Our clients are growing older and we dietitians are, too! By the year 2050, more than 800,000 centenarians will reside in the United States, and baby boomers are demanding to know how to live healthfully into their golden years.
As nutrition professionals, we often receive questions from clients as to how can they live a longer and healthier life. To help them, we can use this mnemonic (LONG LIFE) in our counseling sessions as the framework for a longevity salad bowl.
Leafy greens: Fill the bowl with at least three cups of greens. Good choices include arugula, spinach, watercress, or red leaf lettuce. A daily dose of leafy greens has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. Both diseases potentially can shorten a long and prosperous life.
Other vegetables: Top the greens with vegetables that have at least three different colors—1/2 cup each—raw or cooked. Consider choosing one cruciferous vegetable (try kohlrabi or turnips for something different), as they promote overall longevity. Higher consumption of vegetables and fruits is associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality, with a 5% reduction in risk for each additional daily serving.
Nuts and seeds: Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of walnuts, pistachios, chia seeds, flaxseeds, 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 two to six servings of whole grains per day.
Legumes and other protein: To get the protein needed in the salad bowl, consider a 1/2 cup of legumes or 3 oz 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 Okinawa, Japan, to name a few.
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 decrease inflammation and provide antioxidant and antiaging effects. Try dressing the salad with one part oil and herbs (1 T each), two parts vinegar and dried fruit (2 T 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-fighting micronutrients. The connection between fermentation, the human biome, disease, and longevity is becoming increasingly clear. Centenarians from around the world often eat a healthful 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.
** To learn more about the foods and lifestyles of centenarians around the world, read “Striving for Longevity” in Today’s Dietitian’s May 2017 issue.
— Sue Linja, RDN, LD, is cofounder, officer, and president of S&S Nutrition Network, Inc, a company that provides geriatrics nutrition services to skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, psychiatric homes, assisted living, and other health care entities. She’s also a sought-after speaker on various nutrition and aging topics.