Some things about life—and how long we get to enjoy it—are out of our control. But emerging nutrition science research, as well as data collected from people in their 90s and beyond, shows what, when, and how we eat has a profound influence on how long we live. Want to eat for a long and healthy life?
We're compiled the most compelling and surprising tips here.
1. Broccoli, grapes and salad
We'll start with the scientific consensus: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, high in nutrients and low in calories, are your best bet for a long life.
Need specifics? Eat more broccoli, grapes, and salad: Researchers have found that compounds in these three foods pack extra life-extending benefits.
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These bite-sized fruit favorites are check full of antioxidants, known to boost immunity and stave off life-threatening disease. They'll help you age gracefully as well. A 2012 study from Harvard University found that at least one serving of blueberries or two servings of strawberries each week may reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older adults.
At a Pennsylvania banquet celebrating centenarians last spring, Nancy Fisher, 107, attributed her long life to her faith … and her passion for garlic.
Fisher may be on to something, however: Studies have found that phytochemicals in garlic can halt the formation of carcinogenic chemicals in the body, and that women who eat more garlic have lower risk of certain colon cancers.
4. Olive oil
As delicious as it is healthy, this monounsaturated "good fat" is well known for its heart-health and longevity benefits. Studies also show that olive oil may also be linked to brain health and cancer prevention. Aim for two tablespoons a day.
5. Bok choy
Studies suggests that cruciferous vegetables like this one contain nutrients, such as fiber, vitamin C, and folate, that can help you cheat death. And that's likely the case even if you've already had a close call: A study from Vanderbilt University found that breast cancer survivors in Shanghai who ate more cruciferae—specifically of the turnip, cabbage, and bok choy variety popular in China—had lower risks of death or cancer recurrence during the study period.
How to prevent heart disease, the largest killer in the United States, according to the latest report from the National Center of Health Statistics? Eat more foods that help keep your heart healthy, like avocados and others already on this list, and improve your odds of a long life. Avocados can lower your LDL "bad" cholesterol while raising your HDL "good" levels, and they help your body absorb heart-healthy vitamins like beta-carotene and lycopene.
Lycopene is also an important nutrient in the fight against cancer—the second leading cause of death in the United States. And there's no better source than rosy red tomatoes. Eating them cooked, in pasta sauce, tomato soup, or chutney, actually increases the amount of carcinogen-fighting carotenoids your body is able to absorb.