Clinic. “They’re eating real food,” meaning fresh, minimally processed whole foods. “They also eat to 80 percent fullness,” she adds. “So instead of measuring their food, they are tapping into their hunger and fullness cues.”​​ These seven Blue Zone-worthy superfoods may help you stave off all the biggies — cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, obesity — and live well into the triple digits.

Food’s Salad Greens

Raw, leafy green vegetables – some are cruciferous –contain less than 100 calories per pound, making them an ideal food for weight control. In scientific studies, women who ate a large salad at the beginning of a meal ate fewer calories from the rest of the meal, and larger salads reduced calories more than smaller ones. In addition to keeping weight down, greater intake of salads, leafy greens or raw vegetables is associated with reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and several cancers. Leafy greens are also rich in the essential B-vitamin folate plus lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that protect the eyes from light damage.

Try kale, collard greens, mustard greens, spinach or lettuce. To maximize the health benefits of leafy greens, you must maximize your absorption of their fat-soluble phytochemicals, carotenoids in particular, and that requires fats – which is why your salad (or dressing) should always contain nuts and/or seeds.

green salad is healthy food. Credit: Pixels
green salad is healthy food. Credit: Pixels

Nuts

A high-nutrient source of healthful fats, plant protein, fiber, antioxidants, phytosterols and minerals, nuts are a low-glycemic food that also help reduce the glycemic load of an entire meal, making them an important component for an anti-diabetes diet. Despite their caloric density, nut consumption is associated with lower body weight, potentially due to appetite suppression from heart-healthy components. Eating nuts regularly also reduces cholesterol and is linked to a 35 percent reduction in the risk of heart disease. Top your next salad with chopped walnuts or sliced almonds or blend some raw cashews into a creamy salad dressing.

 

Nut is good for health. Credit: Pixels
Nut is good for health. Credit: Pixels

Beans

“Beans are notorious for containing healthy-aging nutrients. From plant-based proteins to fiber to antioxidants, these little powerhouses pack a punch in the nutrition department. And since data shows that eating a plant-based diet is linked to reduced risk of early death, swapping out a heavy animal protein with beans a few times a week is a wise choice to support overall health,” says Lauren Manaker, M.S., RDN, LD, Charleston-based dietitian and author of Fueling Male Fertility.

A staple in the Mediterranean diet, beans contain compounds linked to reduced cancer risk. Regularly eating beans may also reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, lower cholesterol, and reduce inflammation.

All beans contain important nutrients that can ward off disease and promote longevity, so aim for a variety, but most importantly, choose the ones you like.

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Nut is good for health. Credit: Pixels

Berries

Berries have long been studied for health benefits ranging from reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, protection against cancer, and lower levels of inflammation.

What’s even more intriguing about berries is their potential effect on brain health. The Nurses Health Study, which followed over 16,000 participants over the age of 70, found that greater intakes of blueberries and strawberries were linked to slower cognitive decline. Another study showed that blueberry extract may actually improve memory.

“Whether you favor strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries, they all offer a bounty of health-protective vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. The antioxidant content of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries also ranks among the highest of all fruits and enables them to combat free radicals that can cause damage to your cells, as well as inflammation, ” says Stark.

berry is also good health. Credit: Pixels
Berry is also good health. Credit: Pixels

In many regions, fresh berries are only available (or affordable) for a few short months of the year, but frozen berries are just as nutritious as they are picked at their peak ripeness. Enjoy them straight out of the container as a snack; on your yogurt or oatmeal; in a salad or smoothie; or made into a salsa for fish or poultry.

Olive Oil

Another staple in the Mediterranean Diet, olive oil is packed with health promoting compounds. In addition to monounsaturated fats, olive oil contains polyphenols known for their anti-inflammatory properties, among other benefits. “One study evaluating over 7,000 people showed that each 10 gram increase in extra-virgin olive oil consumption per day was linked to a 7% reduced risk of early death” says Manaker.

olive oil make people stay healthy. Credit: Pixels
olive oil make people stay healthy. Credit: Pixels

Research has also shown that regular olive oil consumption may slow telomere shortening. Telomeres are part of the DNA structure and shorter telomeres are considered a hallmark of aging. One study among people over the age of 50 found that olive oil consumption improved the ‘successful aging index,’ which measured a variety of physical health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease risk-factor along with social and mental health outcomes commonly associated with aging.

Use olive oil when cooking as well as in dressings, sauces, or to drizzle on a finished dish for a flavor burst.

 

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By Aussa

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