1. Dark chocolate
Good news for chocoholics – chocolate can help you live longer! Cocoa beans are packed with antioxidants which studies have found can help cut your risk of heart disease – the biggest killer in the Western world. This may be why Jeanne Louise Calment, who lived a grand total of 122 years and 164 days (the oldest verified age of any human being ever) put her good health down to her regular chocolate consumption. However, before you go stocking up on chocolate bars, it is worth bearing in mind that one square a day is enough to boost your health. Also, make sure you go for the over 70 per cent cocoa bars which contain more flavonoids and less sugar.
2. Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables
Research suggests that those who eat more fruit and vegetables tend to live longer than those who don’t, due to the nutrients they contain. While all fruit and veg is good for you, brightly coloured produce is particularly beneficial as the natural pigments which give them their colour can also help prevent cancer. The Okinawans – who are reputed to have the world’s longest life expectancy and who have low rates of heart disease and cancer – have a diet that is rich in fruit and veg, especially dark green and yellow varieties. In particular, the Okinawan diet features large quantities of sweet potatoes, having replaced the traditional Japanese staple of rice with this vibrant veg.
3. Oily fish
People in Japan have the longest life expectancy in the world, which may be down to their traditional diet which is high in fish. Not only does opting for fish over meat reduce your risk of many of the health problems associated with red meat, such as heart disease, but oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout are renowned for their health benefits. Oily fish are a good source of vitamins A and D which are good for the immune system. Furthermore, they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which have been linked to a lowered risk of heart disease, brain damage and stroke.
4. Green tea
Another staple of the Japanese diet, green tea boasts an impressive array of health benefits, helping to improve cardiovascular health, regulate blood pressure, boost the immune system, and lower cholesterol. Studies have even suggested that drinking green tea – which is rich in health-boosting flavonoids – can help to lower your risk of cancer. Research findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association appear to back up these health claims, as the Japanese study of more than 40,000 participants found that those who drank five or more cups of green tea a day had a death rate that was 16 per cent lower than those who drank one cup, over the course of 11 years.
5. Olive oil
Many of us stay away from fats and oils in a bid to stay trim and healthy; however, ‘good’ monounsaturated fats, which are found in olive oil, are actually essential for good health. Studies have found that regularly consuming olive oil can help cut your risk of stroke and heart disease, due to its high content of micronutrients called phenols which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The oil is also a staple of the healthy Mediterranean diet, which studies suggests can help you live longer. Research has found that those who follow this eating plan have a 20 per cent higher chance of living longer, gaining an estimated average of two to three years.