Eating well is an important part of longevity, but it can be difficult to know exactly what foods to eat.
“Trying to get the right mix of nutrients in your daily diet can feel overwhelming, but no matter your age, nutrients make a difference,” Dr. Taz Bhatia, MD, integrative medicine physician and certified nutritionist, tells Yahoo Life. Eating the right balanced foods, Bhatia says, will help yourself create a happier, healthier lifestyle.
It’s easy to think of food as just something you eat, but Bhatia points out that what you choose plays a vital role in how your body works. “Nutrition is medicine and nutrients make all the difference,” she explains. “They regulate our hormones, improve our mental health, improve how our minds work, and even how our bodies move. It all starts with getting these nutrients—in a regular, consistent way.”
One of the places she looks for inspiration, Bhatia says, is her so-called blue zones, which include Italy, Greece and Japan. These are the areas “where people can live to 100 or more and be vibrant and prosperous,” says Bhatia. A common denominator in these areas? People focus on eating meals rich in whole, plant-based foods.
Do you want to add some healthy ingredients to your daily diet? Consider these proven health boosters.
Eggs are “an easy way to start the journey to a healthy diet,” says Bhatia, adding that they are “a superfood.” Among other things, eggs are high in B vitamins, choline, protein, and omega-3 fats. Now all of these nutrients are important for the health of your hormones, for the health of your gut, for maintaining muscle mass, even for your brain, improving how we feel in terms of anxiety and depression and keeping us They’re all sharper.”
Her tip: Boil it and eat it in the morning, or mix it into a stir-fry. You can even add it to your favorite baked goods. “All forms of egg use get you the nutrients you need,” says Bhatia.
Olive oil is high in omega-9 fats. “Omega-9 fats may not get as much stress as omega-3 fats, but we know that omega-9 fats are essential for gut health and even hormone health, they help regulate estrogen levels, and balance estrogen levels, and also aids in “brain health,” Bhatia says. She likes to spread a tablespoon of olive oil on a piece of toast or a rice cake, use it as a salad dressing or drizzle it in a vegetable skillet after she’s done cooking.
Just a heads up: when you heat olive oil past a certain point, you lose a lot of nutrients. “So it’s really important to have that tablespoon of olive oil a day at room temperature, not hot,” says Bhatia.
Avocado is another important superfood. “You only need about a quarter of an avocado, but that gives you the amount of omega-9 fats, selenium, and even vitamin E you need each day,” says Bhatia. She explains that the nutrients are important for brain health, improving blood flow for healthy hormones and promoting a healthy gut. “They contain medium-chain fats, and this helps keep your gut stable, preventing a lot of the uncomfortable digestive issues that sabotage nutrients in the beginning.”
Try slicing an avocado and adding it to a salad, eating it plain, sprinkling salt and pepper on top as a healthy snack, mashing it up and using it as a dip or blending it into a smoothie.
Sweet Potatoes Are Rich in Vitamin A “Vitamin A is important when we talk about longevity,” Bhatia says. “Vitamin A comes along, which improves cell turnover, and prevents your cells from breaking down and deteriorating your muscle skin and hair.” She recommends baking sweet potatoes, slicing and roasting them, or boiling them. “There are so many different things you can do with sweet potatoes, and they’re easy to digest. They don’t hurt your stomach, and they’re incredibly delicious,” says Bhatia.
Bhatia says cabbage is “extremely high” in vitamin A and vitamin C. Vitamin A, she says, “helps the immune system and helps us fight off viruses and bacteria.” Vitamin C “plays an incredible role in maintaining the health of your gut, your skin, your muscles, your bones, and so much more,” she says. Kale also helps with glutathione. “Glutathione is a powerful, powerful antioxidant, really providing oxygen to all of our cells, keeping us healthy, keeping every organ and muscle in the body vital and thriving, and keeping us in our best shape,” says Bhatia.
Cabbage is also a cruciferous vegetable, she notes, which helps metabolize estrogen and cleans out the liver. “One of the biggest problems with aging is that our livers get a little sluggish and can’t move things through,” says Bhatia. “Kale is one of those ingredients that support the liver.” Consider chopping kale and using it as a base for salads or adding it to soups.
Bhatia says this fruit is rich in fiber, minerals and resveratrol. “There are a lot of great studies on resveratrol and how it really promotes longevity and healthy aging,” she adds. Her advice: Cut a pomegranate in half, take out the seeds, and eat it. “I love adding it to salads or any garnishing recipes when I’m trying to make something special, because it’s so pretty, too,” she says.
Bhatia recommends rotating these foods in your diet and aiming to have them three to five times a week. “There is no right or wrong way to do this,” she says. “It’s all about incorporating easy, healthy little habits into your meals, so you get the nutrients you need to stay better and live longer.”