No one food is a magic bullet. That being said, eating a wholesome, balanced diet coupled with other health-supportive activities like regular exercise and abstaining from cigarettes and alcohol can be an important aspect of maintaining your health.
"As a dietitian, I’m always telling people to ‘eat the rainbow’ because all those different colors represent different nutrients that help keep us healthy long-term," offers Mackenzie Burgess, a registered dietitian nutritionist and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices. "It’s key to create balance by finding foods you both enjoy and nourish you for a healthy mind and body."
As Elena Paravantes, a registered dietitian, Mediterranean Diet expert and author of "The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Beginners," puts it, "It is important to note that a combination of lifestyle factors contribute to longevity, not specific foods. A dietary pattern, physical activity, social and community support, naps and other practices play a role."
Below, these RDs share their top picks for research-backed superfoods to support a long life.
"Greens such as spinach, kale, collard greens, chard, etc. are a nutrient-dense food. They are rich in vitamins and antioxidants that can reduce oxidative stress," says Paravantes. "Research has shown that consuming at least one serving of greens a day resulted in slower cognitive decline as measured on tests for memory and thinking skills."
Start your day with some blueberries or raspberries atop your oatmeal or slip them into smoothies, friends.
"Berries like blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are filled with ‘anthocyanins’ which are responsible for the red, blue, and purple colors found in berries. Anthocyanins have been studied in-depth, and some research points to them as a potential source of anti-aging agents," says Burgess.
3. Sardines, anchovies and salmon
Paravantes calls out these fatty fish as being particularly great for those over 50.
"They are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and can protect from diseases such as arthritis and heart disease," she says.
Burgess says that cauliflower is the latest trending healthy food for a reason.
"It’s low in calories while being high in important nutrients like vitamin C, folate, and fiber. Cauliflower also contains a type of plant pigment called anthoxanthins, which have anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Reducing inflammation helps protect the cells in our body from damage and can contribute to longevity," she says.
"They are a source of the antioxidant lycopene, which not only can protect from certain types of cancer but is a carotenoid that can protect the skin from sun damage," says Paravantes, citing research published in the British Journal of Nurtrition on lycopene being inversely associated with death. "Tomatoes are also a great source of potassium, which plays a role in controlling blood pressure."
6. Greek-style coffee
Paravantes points to a study that was published in the journal Vascular Medicine, which included 142 mature adults, age 66–91 years old, from the Ikaria Study (a larger study).
Researchers found "that higher consumption of coffee was associated with better endothelial function, and the individuals who drank mainly boiled Greek coffee had better endothelial function than those who consumed other types of coffee," summarizes Paravantes. "While all types of coffee are a source of antioxidants, Greek coffee contains much higher amounts of cafestol and kahweol, substances that appear to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. An older study had found that consumption of Greek coffee improved the elasticity of arteries in individuals with high blood pressure."
7. Herbal teas
Not a coffee fan? Herbal tea may be for you.
Paravantes recommends drinking herbal teas such as sage, fennel and oregano every day: "Consumption of herbal teas that are rich in antioxidants and polyphenols are associated with longevity. They are drunk daily, usually twice a day," she says.
8. Dark Chocolate
"Polyphenols, a specific type of nutrient found in dark chocolate, have been found to lower signs of inflammation and are especially helpful in protecting blood vessels from damage as you age. Make sure to consume dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao (70% or higher) in order to gain the most anti-inflammatory benefits," says Burgess, who likes to add dark chocolate into her day by eating a handful of dark chocolate-covered almonds or enjoying dark chocolate avocado truffles as a healthy dessert.
"Legumes like beans and lentils are a great addition to the diet because they are packed with satiating protein and fiber. For example, one cup of boiled lentils packs in 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber," says Burgess. "They are also loaded with a class of nutrients called flavonoids. Recent research has proven these flavonoids to be helping in maintaining our brain health long-term," she continues, recommending people add beans and legumes to quinoa salads, blend into healthier dips or stir into bean curry.