In addition to the many lifestyle practices that promote longevity (such as spending time in the sun safely, supporting mental health, and embracing social connection), incorporating nutrient-dense foods into your diet remains an effective way to promote both your lifespan and healthspan. So when we had the opportunity to speak with Harvard geneticist and longevity expert David Sinclair, Ph.D. on the mindbodygreen podcast, we were eager to jot down his top picks.
The six items at the top of his longevity-minded grocery list are listed below:
Sinclair takes the top spot with avocados: "If I could only eat one food, it would most likely be avocados," he declares unequivocally. He isn't alone: This fruit is popular among nutritionists because of its high fiber and monounsaturated fat content, which helps keep you full. Avocados are also high in minerals, protein, soluble fiber, phytosterols, polyphenols, carotenoids, omega-3s, and vitamins B-complex, C, E, and K. These advantages work together to promote brain, eye, and heart health (among other things!) by balancing cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
2. Olive Oil
High-quality olive oil is Sinclair's second choice for a healthy fat source. "Very fresh, very tasty," he says, "with maybe a little bit of bread or gluten-free bread dipped in there." (Here's how to tell if your bottle is still good.) In terms of health benefits, olive oil contains a high concentration of antioxidants, phytosterols, and vitamins, and has been shown to improve skin and brain health, as well as cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Furthermore, a recent study discovered a link between olive oil consumption and increased longevity.
And good news for those who, like Sinclair, enjoy olive oil with a slice of bread: Sourdough is a "true longevity food," according to Dan Buettner, a longevity expert, National Geographic fellow, and founder of Blue Zones.
3. Brussel sprouts
Moving on to his favorite vegetable, Sinclair enjoys "roasted Brussels sprouts, pan-fried, with a bit of garlic and salt and pepper." This cruciferous vegetable is high in vitamins A, C, K, and folate, as well as minerals like potassium and fiber to keep you satisfied. Furthermore, antioxidants like kaempferol and quercetin in Brussels sprouts can help with cell and immune health.
When it comes to preparation, they're incredibly versatile—for some ideas, try these pizza and slaw recipes.
We were surprised to learn that cantaloupe (an underappreciated addition to the fruit bowl!) made the cut. However, Sinclair claims that "as a fruit, that's the most nutritious you can get." The carotenoid beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, gives it its orange color. Vitamin A has a variety of health benefits, including immune, eye, skin, and reproductive health.
On a similar note, you can get a good dose of vitamin A from supplements, as most high-quality multivitamin formulas include it. For example, mindbodygreen's ultimate multivitamin+ contains a combination of carotenoids (beta-carotene is one of them), as well as a slew of carefully selected bioactive botanicals that provide additional, incremental support for cellular longevity and vitality. Researchers have even discovered that taking a daily, comprehensive multivitamin can help people live longer lives. I just had to throw in a little extra info in case you want to support longevity from multiple angles.
Blueberries, perhaps less surprising than cantaloupe, are one of Sinclair's favorite snacks. Their antioxidants promote healthy skin aging and collagen production, which is aided further by their vitamin C content (try this Blueberry beauty smoothie!). They're also high in fiber, which aids in the maintenance of healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Finally, blueberries are high in anthocyanins (the pigment that gives them their blue-purple color), which play an important role in brain and overall health, and research has even linked anthocyanins to healthy aging.
Sinclair completes his list with nuts, specifically cashews (his personal favorite) and Brazil nuts. He likes these two because of their high protein content (cashews have 5.1 grams per ounce, while Brazil nuts have 4 grams per ounce). Cashews, in addition to protein, contain copper and magnesium, while Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium (but limit yourself to one to three per day to avoid consuming too much of the mineral).
Finally, nuts are an excellent source of healthy fats such as omega-3s and omega-6s.