Eat right, live longer
Genes, stress and environmental factors all play a role in ageing, but the key to a long, healthy life may be found in the food we eat
Genes, stress and environmental factors all play a role in ageing, but the key to a long, healthy life may be found in the food we eat. A healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy and oily fish can help fight disease and promote longevity.
Packed with fibre, essential nutrients and free radical-fighting antioxidants, the following foods may help put the brakes on ageing when eaten regularly.
A daily dose of berries may ward off DNA damage, certain cancers and age-related cognitive decline. Berries’ many healthy benefits are credited to their abundant antioxidants.
Citrus fruits are excellent sources of vitamin C and tumour-inhibiting limonoids. In addition to helping prevent certain diseases, vitamin C is required to produce collagen—a protein essential for the maintenance of skin, tendons and blood vessels.
Brimming with phytochemicals, cruciferous vegetables are thought to stimulate the enzymes that break down carcinogens, as well as prevent cancerous cells from multiplying. Crucifers such as broccoli, cabbage and watercress are cancer-fighting superstars.
Thirty per cent of Australians are at high risk for cardiovascular disease. Dark chocolate may provide a delicious intervention strategy. A study published in the British Medical Journal (June 2012) showed that dark chocolate contains blood pressure- and cholesterol-lowering qualities. The cocoa in chocolate contains the majority of the flavonols credited with helping to keep the heart young by maintaining low blood pressure.
Red and purple grapes contain resveratrol, a plant phenol that may combat inflammation, ward off heart disease and protect the brain from plaque formation that leads to Alzheimer’s disease. Resveratrol is also being studied in preliminary animal studies in regards to extending lifespan.
Packed full of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3s and arginine (an amino acid that promotes proper blood vessel function), nuts make a heart-healthy snack. Almonds in particular are high in flavonoids and phenolics, which may reduce the oxidative stress that leads to heart disease.
Oily fish, such as salmon, are abundant in omega-3s. In addition to warding off heart disease and several cancers, omega-3 fatty acids’ anti-inflammatory properties may slow telomere shortening. Telomeres are DNA sequences that naturally shorten as cells regenerate. Slowing this process may slow ageing.
Tomatoes are one of the few foods that contain lycopene—an antioxidant that is thought to protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. It may even increase the skin’s natural ability to filter out the sun’s damaging rays. Cooking tomatoes in extra-virgin olive oil enhances the body’s ability to absorb lycopene.
Researchers have found that a diet rich in wholegrain fibre may provide significant protection against dying prematurely from a number of ailments including heart disease, infectious disease and pneumonia. A study found that dietary fibre lowered the risk of heart disease by 24 to 56 per cent in men and 34 to 59 per cent in women.
A well-known source of bone-strengthening calcium and immune-boosting probiotic bacteria, yoghurt may also contain trans-palmitoleic acid, according to researchers. This rare fatty acid has been shown in preliminary studies to significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.