SCIENCE

Nutrition for longevity: How your diet can help you live longer

The best things you can do to support a long and healthy life are to stay active and have a nutritious diet. Below is a closer look at nutrition and how it contributes to longevity.

8 mins to read
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There are not many certainties in life, but one that many people don’t tend to think about till they get older is that one day they will perish. Everyone has a finite amount of time, but the amount of time each person gets is quite variable. There are many metrics people utilize to measure having a good life, and one of the most important is living a long and healthy life where you can enjoy it to its fullest.

Increasing human lifespan has been at the center of research and scientific discovery for hundreds of years. Modern medicine's development has drastically increased the average lifespan in industrialized nations. U.S. Census data shows that from 1960 to 2015, the average life expectancy increased by nearly 10 years.

Perhaps the most significant threat to longevity for people today is chronic disease. While there is not a cure for many of them once they are developed, living a healthy lifestyle throughout your lifespan is the best way to fight back and avoid them. This includes getting enough physical exercise, maintaining a healthy state of mind, and perhaps most importantly, your nutrition.

Below is a closer look at how your nutrition can help support your overall health and longevity. Living a longer life is a shared goal of many people, and by taking charge of your nutrition, you give yourself the best chance of doing so.

Where do people live the longest?

The human diet is vast when you sit down and think about it. Just look at any meal delivery service or meal kits, and you will see food options from around the globe. Determining the optimal diet, for this reason, can be quite cumbersome.

When trying to determine the best nutritional diet for longevity, one of the best ways to do it is to assess where people are currently living longer and what their diet consists of. The average lifespan globally is around 73 years as of 2019, and looking for populations where their lifespan exceeds this figure can provide some insight.

Below is a closer look at some regions with a higher number of individuals living longer than global averages, as well as their associated diet.

Okinawa

When people think of Japan, they most likely think of it as a single island country, but the reality is that Japan also consists of many other smaller islands in the surrounding region. Okinawa is the fifth largest island in Japan, and it is home to many people that have lived for over 100 years, also known as centenarians.

Okinawa is an island situated southwest of the Japanese mainland, and it has a unique population distribution when compared to the rest of Japan. Nearly five times as many individuals cross the 100-year-old threshold in Okinawa than in the rest of Japan and the average lifespan is significantly longer than global averages.

So what exactly is the secret for Okinawans? There has been a large number of studies looking into their secret to longevity, and strong social ties, regular physical exercise, and a mainly vegetarian diet throughout their life appear to be the answer. Many people associate the pescatarian diet with many island nations like Japan, but those in Okinawa tend to only eat fish on rare occasions.

Ikaria

Ikaria is a Greek island that is situated between the Greek mainland and Turkey. The island is another region with a relatively high concentration of people living past 100 years of age. The region is unique because it is a mountainous island with only a few thousand inhabitants.

The diet of the Ikaria people is a slight variation of the traditional Mediterranean diet, which is renowned for its high antioxidant and nutrient density. Many in Ikaria tend to eat a mostly plant-based diet, including fruits, veggies, whole grains, olive oil, and legumes like chickpeas. Protein like fish and meat make up only a small part of their overall diet.

Loma Linda

Loma Linda is a city in southern California near Los Angeles, and it is an area where many people tend to live almost a decade longer than the national average. It is believed that this increase in life expectancy has to do with the large number of Seventh-day Adventists that inhabit the region. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a protestant Christian denomination and, in addition to its held religious views, encourages living a healthy lifestyle. For many, this includes eating a mostly vegetarian-based diet in addition to getting routine exercise.

What are the important aspects of a diet?

The food you eat greatly affects your overall wellness and longevity. Eating large amounts of high-calorie and non-nutritious food can lead to weight gain, increase your likelihood of developing obesity and diabetes, and decrease your lifespan. At the same time, making healthy choices can help potentially lengthen your life and help keep you healthy.

Food choices have such a profound effect on your health because they are made up of molecules necessary for your body to function properly and efficiently. A wide variety of molecules in your food are important to your health, and below is a closer look at some important components of food and how they can help you to live longer.

Macros

If you are into health and fitness or have friends that are, you have most likely heard about macros. Macros refer to macromolecules, the basic subunit of essential molecules within the body. This includes fat, proteins, and carbohydrates. Each macromolecule has a specific purpose within the body, and maintaining a proper macronutrient balance is a great way to support your body.

Proteins are incredibly important within the body. Protein is largely utilized in muscle cells, but it is also utilized by the body to produce enzymes, signaling molecules, and other structures within the body. The recommended daily allowance of protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Carbohydrates are the main energy source for nearly every cell within your body. Foods rich in carbohydrates include pasta, grains, bread, vegetables, and sugar. When digested, these foods get broken down into their component sugars which are then absorbed into the bloodstream, where cells throughout your body can utilize them for energy. Most people agree that carbs should make up 40%-60% of your total calories.

Fats are another energy-providing molecule. Fats have a higher energy density than carbohydrates, and fat is utilized within the body to store extra energy and insulate the body. Fats are also an important component of your cell membranes and are necessary to produce many different hormones.

Vitamins & minerals

Macromolecules are not the only molecules your body needs to survive and thrive. Your body also needs several inorganic and organic molecules to be consumed in your diet, representing the need for vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins are organic substances that the body needs to function optimally. Vitamins known as essential vitamins are specifically important to get through your diet since they cannot be produced by the body. Essential vitamins include vitamins A, C, E, D, K, and B.

Minerals consist of the inorganic molecules your body needs to function optimally. This includes salts, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, and much more. Minerals play a number of important roles, from helping support the nervous system, acting as a subunit to important enzymes, and even helping to build strong bones.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants have become a hot topic in the world of health and fitness, but many people aren’t aware of the exact health benefits. Antioxidants are a class of molecules that can help to protect your body from oxidative damage. Oxidative damage, also referred to as oxidative stress, is a form of chemical stress placed on your body at the cellular level, which can cause several problems.

One of the best examples is within the mitochondria of each cell within your body. The mitochondria are a structure responsible for converting glucose into a usable form of energy for the cell. It accomplishes this through several chemical reactions, and some of those reactions create reactive oxygen species, which can cause oxidative stress without an antioxidant known as CoQ10. CoQ10 is naturally found in the mitochondria to protect itself, but in certain cases, the level of CoQ10 can decline and cause the mitochondria to succumb to oxidative stress.

MitoQ is a supplement that can help restore oxidative balance within the mitochondria. MitoQ is a highly absorbable form of CoQ10, which can help your mitochondria to function optimally ensuring your cells are getting all the energy they need.

Conclusion

In summary, nutrition for longevity is all about making good dietary choices consistently and pairing them with a healthy and active lifestyle. Eating whole foods, minimal meat, and mostly vegetables seems to be the longevity diet. If you truly want to get the most out of your nutrition, consider going to a registered dietician to create meal plans to ensure you get quality nutrition to keep your body running well for years to come.

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