ARTICLE AT A GLANCE
Kelly Schmidt, RD, LDN
Growing up with a life-threatening autoimmune disease, type 1 diabetes, I learned that eating is a necessity, but knowing how to eat healthfully, is an art. An art that can change the quality and quantity of our lives.
Longevity may seem beyond our control, yet, newer research, is proving otherwise. Many “healthy” habits, including diet, may lead us to a ripe, old age and here we explain how and why.
What factors contribute to aging?
- A nutrient-depleted diet: according to the CDC, only one in 10 adults eats enough veggies and fruit. Only 9% hit the recommended two to three daily cups of veggies, and 12% reach the daily target of one-and-a-half to 2 cups of fruit.
- Overeating: Americans eat up to 25% more food than their body needs and this in itself can prohibit a long life. Even if you’re at a healthy weight, preliminary research shows that slashing your daily caloric intake by one-third can add years to your life. Beyond the number of calories, what we choose to eat, the nutrition, or lack of, is crucial.
- Being overweight: researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that being overweight or obese can have a negative effect on brain volume, potentially increasing your rate of cognitive decline.
- Poor stress-management: anxiety and stress can significantly decrease lifespan. Stress can be a positive thing, yet we must learn how to best work through it. This includes fueling ourselves with proper nutrition to build resilience on the cellular level.
- A high-sugar diet: research highlights that sugar-rich diets have a negative impact on health and longevity, independent of obesity.
- A high hip-to-waist ratio: keep waist circumference to less than half of height. This measurement is key in assessing lifespan and health status beyond popular weight measures, including Body Mass Index (BMI).
What changes should I make to my diet to support healthy aging?
Bypass tedious calorie counting by focusing on whole, real foods that are nutrient-rich.
Evidence-Based Foods to Eat for Longevity
- Chili peppers: researchers have found that those who ate chili peppers lowered their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 26%, cancer by 23%, and all causes by 25%.
- Nuts: research links eating 1 oz. (28g) of nuts each day to a 20% reduced risk of death from any cause, including cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease.
- Dark chocolate: data suggests a link between consuming 6 grams of high cocoa daily (1-2 small squares) and a reduced risk of heart disease and mortality.
- Berries: berries contain a variety of phytochemicals that fight certain cancers and heart diseases. Their flavonoid content has also been found to help short- and long-term memory.
- Leafy greens: eating greens can make the brain 11 years younger. Simply having 1 large salad a day can support brain health.
Healthy Habits for Healthier Meals
Make healthy food the obvious choice by planning meals in advance and having whole foods readily available for busy times.
Streamline processes including grocery shopping, recipe selection, meal prep and more.
Outsource where and when needed. Using a service, such as Metabolic Meals, can simplify decision making around menu planning, plus the meals are packaged with portion control in mind.
Eat high-fiber ingredients, and low glycemic meals to maintain steady blood sugar, aiding in satiety.
Putting it into action! The Metabolic Meals Difference: Shepherd’s Pie
By changing a few ingredients, we completely flip the nutrient ratios of this popular comfort dish.
We replace mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower to reduce carbohydrates while increasing key nutrients and fiber.
We use grass-fed beef to increase Omega 3s and reduce exposure to antibiotics and hormones found in conventionally raised red meat.
- Grass-Fed Beef: contains a fatty acid called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). CLA can help prevent several diseases and conditions like obesity and diabetes. A recent randomized, double-blinded study concluded that 37% of the people who were given CLA demonstrated better insulin sensitivity over those who weren’t given CLA.
- Olive Oil: new research highlights the fat in olive oil can play an integral role in the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, plus activate pathways in cells that are linked to longevity.
- Garlic: helps counteract age-related changes in gut health associated with memory problems. The benefit comes from allyl sulfide, a compound in garlic known for its health benefits relating to immunity, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and more.
How quickly can we turn things around?
It’s never too late to start eating better. Start small and be realistic with the changes you want to focus on first. Remember: change takes time, healing takes time, enjoy your journey and focus on being consistent. The best diet and lifestyle is one that you can be the most consistent with.
Additional Lifestyle Habits that Benefit Longevity
- Move: turn back the clock with regular movement and exercise. Calculations based on the Harvard Alumni Study suggest that men who exercise regularly can gain about two hours of life expectancy for each 1 hour of exercise.
- Establish a consistent bedtime: a recent study reports that longevity is likely linked to regular sleeping patterns, such as going to bed and waking up around the same time each day. Sleep duration also plays a factor, with both too little and too much being harmful. Sleeping less than 5–7 hours per night is linked to a 12% greater risk of early death, while sleeping more than 8–9 hours per night could also decrease your lifespan by up to 38%.
- Seek joy: a review of 35 studies showed that happy people may live up to 18% longer than their less happy counterparts.
- Build your village: Researchers report that maintaining healthy social networks can help you live up to 50% longer.
Kelly Schmidt, RD, LDN is a Type 1 Diabetic Dietitian speaker and coach, providing practical solutions and personalized nutrition for her clients.
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