Our clients are growing older and we are, too! By the year 2050, over 800,000 centenarians will reside in the United States and these baby boomers are demanding to know how to live healthy into their golden years.
As nutrition professionals, we are often asked by clients how to live a longer and healthier life. To help them, perhaps we can use this mnemonic (Long Life) in our education as the framework for a longevity salad bowl.
Leafy Greens — Fill the bowl with at least 3 cups of greens. Good choices include arugula, spinach, watercress or red leaf lettuce. A daily dose of leafy greens has been linked to a reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s, both diseases potentially shortening a long and prosperous life.
Other Vegetables — Top the greens with at least 3 colors of vegetables (1/2 cup each), raw or cooked. Consider making one a cruciferous vegetable (try kohlrabi or turnips, for a change), as they promote overall longevity. Higher consumption of vegetables and fruits is associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality, with a 5 percent reduction in risk for each additional daily serving.
Nuts and Seeds — Sprinkle a couple tablespoons of walnuts, pistachios, chia, flax or even dried squash seeds on the salad for a flavorful crunch. Rich in omega-3 fats, protein and fiber, these nutrition powerhouses help protect the heart and blood vessels from disease and reduce inflammation. They have an antioxidant profile to support brain health and longevity.
Grains — Add 1/2 cup of grains to the salad for a fiber and nutrient boost. With all of their parts intact, whole grains are a great source of the powerful antioxidant vitamin E, as well as B vitamins, magnesium, and selenium. Impressive research has identified a much lower death rate among individuals who eat 2-6 servings a day of whole grains.
Legumes and Other Protein — To get the protein needed in the salad bowl, consider 1/2 cup legumes or 3 ounces of fish, seafood or tofu. Legumes, including beans, peas, lentils and garbanzos, are economical and can reduce inflammation and obesity risk.
All these protein sources are more widely eaten in cultures where individuals reach their century mark — Sardinia, Italy and Japan to name a couple.
Intense Flavors — Sprinkle, zest, mix and toss a variety of fresh herbs and fruit into extra virgin olive oil and vinegar for an intensely-flavored and delicious salad dressing. Many herbs and spices such as basil, mint, rosemary and turmeric are loaded with potent plant compounds to reduce inflammation and provide antioxidant and anti-aging effects. Try dressing the salad with one part oil and herbs (1 Tbs. each); 2 parts vinegar and dried fruit (2 Tbs. each) and a dash of a favorite spice.
Fermented Foods — Top the longevity salad with a scoop of a flavorful fermented food for an extra dose of probiotics and disease-reducing micronutrients. The connection between fermentation, the human biome, disease and longevity is becoming increasingly clear. Centenarians from around the world often include a dose of fermented foods daily. Ideas for the salad topping include sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt or aged-cheese.
Enjoy! Eat slowly and dine with family and friends — just like many centenarians do. Adding a cup of green tea or a glass of red wine will provide an antioxidant boost and is the perfect accompaniment to a delicious longevity salad bowl.
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Sue Stillman Linja, RDN, LD, is with the Panhandle Health District.