A bowl of anti aging foods including berries and kiwi

These Anti-Aging Foods Can Add Years to Your Life

Looking to live well into your golden years? Give these longevity foods a regular rotation in your diet.

Hippocrates supposedly once said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” He was talking literally: the guy suggested rubbing on a poultice made with lentils to cure hemorrhoids. Still, his point is well taken. There’s a mountain of research demonstrating that the dietary choices you make every time you sit down to eat can have a major impact on your health. Some anti-aging foods may even influence how long you ultimately grace the planet with your presence.

Poor diet is responsible for more than an estimated 11 million deaths and 255 million disability-adjusted life years (meaning: the sum of years of life lost and years lived with disability), according to the 2019 Global Burden of Disease Study (1). That’s more than killed by tobacco, high blood pressure, or any other health risk.

Another new study (2) concluded that two-thirds of heart disease-related deaths worldwide can be linked to suboptimal food choices.

The good news: It’s never too late to reap the rewards of adopting a healthier diet. A new study in PLOS Medicine (3) suggests that if you swap from a typically lousy Western diet to a healthier one by age 60, it can add up to eight years to your life. Start earlier and you’ll add even more healthy birthdays

How can filling your plate with healthy grub extend your life? A separate investigation (4) suggests a clue: researchers discovered that a dietary pattern that focuses on whole foods is linked to improved epigenetic aging, which partially explains the beneficial effect of diet quality on lifespan.

Epigenetics is the study of biological mechanisms, like aging and the environment, that switch genes on and off. And epigenetic alterations have been directly linked to longevity.

These findings make sense. It stands to reason that if you eat better, you will be healthier. If you’re healthier, your risk for developing life-shortening chronic diseases drops. 

Related: 5 Rules Every Healthy Man Should Follow

Here are the research-backed, anti-aging foods to scribble down on your grocery list. They’ll help you live long and prosper, and enjoy more slices of birthday cake.

The Best Anti-Aging Foods

1. Wild Salmon

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (5) found that having higher levels of certain omega-3 fatty acids in the blood—as a result of regularly including oily fish like salmon in the diet—boosts life expectancy by almost five years. 

The mega-healthy fats in this anti-aging food can help reduce the impact of chronic inflammation in the body, which has been linked to heart disease and cancer. Recent evidence shows they can also make your red blood cells more uniform in size which allows them to shuttle oxygen around your body more easily. Omega-3 heavy hitters include wild and farmed salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, and herring. Bonus: Fatty fish can also boost testosterone levels.

2. Beans

The best scientific evidence shows (6) that many people could improve their longevity by swapping out beef burgers for bean-based patties more often. For instance, a meta-analysis study (7) in the European Journal of Epidemiology found that people who ate more plant protein were less likely to die early. This was not the case for protein sourced from meat. 

Beans are high in both insoluble and soluble fiber (the latter dissolves in water; the former doesn’t) which can improve cholesterol and blood sugar; too-high levels of both have been linked to several life-shortening chronic diseases.

3. Kale

Loading up your plate with vitamin K is a smart move for aging well. Vitamin K is a nutrient that is important for maintaining healthy blood vessels and is found abundantly in dark, leafy greens including kale, spinach, and Swiss chard. 

A study (8) led by researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and Tufts Medical Center found that adults aged 54-76 with low vitamin K blood levels were more likely to die within 13 years compared to those with adequate circulating levels, suggesting vitamin K may offer protective health benefits as the year’s tick by.

A bowl of kale

4. Broccoli

Only 1 in 10 American men eat the recommended amount of vegetables each day (2 to 3 cups), according to the Centers for Disease Control. That is bad news for your healthy aging goals as the aforementioned PLOS Medicine longevity study pointed out the need for a greater intake of nutrition-dense, low-calorie vegetables to boost longevity.

In particular, one large study (9) found evidence that a greater intake of antioxidant-rich cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts can lower your risk for overall mortality and early death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, the two biggest killers in America. That’s why we give this anti-aging food two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts can lower your risk for heart disease and cancer.

5. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Drizzle the favorite fat of the Mediterranean on your salads. A 2022 investigation published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that adding half a tablespoon or more of olive oil to your diet can lower your risk of death from heart disease and cancer by an impressive 19% and 17%, respectively. Olive oil is also associated with a 29% lower mortality risk for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. 

To make the most of this anti-aging food, replace about 10g a day (about 3/4 tbsp) of butter, margarine, mayo, or dairy fat with the equivalent amount of olive oil. This swap is associated with a lower risk of early death by up to 34%. The combination of monounsaturated fat and polyphenols in olive oil might be why it has a health advantage over other fats like butter.

Related: The Best Foods For Men

6. Canned Pumpkin

Stock your pantry with this anti-aging food year-round, not just for the holidays. A recent investigation (10) in the European Journal of Nutrition discovered that people with higher intakes of the trio of carotenoids carotene, β-carotene, and β-cryptoxanthin typically had telomeres—caps at the ends of chromosomes that contain genetic material— that were 2% longer. Telomere length is considered a biomarker of aging. Here’s why: As cells age, your telomeres become shorter and you become more susceptible to life-shortening diseases like dementia and heart disease. 

Carotenoids can help halt telomere breakdown by limiting cell-damaging oxidation. Canned pumpkin contains a payload of all three of these carotenoids and is a great addition to oatmeal, smoothies, and sauces.

7. Blueberries

They might be blue, but there is nothing sad to report about the age-defying powers of blueberries. A report (11) in the journal Nutrition indicated that adults with the highest intake of polyphenols—potent antioxidants found in colorful fruits and vegetables including the anthocyanins present in blueberries—had lower odds for all-cause mortality than people who ate less plant compounds. Researchers suspect that polyphenols serve as a type of fuel source for the beneficial bacteria in our guts that can help fend of age-related diseases.

8. Chili Peppers

Talk about flaming hot health. Eating chili peppers regularly may reduce the relative risk of cardiovascular disease mortality by 26%, according to an analysis (12) published in the American Journal of Preventive Cardiology. Researchers’ hunch: The compound capsaicin that lends chilies such as jalapenos and cayenne peppers their hurts-so-good kick may have strong anti-inflammatory powers, making it an anti-aging all-star. 
Red and green chili peppers

9. Walnuts

Why are walnuts considered one of the best anti-aging foods? An investigation (13) in the journal Nutrients found that people who ate five or more 1-ounce servings of walnuts per week had a lower risk of early death than those who didn’t eat them. Even better: nut-eaters gained around a year of additional life expectancy. Even eating walnuts just two to four times per week was found to lower disease risk and increase lifespan. The findings also showed that those with a fondness for the nuts were more likely to have a healthier diet, be more physically active, have lower alcohol intake, and take multivitamins. Compared to other nuts, walnuts have an edge in levels of health-promoting omega-3 fat.

10. Quinoa

Most men don’t need to include multiple servings of grains in their daily diet, but when you do make sure they are lesser processed types like quinoa, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that individuals who had a diet with a higher glycemic index were more likely to suffer from all-cause mortality and major cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke, compared with those who had a diet with a lower glycemic index.  Diets with a high glycemic index usually feature foods with poor-quality carbohydrates such as refined grains, while diets with a low glycemic index usually feature foods with good-quality carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Quinoa has the benefit of containing a bit more protein than most other whole grains, making it one of the best anti-aging gains you can eat.

11. Sardines

Coming up short in vitamin D may age you prematurely: A study (14) published in The Journal of Nutrition showed that middle-aged men with low vitamin D (under 50 nmol/L) had shorter telomere lengths than those with adequate vitamin D (over 50 nmol/L). Sardines are one of the most powerful anti-aging foods to help you get enough vitamin D. One can (3.8 ounces) of sardines provides about 193 IU, or 25% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin D, making these swimmers one of the few reliable sources in the supermarket. Not just a one-hit-wonder, sardines are also a stand-out source of life-extending omega-3 fatty acids.

