These Foods May Help You Live Longer

Are people really living longer these days? While the average human life span may be significantly longer now than it was in ancient times, or even a hundred years ago, BBC Future points out that average and median are very different things. The drastic increase in the average life span is due in large part to the fact that so many more of us now survive our childhoods thanks to the miracle of vaccination. Plus, there are also fewer women lost to childbirth, thanks to increased access to safe, sanitary spaces such as hospitals. As far as how long we can live goes, you get the occasional centenarian now and then, but for the most part, the median age still corresponds to the Biblical "threescore years and ten" (Psalm 90:10, via Bible Gateway) as it did 2,000 years ago.

Still, it's not the years in our life, but the life in our years, right? And there are, of course, a number of things we can do to ensure that we live out our allotted time in good health. Look both ways before crossing a street, buckle your seat belt, don't stroll down dark alleys at midnight flaunting your diamond jewelry ... and, yes, take care of your body by eating nutritious foods. To elaborate on that last piece of advice, Mashed has enlisted the help of an expert, registered dietitian Kristen Carli, MS, RD, owner of Camelback Nutrition & Wellness.

These are some of the best foods for promoting longevity

While there are no miracle foods that can, in and of themselves, extend your allotted life span, there are certain nutrients that can reduce the instance of certain types of age-related degeneration. As registered dietitian Kristen Carli tells Mashed, "There are many foods that have been studied to be helpful in the prevention of brain function loss through aging, including dark leafy greens, berries, nuts, fatty fish, and beans." She says that if you're looking to add to the list of healthy foods to buy, you should keep an eye out for foods high in fiber, antioxidants, and/or omega-3 fatty acids.

If it's the outward signs of premature aging you're looking to prevent, Carli has some advice for this, too. She says antioxidant-rich foods including avocados, flax seeds, green tea, leafy greens, and pomegranates can help skin retain its youthful elasticity and advises "Including a variety of these foods in your everyday diet."

Make an effort to eat colorful foods

One piece of advice registered dietitian Kristen Carli is something you've probably heard before. "It's very important to try to 'eat the rainbow,'" she says. Fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients, which correspond to different colors in produce. As she tells it, "The phytonutrients present in red foods are not the same as the phytonutrients present in white foods. The ones in green foods are not the same as the ones in blue foods. And so on and so forth."

So what, exactly, does it mean to "eat the rainbow," then? One thing it doesn't mean is to increase your consumption of Skittles. According to Carli, "It's important to eat a variety of colorful plant foods to make sure you are diversifying your intake." This way, she assures us, you'll be able to get a wide variety of different phytonutrients. The more of these, the merrier your body will be.

Aim for the occasional meat-free meal

Another buzzword that's been in common parlance of late is "flexitarian." The term designates someone who is not a true vegetarian, much less a vegan but will make a conscious effort to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet in place of the meat and dairy items they'd otherwise be eating. Many flexitarians adopt such a diet out of concern for the planet, but registered dietitian Kristen Carli suggests that eating lower down the food chain, at least on a part-time basis, can also benefit your health.

Carli cites a study published in The BMJ that found men who consumed a very high amount of red meat, particularly of the processed variety, to have a higher instance of coronary disease than men who consumed more dairy, eggs, legumes, nuts, and soy instead of these types of meat. Carli says that she herself is "a big fan of plant-based sources of protein such as beans," pointing out the fact that beans are cheap, high in protein, and also contain a lot of fiber, something many of us are deficient in. "You do not need to become a vegetarian to incorporate more plant-based meals," she adds. "Maybe just try 'meatless Monday' or eat a plant-based lunch to start making these healthy changes," she suggests.