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Aging is a terrifying concept for many of us. Afterall, who would not want to hang on to their wrinkle free-skin, silky black hair, and perfect white teeth. Unfortunately, like many things in life, aging is inevitable.
However, Fear Not!
You can significantly slow down the process of aging, and promote human longevity by consuming longevity foods. Consuming a diet for longevity can not just promote anti-aging but also achieve hormonal balance while keeping your inflammation levels in check!
How to increase longevity?
The million-dollar question we as humans often ask ourselves is how do I prolong my existence with a high quality of life? Afterall, living longer means spending more time with your loved ones.
One obvious answer we might not pay enough attention to is leading a healthy lifestyle. Indeed, healthy diet eating and regularly exercising can help promote anti-aging by boosting your immunity and metabolism. But one may wonder what serves as the best diet for longevity? In other words, which diet is associated with the longest life expectancy?
Eating the right diet could add a decade to your life
A diet characterized by plenty of legumes, whole grains, vegetables, some fish, very little red and white meat, very little sugar and refined grains, walnuts, olive oil, and dark chocolate is ideal for longevity.
This is in accordance with the research conducted by Valter Longo, a renowned biochemist and director of the USC Longevity Institute at USC y Dr. Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. His research involved analyzing long-lived populations around the world, including Greece, Italy, Japan, and the United States. The findings revealed that all-cause and cardiovascular mortality was inversely associated with a plant-based diet. Furthermore, he also found that plant protein substituted for animal protein, particularly processed red meat, was associated with a lower mortality rate. This, in the context of human longevity, highlights the importance of plant-based diets and the dangers of processed foods.
Vegetarians and Vegans you are at an advantage
The majority of foods that constitute a longevity diet are plant-based diet foods including –
- Leafy green veggies like chard and spinach
- Nuts like walnuts, almonds, peanuts and pistachios
- Legumes (chickpeas and lentils) and beans
- Fiber-rich vegetables like carrots, broccoli and beetroot.
Plant-based diet benefits become apparent when one considers a meta-analysis conducted at Harvard and Tehran University. In this analysis researchers analyzed 32 studies about protein intake involving more than 715,000 people with follow-ups ranging from three-and-a-half to over three decades. Post analyzing the data, researchers found that obtaining 3% more of total calories from plant proteins such as beans, whole grains and nuts led to a 5% reduction in premature death risk. Another study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that replacing eggs and red meat with plant proteins led to a 24% reduction in death risk in men and a 21% reduction in women.
Now one may wonder – Are there any other benefits associated with a plant-based diet?
The answer is YES, INDEED.
Plant-based diets can also improve hormonal health. Since they are high in fiber, packed with nutrients, and full of phytonutrients that fight inflammation and support healthy hormone function, a diet centered on plant-based foods may help maintain hormone balance.
The following are some examples of plant-based foods that must be included to achieve a hormone-balancing diet:
- Quinoa: This is a small seed that packs a powerful nutritional punch due to its abundance of complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and vital minerals. Quinoa’s distinctive combination of macronutrients can help maintain stable blood sugar levels by maintaining insulin.
- Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are an excellent source of lignans which are phytoestrogens (plant compounds) that resemble estrogen in our bodies. Increased intake of lignans in postmenopausal women leads to less active forms of estrogen. This is thought to potentially lower breast cancer risk.
- Turmeric: If someone ever suggested you consume turmeric while experiencing menstruation cramps, they were absolutely right. Turmeric’s primary active ingredient, curcumin, provides pain-relieving properties similar to NSAIDS (goodbye PMS).
- Avocado: In addition to being wonderful on toasted bread, avocado is a rich source of beta-sitosterol, a plant sterol with a structure comparable to cholesterol. Despite resembling cholesterol, plant sterols can ironically lower cholesterol levels in the body. Beta-sitosterol can also lower the stress hormone cortisol, making avocado toast the ideal snack for exam days.
Mediterranean diet: An anti-aging powerhouse
According to research, adopting a Mediterranean diet at age 20 can lead to a 13.0-year increase in life expectancy for men and a 10.7-year increase for women.
But what exactly constitutes a Mediterranean diet?
Mediterranean diet foods include produce, whole grains, legumes, healthy fats such as fatty fish, nuts and seeds, aromatic herbs, and spices. Mediterranean diet meals emphasize consuming fruits and vegetables which make up the foundation of the same. Some examples of fruits and vegetables can include apples, artichokes, carrots, celery, and mushrooms. In addition to recommending a heavy intake of fruits and vegetables, Mediterranean meals also emphasize consuming more whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Accompanying many Mediterranean diet meals are herbs, spices and condiments which acquire anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Some examples of the same include cinnamon, nutmeg, mint, and cumin. Although cheese, yogurt and other dairy products are eaten regularly in the Mediterranean diet, they are typically consumed in small amounts and in moderation. Hence Mediterranean diet benefits not just include provision of nutrition for longevity but also avoidance of complete calorie restriction. In fact, there also exists a 23% lowered risk of diabetes in individuals who consume a Mediterranean diet.
