In order to live a long, healthy life, you’re told to consume plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and be active, for example. But what may not be clear are what foods and lifestyle choices may increase your risk for chronic conditions that could reduce your quality and quantity of life.
The ingredients in certain foods, the nutritional profile, the way you cook the food you eat, the beverages you drink and the way foods are processed could all have an impact on your overall health. It’s important to understand the foods, drinks and lifestyle behaviors that you should limit today toas g extend your life well into the future.
To determine what factors can reduce life span, you should first look at what factors have proven to help extend life span. A well-known study, known as Blue Zones, shows that there are nine common factors among the people in the world who seem to live significantly longer than others. These Power 9 include:
In summary, those who live longer have a life full of loved ones that support them and support a healthy lifestyle. And when it comes to lifestyle habits, those who eat a lot of plant-based foods, reduce alcohol intake and eat sensible portions are most likely to extend their life in quantity and quality.
So, now that you know what habits you should adopt to extend life, let’s talk about what habits you can limit or avoid to do the same.
Limit intake of processed foods
Many foods go through processing in one way or another. The definition of a processed food is any raw commodity that goes through some type of process that changes it from its original form in some way. Therefore, even bagged spinach that has undergone washing and rinsing is considered minimally processed. These minimally processed food products are perfectly fine to consume. It is the ultra-processed foods that you will want to limit intake of.
Ultra processed foods (UPF) are those food products that have undergone many stages of processing and contain various additives and preservatives for flavor, color and stability. Examples of ultra-processed foods include:
Research shows that an increase in intake of such UPF increases risk of conditions like heart disease and depression. Another recent study shows that certain adverse health effects like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression and irritable bowel syndrome are linked with intake of UPF.
Reduce intake of sugary drinks and alcohol
Sugary drinks like cola, fruit juice and certain sports drinks typically contain at or above the recommended sugar intake for the day of most adults. Experts recommend no more than 24 to 36 grams of added sugar per day for most adults. Added sugar includes those sugar components not naturally present in foods. For example, milk and milk products contain lactose, or milk sugar, which is natural. However, some yogurt products contain artificial flavors and fruit syrups that contain added sugar.
In turn, excessive added sugar intake can lead to excessive calorie intake that can lead to unhealthy weight gain and research shows that intake of such drinks can increase risk of heart disease.
When it comes to alcohol, less is more. Not long ago, the recommendation was that most adults should consume less than one standard drink per day for women and less than two standard drinks per day for men for optimal health. One standard drink is equal to:
However, a 2021 study shows that there is no safe threshold below which drinking alcohol is not toxic to the organ systems in the body. Not to mention that a recent study shows that alcohol intake may be linked to increased risk of certain cancers.
If you drink alcohol for the taste or social aspect of it, opt for nonalcoholic beverage options of which there are many these days, including not just alcohol-free beer, but also alcohol-free wine and liquor alternatives. These alcohol-free options tend to be lower in calories to their alcohol-containing counterparts, thus being a great fit in your healthy lifestyle.
If you feel like you consume alcohol to boost your mood, perhaps you may benefit from speaking with a health counselor to help you find healthier ways to manage stress and your mood.
Try not to fry your food too much
Research shows that the more fried foods you consume, the greater the risk of developing diseases such as heart disease that can increase risk of mortality. Fried foods can include fried potatoes, battered and fried shrimp, chicken and other proteins, and potato chips, for example.
Put down the salt and eat fresh
A higher sodium eating routine can increase risk of conditions like high blood pressure and related heart disease. Higher sodium intake can occur when you add a lot of salt to dishes during and after cooking. However, some food products are high in sodium upon purchase such as canned soups, pre-made meals, deli meats, processed meats like sausage and hot dogs, microwave meals and certain fast foods.
Read the ingredient label to limit additive intake
When food shopping, you should learn to look at the label carefully. Not only can it help you figure out how much sugar and salt are in a certain food or drink item, but it can also help you see what additives are in a product. Such additives may alter gut bacteria and make a person more prone to digestive illness. Not to mention that certain food additives may impact the metabolic system.
Not all food additives are harmful since some can provide natural flavors and colors to foods and may help preserve foods so they can stay fresh longer. Those additives that may negatively impact health the most include:
Now that you know what to look out for when choosing foods for longevity, read below for tips on how to incorporate such tips into your daily routine.
Purchase frozen or fresh produce versus canned
Canned produce can contain high amounts of sodium due to added preservatives that help keep such produce shelf stable. You can always drain the salty liquid from the vegetables and rinse them off before eating, but it’s easier to just focus on fresh or frozen produce. The other benefit in buying frozen vegetables is that if you don’t eat a lot every day, you don’t have to worry about them going bad. Frozen vegetables can last from eight to 12 months if stored properly.
Opt for fresh meat versus canned or processed meat
Like canned vegetables, canned meats contain a salty brine to help keep them shelf stable, so they contain more sodium than fresh meats. Therefore, it’s better to purchase fresh meats and freeze what you don’t use. Fresh meats stored in the freezer can last from three months or more, depending on the type of meat.
Stick to healthier cooking methods
Instead of battering and frying foods, opt for healthier cooking methods to reduce saturated fat intake, which can help reduce heart disease risk in the long term. Healthier cooking methods include:
In addition to healthier cooking methods, once the food is prepared, you can season the proteins or produce with low sodium options like herbs and spices instead of a lot of salt.
Replace sugary drinks with lower sugar options
To reduce overall sugar intake, opt for lower sugar options for your primary fluids during the day. This means drinking enough water and low to no-sugar options like water, unsweetened tea or coffee. Other low-sugar beverage options include:
By just reducing sugar in your fluid intake can make a huge difference in your overall intake for the day.
When it comes to healthy eating, it can be confusing to know which advice to follow. The key is to stick to the basics and follow what other long-living individuals are doing. Making changes to your lifestyle can be difficult at first, so don’t hesitate to ask for help from a registered dietitian to help you get started.
Call your insurance provider to see what healthy living benefits you may be able to use to help you improve your current eating and exercise habits. Just one small change at a time can lead to great improvements to your health inside and out.
Alliance America is an insurance and financial services company dedicated to the art of personal financial planning. Our financial professionals can assist you in maximizing your retirement resources and achieving your future goals. We have access to an array of products and services, all focused on helping you enjoy the retirement lifestyle you want and deserve. You can request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation by calling (833) 219-6884 today.