Good Foods to Eat for a Long Life

Some areas of the world are known for the longevity of their inhabitants. Among other things, people who live long lives tend to eat diets that are rich in nutrients. Eating a healthy diet provides a lower risk of developing many fatal diseases and increases your chances of having a long life. The good news is, if you're not already eating a healthy diet, making some changes to healthier fare can still increase your odds of living longer.


Fresh vegetables are full of good things for your body: fiber, vitamins and minerals. In general, Americans don’t eat enough vegetables. In areas of the world where people live long, healthy lives, vegetables are eaten daily. Greeks average about nine servings a day of vegetables. Try to eat your veggies raw or steamed to get the most health benefits. Frying vegetables or covering them with cheese depletes the vitamin content and adds unnecessary fats. Brightly colored vegetables offer even more benefits to your body, so try to add colors to your plate daily. Challenge yourself to try a new vegetable monthly.

Healthy Fats

People from cultures that enjoy long lives eat healthy fats. Cook with olive, peanut or safflower oil to give your body valuable benefits. These oils are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. These types of oils help control blood sugar, improve your blood cholesterol levels and are especially beneficial to your heart.


“The Archives of Internal Medicine” published a study on longevity that showed a strong correlation between high-fiber diets and length of life. According to the study, subjects who ate fiber regularly were 22 percent less likely to die after nine years. Fewer cancer deaths and less cardiovascular disease were attributed to this high-fiber diet. Consider adding whole-grain breads and cereals to your daily diet. You can keep your body healthy by aiming for 29 grams of fiber a day if you’re a man or 26 grams per day if you’re a woman.

Whole Grains

Whole grains, such as whole wheat, oats, barley, spelt, brown rice and quinoa, provide rich amounts of vitamins, minerals and fiber. According to research published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition", eating whole grains may help you live longer. In the study, 11,040 post-menopausal women followed either a diet based upon whole grain or a diet based on refined grains for the course of eleven years. At the end of the study, 17 percent fewer deaths occurred in the women who consumed whole grains. Since both groups of women consumed similar amounts of fiber, researchers speculated that whole grain foods provide more benefits than refined carbohydrates with added fiber. For optimum wellness and longevity benefits, replace enriched breads, pasta, rice, cereals and snack foods with whole grain equivalents most often. When buying whole grain-based foods, check food packaging to ensure that whole grains are listed as main ingredients.


Fatty fish, like salmon and herring, contain omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids reduce inflammation in your body, lower cholesterol and improve arthritis symptoms. The diets of people with longevity include regular servings of saltwater fatty fish. Try adding fish to your diet at least twice a week. Consider grilling or baking your fish to get the most heart-healthy benefits.


Probiotics are gut-friendly bacteria that help keep your digestive tract functioning properly. Yogurt is a great source of probiotics. In addition, yogurt is high in protein, high in calcium, and loaded with high-energy B vitamins. One more benefit of yogurt: it does not cause cavities. The lactic acid in yogurt does not cause tooth enamel decay.

The Okinawan Diet & Longevity

The traditional Okinawan diet is the diet eaten by the people of the Okinawan Islands, a chain of islands in the western Pacific Ocean between Japan and Taiwan. The traditional Okinawan diet has attracted attention because of the exceptionally long average lifespan of Okinawan people. The diet consists of fruits, vegetables and fish. It is highly nutritious and lower in calories than the Japanese diet, with considerably higher content of certain vegetables and lower content of sugar.


The longevity associated with the traditional Okinawan diet may be related to its characteristic low-calorie and high nutrient density, according to a study published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition." The Okinawan diet is particularly high in antioxidant and flavonoid phytonutrients, which may reduce risk for chronic diseases that shorten lifespan such as heart disease and diabetes. The diet emphasizes high quantities of vegetables and fruits and low amounts of meats, refined grains, saturated fat, sugar, salt and high-fat dairy products. The researchers note that the elements composing the traditional Okinawan diet are also found in other diets thought to promote longevity, such as the Mediterranean diet. The Okinawan diet, however, is lower in saturated fat and higher in carbohydrate and includes more functional foods and spices than the Mediterranean diet.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Plant-based diets such as the traditional Okinawan diet promote low levels of homocysteine and other inflammatory compounds, optimal cholesterol levels and healthy blood pressure levels. Additionally, hormone-related cancers, including breast, ovary, prostate and colon cancer, are minimized by the hormone-regulating effects of this diet. Protection from osteoporosis by virtue of high levels of bone-promoting hydroxyproline is another hallmark of the diet, and high levels of flavonoid and carotenoid antioxidants may be important contributing factors to the longevity-promoting effects.

Exceeding Standards

The traditional Okinawan diet exceeds the United States National Cancer Institute recommendations for a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables per day to prevent cancer and promote optimal health. Okinawans eat an average of seven servings of fruits and vegetables per day and two servings of soy, along with fish several times per week. Other important considerations that round out the Okinawan lifestyle and contribute to longevity include exercise as a way of life, an emphasis on personal responsibility for health and a philosophy that integrates ancient Eastern traditions with modern approaches to disease control that reduce risk and prolong life.

Complex Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates in the form of vegetables compose 90 percent of the traditional Okinawan diet and may contribute to the exceptional longevity of people who eat this way. By contrast, the Mediterranean diet, another diet associated with promoting longevity, derives more than 40 percent of calories from mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Overarching commonalities among these and other diets that prevent chronic disease include an emphasis on fruits and vegetables and minimization of saturated fat and refined carbohydrates. Also the traditional Okinawan diet provides particularly high levels of vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients.

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