Live Long & Eat Well
IT WAS HEADLINE NEWS: Researchers determined that an ultra-low-calorie diet could prolong life by 40 percent or more. Of course, there was a downside. The participants were rats--and cranky rats at that. Apparently, these long-lived, half-starved rodents bit anyone who tried to hold them, unlike their sated siblings. Who could blame them? Would you want to cut your calorie intake to the bone? Before you bother trying, it turns out the cost-to-benefit ratio is a bit more conservative for human beings. University of California researchers recently concluded that a lifetime of severe calorie restriction would probably prolong a human lifespan by only 3 percent to 7 percent. "Are we going to wake up and rejoice that we're alive for one more day when we only get to eat bean sprouts and brown rice?" asks Kristine Clark, Ph.D., R.D., director of sports nutrition and assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State University in University Park. A wiser, happier way to slow the aging process is to adopt a diet filled with nutrients and enjoyment. Eating well is one of life's great pleasures—and done appropriately, it offers the rewards of a longer life. Here are seven principles to help you eat better, longer.
1. PACK IN THE ANTIOXIDANTS The antioxidant compounds found in fruits, vegetables, and herbs help prevent cell damage and reduce inflammation, which is the key to delaying aging and reducing vulnerability to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Studies at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston indicate that foods particularly high in antioxidants—like spinach, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries—may help prevent long-term memory loss and protect learning ability, as well as guard capillaries from oxygen damage. Prunes, raisins, kale, and Brussels and alfalfa sprouts also get top ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scores, which measure the antioxidant power of foods. And although they get little notice, many herbs are as full of antioxidants as fruits and vegetables, reports the Agricultural Research Service Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. Oregano tops the list, but other high achievers include bay leaves, dill, savory, and coriander.
Brussel sprout image via Shutterstock