Now one may wonder if a Mediterranean diet akin to a plant-based diet also provides hormonal benefits?
Given the fact that over 50% of calories come from plant-based foods in a Mediterranean diet, Mediterranean diets are likely to promote hormonal balance (See section above).
With 30% of calories coming from healthy fat, the Mediterranean diet serves as an optimal source for anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats like olive oil. Such fats appear pivotal for optimal hormone production given that they help build healthy cell membranes and receptors that enable hormone entry in cells.
Your body requires amino acids to build hormones. Amino acids are formed when proteins are broken down. Allocating around 15-20% of calories to proteins, the Mediterranean diet thus also supports hormone production.
Hence incorporating a plant-based diet and or Mediterranean diet in your day-to-day life can help you achieve better health outcomes and a longer lifespan!
Processed Foods: Steer Clear
According to recent studies, eating processed foods speeds up telomere shortening and cell aging. Telomeres are structures located at the end of our chromosomes that serve as markers of an individual’s biological age. Their length is influenced by dietary factors through oxidation and inflammation mechanisms. Lowered telomere length is associated with aging while higher lengths are associated with durability.
Processed meat production in particular lead to the formation of Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). These are harmful compounds formed when proteins or fats combine with sugar in the bloodstream. The AGEs induce oxidative stress and inflammation which impede the activity of telomerase, an enzyme that helps add DNA to telomeres. This makes processed foods like processed meat lower telomere length which cause cellular senescence. Hence avoiding processed foods such as deli meats, frozen food, packaged snacks, canned soups, and sugary beverages are likely to help you increase your longevity.
You and I both know that giving up on processed foods can be difficult. However, replacing the same with unprocessed foods such as vegetables, legumes, fruits, and nuts in the long run can end up significantly improving your mood and immunity.
Does caloric restriction via fasting help improve longevity?
According to a study published in the journal Nature Aging, eating less calories appears to lengthen healthy adult’s lives and delay the rate of aging. The study was the first-ever randomized controlled trial that examined the long-term effects of calorie restriction. In the study, 220 adults were given the option to make no dietary adjustments or to reduce their caloric intake by up to 25%, or 500 calories. While most individuals in the caloric restriction group ended up only cutting 12% of their total calories, researchers found that cutting even 12% led to significant changes. In particular the change associated with a 2-3% reduction in the pace of aging which translated to a 10-15% lowered risk of dying early.
Conclusively it seems that both a plant-based and Mediterranean diet appear crucial for promoting longevity and achieving hormonal balance.
However, which diet wins?
It seems that the Mediterranean diet takes the cake. This is because it provides combinatorial advantages stemming from both a plant and animal-based diet.
So now you know the secret to a more productive, blissful, and longer life… Start incorporating a Mediterranean diet into your day-to-day lives and relish the pleasant surprises it brings to your mind, body, and soul.
- Publishing, H. H. (n.d.). Eat more plant-based proteins to boost longevity. Harvard Health.
- Dandrea-Russert, N. (2020, October 12). 7 Plant-Based Foods for Hormonal Balance. Purely Planted.
- Haddad-Garcia, D. M. L. (n.d.). 6 Ways the Mediterranean Diet Helps You Live Longer, According to a Dietitian. EatingWell.
- A List of the 100+ Best Foods to Eat on the Mediterranean Diet. (2022, October 6). Good Housekeeping.
- Fretts, A. M., Howard, B. V., Siscovick, D. S., Best, L. G., Beresford, S. A., Mete, M., Eilat-Adar, S., Sotoodehnia, N., & Zhao, J. (2016). Processed Meat, but Not Unprocessed Red Meat, Is Inversely Associated with Leukocyte Telomere Length in the Strong Heart Family Study. The Journal of nutrition, 146(10), 2013–2018.
- A calorie-restricted diet may slow aging in healthy adults, science shows. (n.d.). NBC News.
- FNP, D. M. (2021, May 24). What’s the best diet to keep your hormones balanced? Genesis Gold.
- Rodriguez, D. (2017, July 17). Is the Mediterranean Diet Best for Diabetes? EverydayHealth.com.
- Gomstyn, A. (2019). Food for Your Mood: How What You Eat Affects Your Mental Health. Aetna; Aetna.
Hormone University was created as an educational platform with the mission to improve hormone health through accessible knowledge and to advocate for social impact in our communities.
You’re not alone.
80% of the adult female population has experienced hormonal imbalance at one point in their life that affected not only their physical health but also their mental health. Coping with pain, infertility, anxiety, depression, body image issues, and, on top of this, judgment is the heavy load most of these women have to bear each day and an important problem we need to tackle as a society.