This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
The foods you eat have a tremendous effect on your health, as an unhealthy diet is the leading risk factor for chronic illness, disability and death in Canada. Reducing processed foods and increasing your consumption of healthy plant-based meals can help you live a longer, healthier life.
From sweet fruits to hearty legumes, these are some of the best foods that can help you live longer.
1. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, and may also help fight cancer. They're rich in an antioxidant called sulforaphane that can potentially prevent DNA damage and the spread of cancer. Cruciferous vegetables may also play a role in protecting your brain health and eyesight.
Having a serving of cruciferous vegetables every day is one of the best things you can do for your health. You're bound to find one you like since there are 40 different types of cruciferous vegetables. Some of the most readily available ones are:
Berries are some of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. They're bursting with disease-fighting nutrients that can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, help manage weight and improve heart health. They may also improve your ability to learn and remember things.
The vitamins and minerals in blueberries — including potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin K and prebiotics — are also associated with a healthier gut and immune system. Eat a cup of blueberries a day to reap the most benefits. Don't worry if they're out of season — frozen berries provide the same nutrients as fresh.
In addition to blueberries, try some other delicious berries such as:
3. Leafy greens
Like berries, leafy greens are loaded with antioxidants that can help fight diseases. They contain nutrients such as folate, lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene that are important for your heart, brain and eye health. Leafy greens are also beneficial for your gut. The good bacteria in your gut feed off a specific type of carbohydrate found in leafy greens called sulfoquinovose, helping them grow and multiply.
Try some of the following leafy greens:
Beans are high in fibre, complex carbohydrates and protein, so they help you feel full longer. They're also low in saturated fat. Animal studies have shown that white beans, in particular, may help slow the spread of cancer by as much as 70 per cent.
Beans have a low glycemic index, which means they won't cause a spike in your blood sugar. Eating beans is associated with lower blood pressure and lower levels of bad cholesterol, making them an excellent choice for heart health. The starch in beans is digested slowly by your body, so they can help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar. Aim for 1/2 cup of beans daily.
5. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are full of good fats that benefit your heart. They're high in an amino acid called arginine that helps keep your blood vessels strong. Nuts and seeds also contain a lot of fibre and protein.
Although they are calorie-dense, nuts and seeds can help you manage your weight. Like many other foods on the list, nuts are also high in different types of antioxidants. They can help reduce inflammation in your body that's associated with heart disease and diabetes. Aim to include a 30-gram serving of nuts and seeds in your diet most days of the week to help you live longer.
Making mushrooms a regular part of your diet may help reduce your risk of breast cancer. This benefit may be due to aromatase inhibitors, which are compounds found in mushrooms — especially white and portobello mushrooms — that decrease your body's estrogen production. Studies of mushrooms have shown that they may have the following benefits as well:
Increased immune system activity
Slowed growth of cancer cells
Prevention of DNA damage
You can enjoy mushrooms liberally as part of a healthy diet, but make sure you always cook them. Raw mushrooms contain agaritine, a potentially cancer-causing substance that can be significantly reduced via cooking.
Pomegranates are loaded with antioxidants, especially polyphenols, that provide whole-body benefits. Polyphenols may help fight breast, lung, prostate, colon and skin cancers by slowing tumour cell growth. Pomegranates also have anti-inflammatory and antihypertensive effects, which can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The polyphenols in pomegranates are also good for your gut and brain as they encourage the growth of good bacteria and compounds that may help slow the progression of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.