A Cardiologist's Top 3 Favorite Foods For Longevity (One Will Surely Surprise You)
Another day, another list of longevity-supporting foods. But this one comes with a special twist: As cardiologist Steven Gundry, M.D., author of Unlocking the Keto Code, shares on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, certain polyphenol-rich foods can protect mitochondria, which is essential for enhancing the lifespan.
"Number one, our [gut] bacteria think they're delicious," he says. "But in turn, those bacteria convert these polyphenols into substances that can actually uncouple our mitochondria," which generates heat in our bodies to burn energy—and that process, Gundry adds, is top-notch for longevity.
So go ahead and catch his favorite foods for longevity below; we bet you'll find one of them quite surprising:
If you're familiar with Gundry, you likely know he's got a thing for olive oil. "I'm infamous for saying the only purpose of food is to get olive oil into your mouth," he jokes. Olive oil, he says, is rich in polyphenols like oleuropein, lignans, and hydroxytyrosol—although, the specific type of olive oil you choose can affect its polyphenol content. Here's how to make sure you get the highest-quality EVOO.
"We could go on and on about societies that use huge amounts of olive oil and have great health," Gundry explains. In fact, when longevity experts share their favorite foods for a long life, olive oil frequently tops the list, as it has been shown to optimize cholesterol levels and blood pressure. A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology even found that simply eating more olive oil—especially in place of other fats—can enhance longevity.*
To continue this polyphenol theme, Gundry is also a fan of deeply hued berries. Blueberries, for example, boast polyphenol pigments called anthocyanins—these play an important role in brain and overall health, and research has even associated a link between anthocyanins and healthy aging. Another polyphenol called ellagic acid can be found in pomegranates, and research has shown this powerful polyphenol can also support metabolic and brain health.
"What I ask people to do is actually 'reverse juicing,'" Gundry says. "Go buy organic berries, and put them in your juicer." (You can also blend them up and strain the pulp, if you don't have a proper juicer.) But don't set that pulp aside: The polyphenols are concentrated in plant leaves, fruits, and seeds. "Take the fiber, take the pulp, and stir it into plain goat yogurt, sheep yogurt, or coconut yogurt," Gundry says. (Or feel free to use any plain yogurt you've got). "You can just load up on polyphenols that way."
Quite the surprising pick, we'd say! Of all the longevity-supporting foods we've discussed, this is the first time cheese makes the list. But according to Gundry, high-quality cheese often gets a bad rap: "I was actually talking with [professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College, London] Tim Spector M.D., and he says we've got to stop beating up on cheese," Gundry explains. "So I decided to start looking at Blue Zones."
Specifically, he highlights two of the most famous Blue Zones: Sardinia, Italy, and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. "The Sardinians with extreme longevity are the ones who live up on top of the mountain, and they are goat- and sheepherders," Gundry says. "Only the [people] up top are eating goat and sheep cheese products." And because these products contain MCTs and polyamine compounds, Gundry says they may have a positive effect on your mitochondria.
Now, let's look at the Nicoya Peninsula: "What do you think they're raising on the Nicoya Peninsula that they don't have in the rest of Costa Rica? Goats," Gundry says. "It's the cheese that they're eating, all the goat and milk products, that differentiates them from everybody else…So there's two Blue Zones where cheese is the secret to their long lifespan." Pure coincidence? Gundry isn't so sure.
Longevity foods run the gamut, but feel free to add Gundry's top three to your grocery list. Overall, Gundry notes, you can never go wrong with a few more polyphenols.