12. Lentils

Very few men eat enough dietary fiber, which may hinder efforts to turn back the biological clock. Research shows (15) that as fiber intake goes up, your chance of early death from conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers takes a nosedive. Fiber can improve blood sugar control and help keep cholesterol numbers in the healthy range. Plus, it serves as a food source for the beneficial critters that make up your microbiome—something researchers are learning is critical to staying healthy.  On top of a whopping 16 grams of fiber in a cup serving, lentils are a good source of plant-based protein and contain a range of essential micronutrients including magnesium and folate that are necessary for better aging.

13. Flax

Inexpensive flax contains a trifecta of age-defying nutritional hard-hitters: omega-3 fat, soluble fiber, and lignans. The latter are bioactive compounds that may offer some protection against certain cancers. To properly absorb the nutrition bounty in flax, grind the seeds before eating them.

14. Avocado

Far more than a base for guac, avocado is an anti-aging food. Here’s why: A study (16) in the Journal of the American Heart Associationfound that including a daily avocado in an overall healthy diet can work to further reduce levels of small, dense LDL—a type of cholesterol thought to be particularly harmful to your ticker. What’s more, a Harvard University investigation showed people who replace some of the saturated fat in their diets with unsaturated fat like that in avocado have a lower risk of heart disease.
A halved avocado with guacamole

15. Orange

You want to make sure you get at least 2 servings of anti-aging fruits (and 3 servings of veggies) each day to slash your risk for early mortality, according to a large study in the journal Circulation involving 42,000 men whose dietary patterns and incidents of death were followed for almost 3 decades. The added benefit of making an orange one of your servings is that it’s loaded with vitamin C, which may help guys lower their risk of death from cancer.

16. Low Fat Yogurt

Compared with other dairy, yogurt appears to hold the upper hand when it comes to helping fend off certain killers including heart disease and diabetes. It’s likely the fermentation that yogurt goes through makes it healthier for you. You can opt for a low-fat Greek variety for an especially protein-dense option with less saturated fat.

17. Pistachios

Walnuts aren’t the only anti-aging food from the nut family. Scientists at Tufts University found (17) that when nuts and seeds are consumed in low amounts it is linked to about 9 percent of the diet-related deaths from stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Not only are pistachios undeniably delicious, but they are also nutritional overachievers with good amounts of healthy fats, protein, minerals, and antioxidants.

18. Tempeh

If you want to keep building upon the number of candles on your birthday cake, nosh on more foods from the plant kingdom. When you eat a plant-based diet, you’re swallowing hundreds of beneficial compounds that interact through countless pathways to improve how your body responds to aging, including lowering inflammation and oxidative stress. Meaty tempeh is a standout source of plant-based protein and dietary fiber minus the saturated fat and cholesterol in meat. Plus, the fermentation process increases the bioavailability of the nutrients in the soybeans that tempeh is made from.

19. Barley

More proof that being smarter about your carbohydrate choices can turn back the biological clock: A large research review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (18) found that, along with fish, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, eating more whole grains lowers the risk for all-cause mortality. Compared to refined grains, whole grains give you a much greater diversity of micronutrients and antioxidants. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults eat at least half their grains as whole grains — but you can go above and beyond that goal. The benefit of barley is that it’s high in soluble fiber to support better metabolic health.

20. Coffee

A 2019 meta-analysis analyzed over 20 studies—both observational & interventional—found (19) that adherence to a plant-rich diet, especially one closely resembling the Mediterranean Diet was linked to longer telomeres. When looking at isolated foods, coffee was surprisingly associated with longer telomeres, which is why it rounds out our list of anti-aging foods.

Remember that telomeres, the structures at the end of chromosomes, help to protect DNA from damage and allow chromosomes to replicate properly during cell division to encourage healthier aging. The antioxidant compounds in coffee may lower oxidative stress in the body resulting in telomeres that can more easily maintain their length. But if you lace your morning brew with cream and sugar you’ll likely cancel out this benefit.


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