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10 Healthy Foods That Further Your Life Expectancy

Spice Up Your Life

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Adding spice to your food may add years to your life, says new Chinese research. According to the study of nearly 500,000 people, those who ate fiery foods at least one day a week over four years cut their risk of dying by 10 percent and those who ate it three to seven days a week saw a 15 percent drop. The researchers credit capsaicin, the thing that gives spicy ingredients their heat, noting that it has anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammation, and anticancer properties. (Treat your tastebuds with these 10 Sriracha-Flavored Snacks for the Spicy Food Enthusiast.)

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Pick Protein

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You already love protein for its muscle-building, satiating properties and now you can add longevity to its list of assets, according to research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But before you load up, know that the key is getting the right amount. Too much as well as too little protein can shorten your lifespan, the research shows. Instead of going on an all-steak-all-the-time diet, the NIH recommends a moderate 10 to 20 percent of your total calories come from protein for optimal longevity. (Sick of the same ol' recipes? Start your day with 10 High-Protein Breakfast Ideas (That Aren't Eggs).)

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All the Green, Leafy Things

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The fact that vegetables have been shown by multiple studies to lengthen your life and improve your health isn't too surprising. But what might shock you is just how many years plants add—particularly dark, leafy greens. The most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, greens pack a powerful nutritional punch for just a few calories. (Learn about The 10 Best Leafy Greens.) In fact, a recent study in Experimental Biology found that just one serving of greens per day not only decreased participants' risk of death by 15 percent but also protected their brains from the effects of aging—so those extra years are good ones.

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Fill Up On Fiber

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For a longer life, stock up on oatmeal, whole wheat cereal, and other whole grains. A study done by the NIH found that people who ate a fiber-rich diet, particularly from whole grains, had a significantly lower risk of dying. They think the health boost is due to the way fiber helps regulate blood sugar and bowel movements. (Stock up on The Healthiest Cereal Choices to Help You Live Longer.)

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Dish on Fish

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Finding Nemo (on your plate) may help you find the fountain of youth, according to a 2013 study from Harvard. Researchers found that people who ate the most fish had the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood, which translated to a 27 percent lower risk of death. Pass on mercury-contaminated fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish. Researchers advise focusing on fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna, and eating at least one serving per week. (Bust boredom with these 4 New Ways to Flavor Fish.)

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Go Nuts

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A handful of nuts a day can add many days to your life, according to a study done by the Harvard Medical School. People who noshed on almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and other tasty treats were 20 percent less likely to die from any cause. While the reason why isn't clear yet, the researchers think it has to do how nuts help us feel fuller faster and help control blood sugar spikes. Plus, nuts are a great source of vital minerals like magnesium, as well as protein and fiber, which have also been linked to a longer life (see previous!). (Ask the Diet Doctor: Should I Soak Nuts, Seeds, and Grains?)

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Go Mediterranean

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Loading up on red wine and olive oil sounds like a dieter's dream, but in this case it's a dream come true. According to a Harvard study, people who adhere to a traditional Mediterranean diet are some of the longest-living people on the planet. In fact, they found it actually lengthened telomeres (the tip at the end of each chromosome that typically shorten as we age), effectively making a dieter younger. To get the health benefits, however, stick to fish, poultry, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, vegetables, and fruit. Oh, yes, and a glass of wine! (Check out some of our favorite recipes in Mediterranean Diet: Eat Your Way Forever Young.)

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Be Berry Good

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Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and other berries are as healthy as they are tasty. A 2013 Spanish study found that people who ate the delicious fruit several times a week had a 30 percent lower risk of dying. Researchers think the boost in longevity is thanks to berries' high concentration of polyphenols, a micronutrient shown to prevent degenerative diseases. (Try these 10 Berry Creative Ways to Use Blueberries.)

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Make Friends with Good Bacteria

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Not all germs are bad. In fact, some of the most beneficial bacteria live in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. A study from Japan—a country known for its love of fermented foods—found that eating probiotic-rich foods not only increased participants' lifespan but also gave them better skin and hair to boot. The scientists credit the ability of probiotics to protect the gut and reduce systemic inflammation in the body. So not only will you live longer, you'll look fabulous doing it! (Which kind if best? Ask the Diet Doctor: The Power of Probiotics.)

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A Cup O' Joe To Go

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Coffee drinkers rejoice: Your daily caffeine fix may be prolonging your life, according to according to a 2013 study in SAGE Publications. Researchers examined elderly people on the Greek island of Ikaria—famous for their long-living residents—and found that those who drank a daily cup of Greek coffee lived the longest. But these oldsters weren't downing processed grocery store blends—the scientists say their traditional coffee is high in polyphenols and antioxidants but relatively low in caffeine. However, a separate study in the New England Journal of Health and Medicine found similar longevity benefits for people drinking regular coffee. The key? They limited it to one cup a day. (How Much Coffee is Too Much?)

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