There’s a reason the Mediterranean diet has been dubbed the longevity diet. Research shows that people who follow the eating plan — which favors fresh foods over processed — tend to live not just long lives, but long, healthy lives. Not coincidentally, it’s also the one most followed by people who live in the Blue Zones, those five regions of the world with the highest concentration of healthy centenarians.
“People who live in the Blue Zones aren’t looking for the latest fad diet or magical elixir to wellness,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Cleveland Clinic. “They’re eating real food,” meaning fresh, minimally processed whole foods. “They also eat to 80 percent fullness,” she adds. “So instead of measuring their food, they are tapping into their hunger and fullness cues.” These seven Blue Zone-worthy superfoods may help you stave off all the biggies — cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, obesity — and live well into the triple digits.
It’s easy to see why nuts land on every list of superfoods. “They’re a dense source of nutrients that can support our immune system and metabolism, balance inflammation and gut health, promote brain and heart health, as well as offer cancer preventive properties,” says Stacy Kennedy, a registered dietitian in Wellesley, Massachusetts. No wonder they promote longevity.
In a study published in BMC Medicine, researchers enlisted more than 7,000 adults between the ages of 55 and 80 who were at high risk for cardiovascular disease and asked them to follow one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra nuts, the same diet but with additional extra virgin olive oil instead of nuts, or a low-fat diet. After five years, those who consumed more than three one-ounce servings of nuts per week had a 39 percent lower overall mortality risk than the non-nut eaters. In fact, over the course of the study, the nut eaters had the lowest total death risk. “Nuts give us fiber, protein, healthy fats and key vitamins and minerals like omega-3s, vitamin E, calcium and selenium,” Kennedy says.