7 Foods for Longevity

Food is universal, it’s something each of us have in common with another, we need to eat to survive. Food's value is not only in its nutritional benefit but also in the social aspect.

A meal shared has mental benefits; conversation, laughing, mutual enjoyment and encourages us to let our guard down a bit (unless we are at a fancy restaurant which is usually laughed about upon reflection). 

If we are thinking of food as fuel, it’s very much worth looking into the micronutrients in food; vitamins, acids, antioxidants are often neglected in a world obsessed by macronutrients such as high protein content as well as a love hate relationship with fats and carbs. 

If you want to expand your knowledge of foods and their underlying values to your wellness, absolutely go ahead. Here are some foods that have shown to have benefits for your longevity and health that have somehow flown under the radar.  

Phytonutrients and Longevity

Phytonutrients are the chemical compounds found in plants that are utilised for protective purposes, meaning the plant has better resistance to fungus, bacteria, pests and infection.

If you haven’t heard of the term phytonutrients before they also go under a number of names such as phytochemicals, polyphenols or the most well-known term being antioxidants.

These chemicals are often what give the plants their unique colours. So, all the talk you hear of “eating the rainbow” just may be right. The general guidance is that the brighter and bolder the colour of your food, the more phytonutrients they will contain. 

Despite the fact that the many humans have become city dwellers, buying pre-made food, sticking to deadlines and having an ever-growing selection of technologies aiding us with our daily life, we are still in a symbiosis with nature.

We cultivate plants, ensure they are grown and looked after and when we consume the phytonutrients which protect them, they in turn protect us just the same. 

Olives and Longevity

Olives are a somewhat love or hate food, and there are such a variety that there may be an olive you’ll love. Did you know that the only difference between black and green olives is the level of ripeness? Black olives are fully ripe whereas green olives are a bit less ripe, meaning they often have very different textures. 

This also means that the black olives are usually more nutrient dense. There has been research into the protective mechanisms of the nutrients found in olives such as homovanillic acid and the catechol hydroxytyrosol which are researched in preventing and delaying the onset of Parkinson’s disease.1 

As well as this, hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein (which olives have an abundance of) are well recorded in literature and studied to be anti-oxidative and, in turn, have anticancer and immune boosting properties2 All olives are great to work into your diet but if you’re eating them simply for health benefits, black olives are the way to go.

Broccoli and Longevity

Along with the theme of love and hate foods, broccoli used to get quite bad press in the past. Most often it is remembered as the vegetable you “had” to eat growing up regardless of how much you disliked it.

However, in recent times it’s become a bit of a staple food in high cuisine and there’s no doubt as to why. People have always been aware that broccoli is good for you, but many don’t know just how good it really is. 

Broccoli is packed with vitamins and phytonutrients and sulforaphanes, which aid the body in bio-signalling. This is how well messages are sent and received to different areas and biomes in the body to keep the body in equilibrium.

The sulforaphanes found in broccoli have also been shown to have antidepressant effects3 and protect the lungs from pollution4 which could be much needed with pollution seemingly increasing every day. 

Dark Chocolate and Longevity

We all love chocolate; well the majority of humans do and for good reason! It can massively improve our moods.5 Dark chocolate contains small amounts of anandamide which is a neurotransmitter that targets the same brain structures as THC which is found in the cannabis plant.

Anandamide is also referred to as the “bliss molecule'' due to the role it plays in producing feelings of happiness6 Dark chocolate is not only a treat for your brain but also a treat for your gut, due to dark chocolates high concentration of flavanols.

Dark chocolate with a high concentration of flavonoids can increase lactobacilli and bifidobacterial production, which are probiotics that aid in preventing inflammation and the maintaining of a healthy gut.7

Apples and Longevity

Ever heard the term “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Well, its actually research backed. Apples contain polyphenols that cannot be found in any other foods. They are called phloretin and phloridzin and have potential in aiding with intestinal inflammatory disease8

As well as this, apple skin contains a high amount of quercetin which is associated with a decreased risk in type 2 diabetes.9

Also keep in mind that apples are packed full of vitamins too, meaning that an apple a day can also get you glowing skin, better immunity and more energy. They aren’t one of the most popular fruits in the world for no reason!

Blackberries and Longevity

Blackberries are a bit of an underdog in the berry world; they are often something you’d pick straight from the bush while on a walk as a child. By all means forage them - its sustainable, cheap and overall, just quite a lovely experience.

You could also just pop some in your basket the next time you’re in the supermarket. Blackberries are extremely nutrient dense and contain ellagic acid which is linked to the reduction of visible ageing as well as protecting the skin from UV exposure and reversing sun damage.10 

They can also work wonders in blood sugar control, reducing the likelihood of diabetes and aiding with weight management.11 Strawberries and raspberries also contain ellagic acid if blackberries aren’t to your taste but blackberries are much richer in it than the latter. 

Dates and Longevity

Dates have quite the reputation in the health and wellness community nowadays, mostly due to being a widely used substitute for sweetener, used in baking rather than sugar or just a quick snack, often referred to as “nature's candy”.

There is a plethora of varieties, all with subtle flavours and texture differences. You can have them in salads or in your cereal or leave them in the freezer and they become an almost caramel consistency.

