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How To Eat Wisely: 15 Tips From The Nation’s Best Chefs

The more nutritious food is, the longer we tend to live, new research finds. But our relationship to food can also influence that life span. And that’s where eating experts from around the country join forces to teach us what to eat, how to cook it, and why eating it can actually mean a big life extension. In their expert advice, they reveal their own special tricks to make sure you eat smarter and live longer.

What exactly does it take to live longer than the average life span? According to scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it varies a lot by one single factor, the quality of one’s blood. A healthy person, in other words, has a higher level of red blood cells than the population as a whole, and so that person has an average life span of about 80 years. But the number can drop dramatically for certain blood types, and for a few others that is because of what scientists call “anemia,” “hypertension” or simply “low blood sugar.” These low-level issues result from deficiencies in iron and other nutrients that can lead to an impaired immune system, and in some cases even death. Now, scientists are hoping to learn whether eating a variety of food that contains high concentrations of antioxidants can help people maintain good health in their older years.

The researchers suggest that those high in antioxidants might be able to extend their lives simply by eating foods rich in these nutrients and not getting as much processed grain consumption or consuming too many high blood pressure and cholesterol-laced foods. They hope to be able to publish their findings very soon.

How do you eat to live longer? In the US, it’s been recommended that adults eat a diet that has a high proportion of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low sugar dairy and fish. But in the past, researchers had also argued that it was important to eat a “starchy” carb like potatoes and rice as well, as part of a healthy meal. And that could have contributed to poor blood sugar control of the past. Now, however, the latest advice from the USDA and other health agencies suggests it’s best to stick to just one of these staples, because many more foods have low levels of these “anti-oxidants” than carbs.

So, how do we get all of these important protective nutrients on a daily basis? It all starts with the way we cook and store food. A good rule of thumb is that a serving of fruit has approximately three to five times the antioxidant content of a serving of flour. A cup of cooked vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower has about three times the antioxidant content of a cup of rice; a cup cooked beans has about six times the antioxidant content of a cup of white flour; and a cup of brown rice has 13 times the antioxidant content of a cup of flour. One cup of cooked brown rice has about a quarter the carbohydrates of the same amount of cooked white rice does. “As a result, the number of servings of the foods with antioxidant nutrients that a person can actually enjoy is much larger,” says Dr. Elizabeth Fudacz, a researcher in the Department of Integrative Public Health and the associate director of the University of Colorado’s Preventive Medicine Research Center.

It’s not just the foods we eat that we should keep on hand, according to the researchers. “All of the components of the food need to be eaten in moderation, and you’re not going to get the benefits from everything you eat,” says Fudacz. A large portion with whole grains (like rice and pasta) or other vegetables (like a bowl of baked beans) can give us the beneficial nutrients from vitamin A, for example, but not all the minerals. “You need to eat a diet that’s as wholesome as possible, and I do mean ‘wholesome’ in the sense that it’s very diverse and includes a variety of different fruits and vegetables.” The researchers also stress that eating fruits and vegetables is not only healthy, but also a healthy option, as these foods are extremely low in calories and a large number of people are taking in less than two to three servings of red meats per day, mostly because they are concerned about their cholesterol levels.

If you’re worried about getting enough folic acid, your doctor should be able to tell you what you’re really deficient in, and how much you should eat to achieve optimal folic levels.