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5 Foods You Should Eat If You Want to Live Longer

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You have no control over how long you’ll live—it’s all genetics, right? Not necessarily. Turns out, there are a whole bunch of ways to add years to your life. In fact, you could live to 100 by taking control of your daily habits—like prioritizing exercise, sleep, and stress management.

But perhaps one of the easiest ways is changing what you eat. More and more research is showing that your diet is a super important indicator of how long you’ll live, and whether or not you develop a number of life-shortening chronic diseases. Lucky for you, it’s also ridiculously easy to change. Here are five life-lengthening foods to add to your plate today.

Fatty Fish

We’ve always thought of fish as brain food—and for good reason. Research shows that compounds in fish called carotenoids can protect against neurological diseases.

Plus, a new study published in The BMJ reinforces that the omega-3s in fatty fish—like salmon, tuna, and sardines—can help you live a longer, healthier life.

After analyzing data from more than 2,600 American adults with the average age of 74, researchers from Tufts University found people with higher levels of omega-3s in their blood (meaning they ate at least two servings of fish per week) had an 18 percent lower risk of unhealthy aging.

That means they were less likely to suffer from chronic diseases (like heart disease and cancer), experience cognitive decline or physical limitations, or have problems living their day-to-day life.

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Your favorite snack could be adding years to your life. Two large studies from the Harvard School of Public Health both found that the more often people ate nuts, the lower their risk of dying young. In fact, people who ate nuts daily were 20 percent less likely to die from cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease than those who didn’t.

Why? Nuts are full of nutrients that protect your heart and fight inflammation, such as unsaturated fats, fiber, folate, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and antioxidants like carotenoids and flavonoids, the researchers note.

Worried about the extra calories in that sprinkle of almonds? No need—the researchers found that nuts can actually help you maintain a healthy weight because they’re so satiating. Just be sure to control your portions to a 1-ounce serving.

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Whole grains

You already know white bread is pretty much devoid of nutrients, but did you know it’s cheating you out of extra years? Multiple studies have linked whole grain breads, pastas, and more with greater longevity.

According to one study in JAMA Internal Medicine, each additional 1-ounce serving of whole grains eaten correlated to a 5 percent lower overall mortality risk and a 9 percent lower risk of death from heart problems.

The researchers believe that this could be due to the nutrients found in bran, like fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, and phytochemicals. So pay attention to your bread’s packaging; it should say 100 percent whole wheat.

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Spicy foods

Break out the hot sauce: Research shows that eating spicy foods keeps you healthy longer. One study of more than 450,000 Chinese men and women found that those who ate spicy foods 6 or 7 days a week had a 14 percent lower mortality risk than those who ate spicy food just once or less during a typical week.

That’s be cause capsaicin—the compound that gives chili peppers their kick—acts as an antioxidant, fights inflammation, may improve blood sugar, and could play a role in fighting obesity and cancer, the study authors note.

Want to boost the power of spicy food? Give up the booze. The researchers also found that the relation between eating spicy food and living longer was stronger in those study participants who did not drink. (Sorry, beer and buffalo wings fans.)

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Here’s a good reason to have sushi tonight—and to order the seaweed salad. Research shows that fucoidan, a natural compound in brown seaweed, may have cancer-fighting effects.

Japanese life expectancy is one of the highest in the world. In addition to seaweed, scientists believe a diet rich in pulses, vegetables, and fish may also play a protective role.

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