Favorite Foods for Longevity
Want to feel younger for longer? Paying attention to what we eat and including specific foods will improve our longevity and chances of staying healthy and vibrant. If we want to live younger, longer, we want to look after the parts of our chromosomes and cells that regulate DNA and processes associated with health, disease, and longevity. And there are foods that can help us do that.
It turns out, eating for longevity can be delicious! You can find lists of specific foods at the bottom of this post. But first…
WHAT ARE LONGEVITY FOODS?
Based on the latest longevity science, these are foods that have been demonstrated to meet one or several of the criteria below:
- Foods that affect expression of sirtuin proteins to support cell health and immunity
- Foods that help DNA in our cells switch on and off appropriately through methylation
- Neuroprotective foods that protect and support the brain and cognitive health
- Foods for better telomere health to reduce the effects and risks of aging
CRUCIFEROUS or BRASSICA VEGETABLES
The healthiest diet would include several portions of cruciferous vegetables every day. Cruciferous vegetables belong to the Brassica family and are related to cabbage, and they tick every box – including supporting sirtuin expression and protecting our brain and telomeres. Sirtuins are a family of proteins that regulate cell health, DNA repair, cellular stress resistance, energy metabolism and gene expression.
Cruciferous vegetables have nutrients like folate to assist DNA methylation, plus carotenes, vitamins B6, C and K1, and are loaded with nitrates and unique compounds like glucosinolates and sulforaphane.
Due to this unique chemistry, they release off-putting hydrogen sulfide gases. Especially when boiled or steamed too long, they can be stinky, but it is these same compounds that are so health-promoting. Try them roasted instead. Combining Brassica vegetables in dishes with healthy fat is a healthy habit necessary for proper absorption of nutrients, such as carotenes and vitamin K, from these foods. Therefore, preferably roast them at high heat, then drizzle with unheated nutritional oils before serving. You can also skip the prep work and use Flora’s Green Blend as a great source of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale, along with many other longevity foods!
SIRTUIN ACTIVATING FOODS
The emphasis here is on a fruit- and vegetable-rich diet with a predominance of omega-3-rich foods. The goal is to ingest ample amounts of the plant compounds that trigger or activate sirtuin expression. These include “bioactives” such as polyphenols, glucosinolates, and antioxidant vitamins. These foods are often called “SIRT foods” because they activate Sirt1 proteins. Sometimes they are referred to as being part of the polyphenol rich “MediterrAsian” diet.
Asian and Mediterranean diets appear different as they tend to feature different plant bioactives. Those that predominate in each cuisine include soybean isoflavones and epigallocatechin gallate from green tea in Asia and resveratrol from red wine, and hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein from olive oil in the Mediterranean. Under the surface, the molecular target and the result is the same, as these polyphenols activate Sirt1, which can help ensure healthy aging.
METHYL DONOR FOODS OR DNA METHYLATION ADAPTOGENS
One of the mechanisms through which stress can be bad for our health is by stripping us of methyl groups. A healthy diet that provides foods with folate, polyamines or other nutrients that influence methylation can rectify methyl group loss and contribute to optimal gene expression and overall health.
Researchers have found that some foods, spices, and herbs are methyl donors – they donate methyl groups. Other foods, spices and herbs regulate the rate of methylation, to ensure it is neither too fast or overactive, nor too slow and underactive. This second class of foods can be referred to as methylation adaptogens. Both categories are important food groups to focus on consuming daily.
Supporting balanced methylation is a key to supporting our cell function. Importantly, it can influence the way that DNA functions are switched on and off. This suggests that it may impact the way we age and the way our cells work, making methylation adaptogens a smart bet in the prevention of cancer and similar “malfunctions”.
Healthy, unpolluted, and undamaged fatty acids are key to brain health. It is especially important to get EPA and DHA for healthy brain function. EPA can support learning, memory and mood, while DHA supports neuroplasticity and protects against neuron loss. It is important to get the omega 3 fatty acids your brain needs while avoiding mercury, plastic and other ocean contaminants your brain doesn’t need. One possible vegan source of omega 3s is algae.
