Longevity Foods

Mar 16, 2024

Article written by Liz Weiss, MS, RDN (podcast guest)
Edited by Sandra Gentleman, RD

How to Eat like a Centenarian: Longevity Foods for a Longer, Healthier Life

When it comes to nutrition for longevity, I like to take a page from the Blue Zones.

The Blue Zones are five longevity hotspots

The Blue Zones are five longevity hotspots around the world where people are thriving into their 100s. In these communities, including Okinawa, Japan; Icaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California, researchers have found that people live longer and better.

What’s their secret? Well, part of their lifestyle success has been linked to diet. Here are 4 tips for eating like a centenarian.

1. Eat a Plant-Slant Diet:

A diet rich in colorful vegetables and fruits, pulses (beans, lentils, dry peas, chickpeas), nuts, and whole grains provide plant protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that fight chronic disease and promote overall wellness. Meat and dairy, if consumed, are eaten in moderation. In some Blue Zones, seafood is also consumed. Research shows that seafood (especially fatty fish like salmon, rich in omega-3 fats) plays a role in heart, brain, and eye health.

2. Eat Beans Daily:

In the Blue Zones, people eat at least ½ cup beans every day. Beans provide protein, fiber (about 7 grams per ½ cup!), potassium, folate, and magnesium (important for muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, blood pressure regulation, and bone health) among other nutrients. Beans are versatile, convenient (use canned for the ultimate in ease), and they can make their way into everything from tacos and salads to soups (you have to try my Macaroni Minestrone with cannellini beans!) and hearty chili.

3. Honor the 80% Rule:

In some Blue Zone communities, they practice eating until they are 80% full. That mindful approach to portion control is good for digestion and helps maintain a healthy body weight, thus reducing the risk of obesity-related diseases.

4. Eat Meals Together:

The act of sharing meals with loved ones is a cornerstone of the Blue Zones lifestyle. Gathering with family and friends provides emotional and physical nourishment and strengthens a sense of community. People who eat together, for example, consume more fruits and vegetables. September is National Family Meals Month, but regardless of the month, it’s always a good time to commit to eating together more often.

Another “longevity” diet to consider is the MIND Diet. It’s good for both brain health and heart health.

Lentil & Veggie – Salad Serves 8

This salad is a crowd pleaser! (It easily serves 8 as a main dish and more as a side.) It’s made with asparagus and peas; crunchy celery; zesty marinated artichoke hearts; hearty lentils and rice; fragrant herbs; and a simple homemade vinaigrette. It comes together quickly, but to save even more time, look for cooked lentils at the market (canned or in a microwavable pouch) or swap the lentils for a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas. If you don’t have time to make the vinaigrette from scratch, use store bought.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked green or brown lentils, rinsed well and picked over for any debris, or 2½ cups cooked lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • 12 oz asparagus, woody ends removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups cooked white or brown rice, cooled
  • 3 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into thin slices
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen peas, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 (12-oz) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
  • 2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, optional
  • ¼ to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 2 T
  • lemon juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Drizzle honey or maple syrup, plus more to taste Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. In large saucepan, combine lentils and water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer, uncovered, until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes, or according to package directions.
  2. When lentils are done, use a strainer or colander to drain. Rinse with cold water and drain well. Transfer to large bowl and set aside.
  3. While lentils cool, fill empty saucepan with 1 inch water. Place steamer basket inside pot. Arrange asparagus in steamer basket, bring water to a boil, cover, and steam until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully transfer asparagus to strainer, and rinse under cold water to cool. Drain well and use paper towel to blot away excess moisture.
  4. Place asparagus in bowl with lentils. Add rice, celery, peas, artichoke hearts, green onion, parsley, mint, and feta as desired. Mix well to combine.
  5. To make dressing, place oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, honey, and salt and pepper to taste in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake until ingredients are well combined. Add more honey to taste.
  6. Drizzle dressing over salad and stir well to combine. Taste salad and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

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