Eat Mediterranean for Longevity

Medically reviewed in December 2020

Want to live a long, vigorous life? Consider eating more fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes. That’s right! A Mediterranean diet might be one way to slow the aging process and extend your life.

Food for thought
Researchers looked at data from more than 4,600 women involved in a study that has tracked the health of U.S. nurses since 1976. The researchers used questionnaires to see how closely the nurses followed a Mediterranean diet. They also examined the participants’ genes. Turns out, the women who subscribed to the antioxidant-rich diet the most had longer telomeres.

But what on earth are telomeres? Think of them as a protective covering on the tip of chromosomes, much like the plastic cap on the end of your shoelace. Over time, as cells reproduce, telomeres get progressively shorter. Once they’re gone, the cell can’t divide normally. This is associated with aging. In a nutshell, the longer the telomeres, the slower the aging process.

More food for thought
This isn’t the first study to link a Mediterranean diet to a longevity. Dutch researchers followed more than 120,000 men and women for a decade to track their habits and mortality rates. People who ate a Mediterranean diet, didn't smoke, maintained a healthy weight and exercised regularly lived the longest. And for women, following the Mediterranean diet was significantly related to lower mortality.

Going Greek
Sometimes called "the world's healthiest cuisine," the Mediterranean diet emphasizes lots of plant proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, along with nuts and moderate alcohol consumption. (Yes, you can have a glass of wine with dinner.) It's also low in refined grains, red meat and sweets.

Mediterranean magic
Here are three more good reasons to go Mediterranean:

Need help adopting a Mediterranean diet? Try cooking up one of these Mediterranean-style dinners that are under 600 calories.

Take the first steps to growing younger and healthier with the RealAge Test.

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