Not only do they taste great but they house an abundance of ferulic acid which means they can have anti-inflammatory properties, anti-diabetic properties and reduce the likelihood of cancer development. Ferulic acid can also aid in healing and skin health12,13 which means it’s a sweet treat in terms of taste and for your general wellbeing. 

Fennel and Longevity

Fennel is a very interesting food, with a flavour that’s reminiscent of aniseed or liquorice. Like olives, it can be a bit of love or hate food. However, if people knew just how good it is for you, they’d probably be tempted to try and get past the flavour even if they didn’t like it.

It can be great roasted with balsamic vinegar, in a salad or an addition to a Sunday roast. Fennel is rich in quercetin, which is researched in its protection benefits in neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

As well as this, it has been shown to be useful in treating inflammation linked to the gut and aiding in blood sugar control.14,15 That’s only some of the benefits, if you grew to like broccoli over time you can definitely grow to love fennel. Either that or you will love what it can do for your health.

The Bottom Line

There are benefits to any food, whether or not they’re nutritionally dense. Sometimes a full English really does help a hangover and the soup your mum used to make you when you were ill really did have you feeling “right as rain”. 

It’s important to remember that foods are not all about what the packaging states - sometimes it’s the situation it's enjoyed in. It can be nicer to have lunch in the park rather than at the desk or in front of the laptop (unless it’s raining of course!).

If you do want to be nutritionally conscious, then these foods can be a great place to start. There are a plethora of health benefits associated with these foods, and often they are easier to include in your diet than you may think at first glance. Why not give it a go and see what you enjoy?

References

   
  1. Goldstein D, Holmes C, Cherup J, Sharabi Y. Plasma Catechols After Eating Olives. Clin Transl Sci. 2017;11(1):32-37. doi:10.1111/cts.12489
  2. Gorzynik-Debicka M, Przychodzen P, Cappello F et al. Potential Health Benefits of Olive Oil and Plant Polyphenols. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(3):686. doi:10.3390/ijms19030686
  3. Wu S, Gao Q, Zhao P et al. Sulforaphane produces antidepressant- and anxiolytic-like effects in adult mice. Behav Brain Res. 2016;301:55-62. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2015.12.030
  4. Brown R, Reynolds C, Brooker A, Talalay P, Fahey J. Sulforaphane improves the bronchoprotective response in asthmatics through Nrf2-mediated gene pathways. Respir Res. 2015;16(1). doi:10.1186/s12931-015-0253-z
  5. Pase M, Scholey A, Pipingas A et al. Cocoa polyphenols enhance positive mood states but not cognitive performance: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2013;27(5):451-458. doi:10.1177/0269881112473791
  6. ZURER P. Chocolate may mimic marijuana in brain. Chemical & Engineering News Archive. 1996;74(36):31-32. doi:10.1021/cen-v074n036.p031a
  7. Jang S, Sun J, Chen P et al. Flavanol-Enriched Cocoa Powder Alters the Intestinal Microbiota, Tissue and Fluid Metabolite Profiles, and Intestinal Gene Expression in Pigs. J Nutr. 2015;146(4):673-680. doi:10.3945/jn.115.222968
  8. Zielinska D, Laparra-Llopis J, Zielinski H, Szawara-Nowak D, Giménez-Bastida J. Role of Apple Phytochemicals, Phloretin and Phloridzin, in Modulating Processes Related to Intestinal Inflammation. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1173. doi:10.3390/nu11051173
  9. Boyer J, Liu R. Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Nutr J. 2004;3(1). doi:10.1186/1475-2891-3-5]
  10. Bae J, Choi J, Kang S, Lee Y, Park J, Kang Y. Dietary compound ellagic acid alleviates skin wrinkle and inflammation induced by UV-B irradiation. Exp Dermatol. 2010;19(8):e182-e190. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0625.2009.01044.x
  11. Kang I, Buckner T, Shay N, Gu L, Chung S. Improvements in Metabolic Health with Consumption of Ellagic Acid and Subsequent Conversion into Urolithins: Evidence and Mechanisms. Advances in Nutrition. 2016;7(5):961-972. doi:10.3945/an.116.012575
  12. 12.Rahmani, A. H., Aly, S. M., Ali, H., Babiker, A. Y., Srikar, S., & Khan, A. A. (2014). Therapeutic effects of date fruits (Phoenix dactylifera) in the prevention of diseases via modulation of anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-tumour activity. In
  13. Zduńska K, Dana A, Kolodziejczak A, Rotsztejn H. Antioxidant Properties of Ferulic Acid and Its Possible Application. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2018;31(6):332-336. doi:10.1159/000491755
  14. Salehi B, Machin L, Monzote L et al. Therapeutic Potential of Quercetin: New Insights and Perspectives for Human Health. ACS Omega. 2020;5(20):11849-11872. doi:10.1021/acsomega.0c01818
  15. 15. Yakut H, Koyuncu E, Cakir U et al. Preventative and therapeutic effects of fennel (<i>Foeniculum vulgare</i>) seed extracts against necrotizing enterocolitis. J Food Biochem. 2020;44(8). doi:10.1111/jfbc.13284

 

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