Healthy Eating Tips

‘I’m an RD, and These Are the 5 Low-Lift, Joyful Things You Should Do Every Day To Boost Your Longevity’

Photo: Stocksy/Jesse Morrow
Is it just us, or can “wellness” feel exhausting at times? While we love the concept of habit stacking and practicing multiple healthy habits at once (think: sipping a heart-healthy matcha latte while taking a morning walk outside), there is such a thing as too much wellness.

This is why we asked nutrition and wellness expert, Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, to share longevity-boosting habits that we can do daily that are easy to execute and joyful rather than overwhelming or inconvenient. Each of these routines will help you feel accomplished, nourished, and energized throughout the day—and for years to come.

“What’s cool about these tactics is that they are all so doable,” says Cassetty. “And the research behind them highlights the significant benefits you reap from eating whole foods and making simple lifestyle changes. At the end of the day, you don’t have to do anything complicated or time-consuming to live a long and healthy life.”

5 easy longevity-boosting habits you can do every day

1. Eat a serving of walnuts

While all nuts have nutritional benefits, Cassetty leans on walnuts for daily snacking due to their high plant-based omega-3 content, which no other variety can boast. A study out of Harvard University found that people who ate a serving of walnuts five times a week experienced the benefit of a 14 percent reduced mortality risk, a 25 percent reduced risk of dying from heart disease, and an overall gain of 1.3 years of life expectancy compared to those who didn’t practice this ritual. Beyond their omega-3 content, Cassetty says that walnuts are amazing for longevity due to their high antioxidant content that helps protect against inflammation and oxidative stress.

Some of Cassetty’s favorite ways to sneak in a serving—one ounce or 1/4 cup—is by adding them to a bowl of oatmeal or a parfait, using them as a salad topping, turning them into a crispy crust for fish and poultry, or making a healthy snack mix with dark chocolate, popcorn, and freeze-dried fruit. Just be sure to store them in the freezer if you like to shop in bulk to keep them fresh.

2. Drink 2-3 cups of coffee

Yep, you read that right. Go ahead and enjoy that cozy morning cup of joe for more than just the jolt it brings. A recent study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology showed that drinking two or three cups of coffee each day could increase one’s lifespan whether participants reached for caffeinated or decaf. Interestingly, the most significant lifespan boost was found in those who drank ground coffee (rather than instant)—they saw a 27 percent reduced risk of death.

“Coffee beans have dozens upon dozens of bioactive substances that offer benefits like lowering inflammation, improving gut health, improving insulin sensitivity, and protecting against oxidative stress,” says Cassetty. “And when you think about it, there are a few things we eat or drink as habitually as we do coffee.”

However, this concept doesn’t give us license to start a daily frappuccino ritual or load up with our daily cuppas with pumps of flavored syrups. Cassetty says there is a ton of evidence out there to show that keeping your added sugars in check is beneficial for longevity (she is the author of Sugar Shock, after all). She recommends following the American Heart Association's guidance of no more than six added teaspoons of sugar each day for women and nine added teaspoons for men. If you love a super-sweet coffee drink, it may be worth slowly trying to reduce the amount of sugar bit by bit to create a more balanced morning beverage that still satisfies. You can also try swapping out the brand of beans you buy, as you just may discover that you don’t need the added sugar anymore once you’re stocking up on higher-quality coffee.

3. Eat five prunes

Fiber’s reputation has come a long way in the last decade, and prunes are no longer just the sticky fruit that your grandparents eat to stay regular. Cassetty notes a study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which found that prunes do so much more than get our digestive tracts moving—daily consumption may also improve your bone mineral density and reduce your risk of fracture, so start snacking.

Prunes contain a unique package of nutrients including fiber, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, boron, copper, and polyphenols that work together to promote healthier bones,” says Cassetty. She also notes that one’s risk of dying from any cause increases after a hip fracture, which is why she says prunes are high on her list of foods to eat daily.

The good news is that there are so many ways to enjoy prunes without eating them straight (though we think they are pretty delicious). You can blend them into your morning smoothie, stuff them with almond butter, chop them to add to salads and grain-based sides, and even puree them to use in your favorite baked good recipes.

4. Walk at least 2,000 steps—and pick up the pace

While we’ve all heard that walking 10,000 steps per day is the “gold standard” for activity, Cassetty says there is plenty of research out there to show that the health benefits start at just 2,000. According to studies found in JAMA Internal Medicine and JAMA Neurology, every 2,000 “purposeful activity steps” taken each day, one’s risk of early death may drop by 11 percent, plus, a similar reduction was found in cancer, dementia, and heart disease risk. Of course, you’ll reap even more benefits if you increase your step goal, and Cassetty says that if you can handle a brisk pace, go for it, even for 30 minutes.

The good news is, the benefits can still be enjoyed if you break up your step goal into multiple periods each day. And if you aren’t in a place to take on more than 2,000 steps yet, you can rest assured that you’re still boosting your health as you slowly increase your goal.

5. Eat a cup of leafy greens

Simply adding a small side salad to your daily meal regimen has been shown to protect our mental abilities for the long haul. A study funded by the National Institute on Aging showed that compared to adults who ate almost no leafy greens, participants who ate just over one cup of greens daily experienced the mental abilities of people 11 years younger. While that may not seem to matter to those of us in our 20s and 30s, upping our leafy greens intake can do wonders for aging healthfully and gracefully over time.

“Leafy greens are packed with nutrients: vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other bioactive compounds that science has indicated can help give you a mental edge,” Cassetty says.

Beyond serving up a side salad at your midday or nightly meal, Cassetty suggests mixing up your intake by adding a fistful of chopped greens to a morning smoothie, scramble, pasta sauce, soup, sandwich, or pasta salad. Serve up a salad with toasted walnuts to knock out two of these longevity-boosters at once.

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