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foods and supplements for longevity: older couple having breakfast

The Best Foods And Supplements For Longevity 

We all want to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible, but it can be challenging to cut through the noise and identify exactly what lifestyle practices to prioritize in order to support this endeavor. 

The lifestyles of those living in “blue zones,” areas of the world with the longest-living populations, can help inform us. Research has shown that many of these populations have quite a lot in common, including consuming a diet rich in key nutrients, incorporating intermittent fasting, consuming alcohol in moderation, and exercising regularly. 

Though all of these habits seem to contribute to enhanced longevity, there’s no doubt that nutrition plays a big part in the impressive aging of people in the blue zones. After all, the foods we eat can reduce our risk of developing chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. 

“Certain foods may reduce our longevity by accelerating aging and oxidation (cellular damage) on the cellular level, while other foods contain constituents (such as antioxidants) that help protect our cells from oxidation by neutralizing free radicals (substances that harm and damage our cells),” explains functional dietitian Jenna Volpe, R.D.N., L.D., C.L.T. “Ultimately, the faster cells oxidize, the quicker we age.” 

Of course, longevity isn’t necessarily as simple as delaying oxidative stress. Many other factors, including a person’s genetics and their external environment, come into play. And while not all inputs are within our control, nutrition certainly is! Prioritize the following foods and supplements to support long-term health and longevity.

1. Leafy greens

It probably comes as no surprise that leafy greens are some of the best foods you can eat for your health and longevity. Spinach, kale, collard greens, and Swiss chard are all packed with vitamin K, minerals like magnesium, fiber, and antioxidants such as chlorophyll (the primary antioxidant responsible for their green pigment), notes Volpe. “Chlorophyll is found to have very high antioxidant activity, making leafy greens anti-inflammatory and even a potential anti-cancer food,” she says. 

While salad is the most common way to enjoy many leafy greens, you can add them to omelets, soups, stir-fries, pasta bowls, and smoothies, suggest Volpe. Many varieties are also delicious when sauteed in healthy fat with your favorite seasonings.

2. Cruciferous veggies

Also on the list of longevity-loving foods are the cruciferous kind of veggies, including broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. These vegetables contain very high levels of a detoxifying phytochemical called sulforaphane, which research has shown plays a role in preventing cancer. “Broccoli, especially, is highly concentrated in certain key constituents glucosinolate and the myrosinase enzyme, which work in tandem to help us reap the benefits of sulforaphane,” explains Volpe. She recommends consuming broccoli by dipping it in hummus, roasting or sauteing it, or adding it to stir-fries, pasta, or omelets.

3. Berries

All types of berries, from strawberries and blueberries to blackberries and raspberries, have impressive longevity benefits. They’re all naturally abundant in vitamin C and special red-purple pigmented antioxidants called anthocyanins, according to Volpe. “Vitamin C helps support and enhance immune system function and healthy skin, while the anthocyanins in berries have been shown to help protect our cells—specifically in the nervous system, cardiovascular system (blood vessels), and skin—from damage,” she says. “Those anthocyanins also seem to have a prebiotic effect, feeding and supporting the growth of healthy probiotic microbes in our gut, which also encourages longevity.”

Read More: 5 Prebiotic Foods That Help Probiotics Do Their Jobs

Berries are delicious on their own, but you can also add them to oatmeal, pancakes, smoothies, cereal, yogurt, and more. 

4. Wild salmon

Wild salmon, which is known to be lower in contaminants than its farmed counterpart, is one of the best natural food sources of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), explains Volpe. “The body can’t make these essential fats, which are necessary for maintaining optimal health, so we must get them from food or supplements,” she says. “The omega-3s found in salmon help promote longevity by protecting our cells from oxidative damage and supporting better function in the nervous system as well as in the skin and circulatory system.” 

Wild salmon is also chock full of an antioxidant called astaxanthin, which helps cells maintain healthy function—a good thing for longevity, Volpe says.

She recommends grilling or baking salmon with a little lemon and dill for a simple, flavorful meal.

5. Matcha

Green tea has long been hailed for its health benefits. In fact, records show that it was first consumed as a drink by the Chinese around 2737 BC. Matcha, a type of green tea that is made from finely-ground green tea leaves, contains high levels of the compounds EGCG, chlorophyll, and quercetin, notes Volpe. “When consumed consistently over time, matcha may help delay the aging process by neutralizing the impact of free radicals that cause cell damage,” says Volpe. “Matcha has also been shown in multiple studies to support heart health by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, preventing and lowering the presence of plaque build-up in blood vessels, and even enhancing metabolism.”

6. Turmeric 

This ancient spice has long been utilized by many cultures for generations and owes its many benefits to a potent antioxidant constituent called curcumin. “Turmeric has been revered (and now studied) for its longevity-promoting effects,” notes Volpe. It protects cells from damage, supports long-term cognitive function, and even nourishes the microbiome by acting as a prebiotic, she says.

You can use turmeric just like you would any other spice. It’s a staple in curries or whisked into coconut milk and some sweetener to make golden milk. “Turmeric is also available in supplements, in which case it is often combined with black pepper, which contains piperine, a constituent known to activate and amplify the beneficial effects of curcumin in the body,” Volpe adds. 

7. N-acetyl cysteine

N-acetyl-cysteine or “NAC” is a supplement form of the amino acid l-cysteine that supports the production of glutathione, one of the most potent antioxidants in the body. Because of this important benefit, NAC has been linked to benefits related to everything from reproductive health and sleep to immune function and mental health.

Volpe suggests trying a dose of 500 to 900 milligrams once or twice a day on an empty stomach.

8. Vitamin D

Also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is actually hard to garner from diet alone. Given that, it’s not surprising that a staggering 42 percent of Americans are low on the key nutrient, which is why supplementation is key. This vitamin is essential for bone health as it’s involved in calcium absorption, which is necessary for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, explains registered dietitian, Johna Burdeos, R.D. “Vitamin D is also involved in neuromuscular and immune function, promoting cell growth, and more.”

Read More: 7 Groups Of People Who May Need More Vitamin D

The recommendation is 600 IU per day for adults and 800 for those over age 71. “To easily add vitamin D to your diet, drink vitamin D-enriched beverages at breakfast or as a snack, eat fatty fish twice a week, and add fortified cereal to your breakfast or snack rotation,” suggests Burdeos.

9. Oats

Oats are an excellent source of fiber, which, in addition to helping keep you full and satisfied, is also vital for gut health, notes Burdeos. “Fiber-rich foods like oats help keep the digestive tract running smoothly and can help reduce the risk of gastrointestinal disorders like gastroesophageal reflux disease, constipation, and diverticulosis,” she says. “Fiber has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity by improving markers such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels.” 

Dietary guidelines recommend consuming 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. Oats are easy to add to your daily routine, but you can also get your fiber fix from other sources, such as whole grains, quinoa, and legumes.

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