We get it; the online world of health and wellness can sometimes feel like an overwhelming tundra of differing opinions and hot takes from a wide variety of experts and backgrounds. After a while, it can start to feel like you have to buy every new thing or change up your entire relationship with food just to live a “healthier life.” But in reality, there are small choices you can make on a semi-regular basis that actually make enormous impact in your overall health. More specifically, there are even simple food swaps that dietitians recommend for a longer life.
First, let’s look at the overall role our diet plays in our longevity: According to a study published in PLOS One, your dietary choices may be able to extend your life by up to a decade. The study says that whole grains, legumes, and other plant-based foods are helpful in slowing down the aging process. Additionally, an article published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition states that along with whole grains and legumes, eating vegetables, nuts, and fruits while lowering your intake of processed and red meat can help reduce your risk of many age-related diseases.
If some of these foods don’t come as naturally to you, or you find it overwhelming to change up your diet in these ways, our dietitians have some super simple food swaps to make for a longer life that you can start doing today. Read on for their advice, and for more healthy aging tips, check out the 5 Eating Habits That Can Save Your Heart.
Choose salmon instead of steak
“I advise limiting red meat and choosing fish instead,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and member of our Medical Expert Board. “Grilled salmon, for example, is high in protein, lower in saturated fat than most red meat, and full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, omega-3 fatty acids can help your heart health by reducing inflammation, lowering triglycerides, reducing risk of blood clots, and lowering risk of heart disease and stroke, all of which are crucial for extending your life as you age.
Drink tea instead of soda
Excess soda consumption can contribute to a multitude of life-threatening health complications, such as increased risk of liver disease and insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and mortality, and it has even been found to age your body’s cells more rapidly. We aren’t suggesting you get rid of it completely if it’s something that brings you small bursts of joy, but limiting it to a “once-in-a-while” treat and swapping it out for something less sugary can benefit your health tremendously. For easy swaps, our dietitians recommend tea, flavored seltzer, or natural juice.
“Green and black tea contain plant compounds called flavan-3-ols, and these compounds have been shown to support heart health, reduce cardiovascular mortality, and more,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, registered dietitian and author of The First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility. “The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has provided guidelines for how many flavan-3-ols we should be consuming every day, which is 400-600 milligrams. Drinking 2 cups of green or black tea every day will provide a person with the recommended amount of flavan-3-ols.”
Swap out soda for seltzer or 100% juice
If tea isn’t your thing, Young suggests seltzer.
“Swapping soda for water or seltzer can save you hundreds of calories,” says Young. “For flavor, add a splash of lemon, orange, or cucumber, or throw in a few fruity ice cubes (pour your favorite juice into an ice cube tray and freeze for flavored ice cubes).”
If you’re looking for a fruit juice to mix with your seltzer, Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, an award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Family Immunity Cookbook, suggests 100% pomegranate juice.
“The antioxidants found in POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice, called polyphenols, fight free radicals that can do damage to the body’s cells over time,” explains Amidor. “Specifically, the antioxidant anthocyanins are found in the arils of the pomegranate, while the pith contains ellagitannins, which are found to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.”
Despite what we’ve been told in the past about bread and carbohydrates, “grains and starches are not taboo and do not need to be avoided to be healthier and lose some weight in the process,” Young claims. However, the trick is in eating the healthiest types of grains.