Superfood Secrets for a Longer Life
By Dietitian Juliette Kellow BSc RD
The World Health Organisation’s life expectancy charts, tells us that the UK population can expect to live on average, until we are 78.7 years old, with women tending to outlive men – the average life expectancy for men is 76.4 years compared to 80.9 years for women.
But while these statistics may make us Brits look like we have a pretty good innings, surprisingly out of 193 countries, the UK is ranked 24th in the life expectancy table.
People living in Switzerland, Australia, Italy, Iceland, Sweden, Canada and Spain can all expect, on average, to see their 80th birthdays. But it’s the Japanese who top the tables, with an average life expectancy of 82.3 years – almost four years more than we can expect in the UK.
So just what can we do in the UK to catch up with some of our neighbours who live longer than us?
In the UK, cardiovascular disease – which includes all diseases of the heart and circulatory system, including heart attacks and strokes – is by far the biggest killer. More than 216,000 people die from this condition every year.
Cancer accounts for an additional 157,000 deaths each year, making it the second largest cause of death in the UK.
So when it comes to extending your life, it makes sense to do all you can to help prevent these two diseases.
Obviously, giving up smoking and taking more exercise are two of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of suffering from these conditions, so you potentially live for longer.
But it’s also crucial to lose weight if necessary as being overweight or obese is a risk factor for both.
According to Cancer Research UK, obesity is the second biggest risk factor for cancer after smoking.
The British Heart Foundation says that weighing too much means you’re up to four times more likely to die from heart-related problems and it’s fat around the midriff that particularly increases the risk.
According to the Chief Medical Officer, being obese reduces life expectancy by an average of nine years – that means obese men in the UK can expect to live to just 67 years and obese women, just 72 years.
But while losing those excess pounds will almost certainly help to improve your life expectancy, some foods may also help to keep your whole body healthy for longer thanks to the wide range of nutrients and antioxidants they supply.
As an added bonus, these foods all fit in with a balanced, healthy diet that will help you lose weight.
Blueberries are packed with antioxidants that may keep us healthy.
According to researchers at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, blueberries top the list in terms of their antioxidant activity when compared to 40 other fresh fruit and vegetables.
Most oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and fresh tuna contain protein, zinc, selenium, vitamins A and D, and some B vitamins.
Almost two thirds of the fat in avocados are monounsaturates, a type of fat that helps to lower levels of LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol, while maintaining or even increasing levels of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol.
Nuts contain a host of nutrients including protein, fibre, calcium, iron, selenium, magnesium and vitamin E. Plus, most of the fat in nuts comes from heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Broccoli contains many vitamins and minerals – notably beta-carotene, vitamin C, folate (a B vitamin) and potassium – but also provides two naturally occurring plant chemicals that have been linked to fighting cancer.
Whole grain include foods such as whole grain cereals, wholemeal bread, brown rice and wholewheat pasta.
As the name suggests, whole grains contain the ‘whole’ grain, including the nutrient-rich germ, the energy-providing endosperm and the fibre-rich bran layer.
They’re low in fat, high in fibre and a low-calorie source of many vitamins and minerals, but recent findings suggest tomatoes have another important nutritional benefit – they’re packed with lycopene, an antioxidant that gives them their red colour and may also have a role to play in lowering the risk of cancer.
Soya is packed with good quality protein and is the only plant food that contains all the essential amino acids (protein building blocks) needed for good health, making it comparable to meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.This makes it a particularly important food for vegetarians and vegans.
You can use the food diary and database tools in WLR to make sure your diet is healthy, balanced and contains the right amount of fat and calories. Try it free for 24 hours.