Antioxidant phytonutrients from herbs and spices and omega 3 ALA from plants can be neuroprotective and important for brain health too! They prevent oxidation of DHA and EPA and support healthy metabolism. Carnosic acid, found in rosemary, can neutralize free radical damage which may prevent neurodegeneration.
TELOMERE LENGTHENING FOODS
Telomeres are like caps at the ends of our chromosomes. Just like our shoelaces have caps to keep them from fraying, telomeres protect the integrity of our genomic DNA, and keep it from being lost. As you can imagine, long telomeres do a better job at protecting us, which is why we use their length as a benchmark of aging. Studies have shown that telomeres can be eroded quickly by oxidative stress and inflammation, which is associated with a decreased life expectancy and more age-related chronic disease.
Telomere length can be modified through diet and lifestyle. We can protect them by living in a way that reduces oxidation and inflammation. Some of what has been shown to help; a hearty intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and beans; a high intake of olive oil but a low intake of saturated lipids; a moderately high intake of fish; a low intake of dairy products, meat, and poultry; and a regular but moderate intake of wine with meals.
CV = Cruciferous vegetable
MA = Methylation adaptogen
MD = Methyl donor
NP = Neuroprotective
SA = Sirtuin activating
TL = Telomere lengthening
Algae-based DHA (NP) (SA)
Algae-based EPA (NP) (SA)
Arugula/baby arugula/rocket/roquette (CV) (MD) (TL)
Beet, Red Beet Crystals (MD) (TL)
Berries, Blackcurrants, Cherries (NP) (SA)
Bok Choy/pak choi/Chinese cabbage/choy sum (CV) (TL)
Broccoli/broccolini/broccoli sprouts/broccoli rapi/rape/rapini (CV) (TL)
Brussels sprouts (CV) (TL)
Buckwheat (SA) (TL)
Butternut squash (MD) (MA) (TL)
Cabbage (green/red/purple/Taiwanese/Napa/savoy etc) (CV) (TL) (MD) (MA)
Cacao (NP) (SA)
Capers (MA) (SA)
Carrot (MD) (MA)
Cauliflower (white/purple/green) (CV) (MD) (MA) (TL)
Cayenne pepper (MD)
Chicken stock (MD) (MA)
Chives (MD) (MA) (TL)
Coconut (NP) (MD)
Coffee (NP) (TL)
Collard greens (CV) (TL)
Cucumber (MD) (MA) (TL)
Cumin (MD) (MA) (NP)
Dairy products (TL)
Dark chocolate (SA)
Flax seeds, Flax oil (NP) (MD)
Garlic (MD) (MA)
Ginger (MD) (MA) (NP)
Green tea (SA)
Kale (curly/Tuscan/dinosaur/lacinato/baby kales etc.) (CV) (SA) (TL)
Lemon (MD) (MA) (TL)
Lentils (MD) (MA)
Low refined carb diet (TL)
Mint (MD) (MA) (TL)
Olives, Extra-virgin olive oil (MD) (MA) (TL) (SA)
Onion (MD) (SA)
Parsley (MD) (MA) (SA)
Pecan (MD) (MA)
Plant-based proteins (TL)
Pomegranate (MA) (TL)
Poppy seed (MD) (TL)
Pine nut (MD) (TL)
Quinoa (MD) (TL)
Radishes (red, white, watermelon, daikon, etc.) (CV)
Red bell pepper (MA)
Red wine, Red wine vinegar (MA) (SA)
Rutabaga (CV) (TL)
Salmon (MD) (MA) (NP)
Sesame seeds (MD) (TL)
Soybean, Miso soup, tofu, soy foods (SA) (MD) (TL)
Tomato (MD) (MA)
Turmeric (MD) (MA) (SA) (NP)
Turnip (CV) (TL)
Walnut (MD) (MA) (SA)
Watercress (CV) (TL)
Hopefully this list inspires you to seek out and add in some new foods and flavors to your diet, knowing now which ones are especially good at slowing down that biological clock and providing key nutrients that keep your cells vibrating youthfully.