Tag Archives: Healthy Living

Food sources

As the Temps Rise, So Does Your Need for Vitamin D

Poor Vitamin D! It was a perfectly respectable vitamin until the Urban Dictionary perverted it into a sexual euphemism. Now one can barely mention the vitamin without the occasional titter from those familiar with what it means to “put the D in someone.” In fact, even Marks and Spencer has come under fire for their claims of “Putting the D In Bread,” sparking a social media frenzy by those who can’t keep their minds out of the proverbial gutter.

The more mature among us will know vitamin D as a valuable nutrient for managing calcium in the blood, and assisting with intercellular communication. You may also know that this vitamin is primarily derived from the sun. However, if the sun is not an option, due to inclement weather, or simply lack of exposure, there are some foods that may be more consistent options.

Tuna Fish
Canned tuna is probably the cheapest and most accessible source of seafood, and a 3 oz. contains 236 IU of vitamin D: more than half the daily requirement. Sandwich or salad, tuna’s got the D.

Eggnog

Eggnog
There is no wrong time for eggnog. One glass contains 25% of the RDA of vitamin D, thanks to its large egg content. However, you may want to keep the consumption down to a minimum to avoid a sugar overload.

Fortified Dairy
Although most dairy does not contain significant amounts of vitamin D, the federal government began to fortify milk in the 1930’s due to a widespread deficiency in the nutrient. A single cup of fortified milk will get you 34% of the recommended daily value, while a 6-ounce container of fortified yogurt will give you one fifth of the RDA.

Mackerel
If you’re looking to pick up some Vitamin D, mackerel is quite the catch. Not only does one four ounce portion contain an entire day’s worth of vitamin-D requirement, it also has lower levels of mercury and is at less of a risk of overfishing than other fish with a similar nutritional profile. Mackerel is also rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and protein. Catch it if you can!

Portobello mushroom

Portobello Mushrooms
Portobello mushroom crops are exposed to additional lighting that boosts the amount of vitamin D by a whopping 3,000 percent. The increase of vitamin D intake due to lighting has also been shown to be a cost-effective way of lowering depression.

Smoked Whitefish
Kosher deli connoisseurs will know this fish as a great accompaniment to bagels, but they may not know that half a cup of this brunch staple contains enough vitamin D to get you through your day, It is also naturally low in calories and fat, and rich in vitamin D, protein, and B vitamins.

Soy Milk
You may be drinking soy milk to address issues of lactose intolerance, but if its fortified, you are also getting a daily dose of D. Most brands contain about one-quarter of the daily requirement.

Orange juice

Fortified Orange Juice
You may know orange juice to be a valuable source of vitamin C, but with fortification it can also be a significant source of vitamin D, with one cup exceeding a quarter of the daily recommended intake.

How are you getting your D? Let us know! We love to hear it, especially the dirty stuff!

Work Out To Relieve Anxiety

Anxiety and excess weight have a lot in common. They are both dreaded first world problems, they are both unhealthy, and they are both difficult to avoid. While it sometimes appears that there is no escape from either, there is one more thing that the two have in common: an enemy. Although it is true that stress and obesity are formidable contenders, there is one thing that has been proven capable of taking down both of them in one fell swoop. What is this thing of which we speak? The Workout. Find out why working out may be your best ally in the constant battle to remain stress and fat-free.

Woman running

How does exercise help relieve anxiety?
Exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals, reduces immune system chemicals, and increases body temperature, all of which may have calming effects and have been shown to improve mood and boost confidence. Meeting exercise goals can make you feel better about yourself and looking better increases confidence in your appearance.

Exercise can also distract you from your worries and give you the chance to socialize with others. You may find friends at a gym, in an exercise class, or simply strolling the neighborhood. Physical activity is also a healthy coping activity, and a healthier alternative to dwelling on problems.

Physical Activity Vs. Structured Exercise
While the phrases physical activity and exercise are often used interchangeably, there is a slight difference between the two. Physical activity is defined as any activity that expends energy and contracts muscles, and can be applied to household work and leisurely activities. Exercise refers to a more structured repetitive plan done with the sole aim of improving fitness.

Although we generally think of lifting weights and running as ways to get in shape, less intense physical activities, such as walking or gardening are equally capable of improving your mood and helping to maintain physical health.

Family cycling

How to Get Started

Pinpoint What You Enjoy Doing
Pick out something you can envision yourself sticking with and try to make a plan that you’ll be likely to follow through with.

Set A Reasonable Goal
Find a plan that meets your abilities and schedule. While 30 minutes a day three to five days a week is the recommended amount, as little as 10 to 15 minutes of physical activity can be enough to make a difference. Also, keep in mind, more vigorous activities can improve your mood and meet your workout requirements in less time.

Avoid Thinking of It As A Chore
If you think of exercise as something in your life that you need to live up to, you’re likely to associate it with failure. Try instead to think of it as a therapy session to help you feel better.

Find Out What’s Stopping You
Try and think of what may be preventing you from working out. Do you feel self-conscious? If so, you may want to exercise at home. Maybe you would prefer to work with a partner. Find out what it is that’s causing you to hesitate and try to find an alternative.

Know Your Limits
Remember to pat yourself on the back every once in a while and forgive yourself for small slip-ups. Just because you miss a day, doesn’t mean you can’t get right back on the horse.

Does working out relieve your anxiety? Let us know you’re best workouts for helping to get through your day!

Steps For Smoking Cessation

We’ve come a long way, baby, from “You’ve Come Along Way, Baby.” The Virginia Slims ad, introduced in 1968, advertised the cigarette for women as a sign of the times, featuring liberated models in designer fashions happily dragging on their “own” cigarettes. Women were not the only ones who were targeted. The Marlboro Man was the essence of virility and masculinity, the modern day cowboy, blue- jeaned and mustachioed braving the western frontier, armed with a horse and omnipresent cigarette. Nowadays, we are more likely to see cigarettes ads of a much less glamorous variety.

For quite some time, it has been no secret that cigarettes are harmful to your health, and for the most part, lawmakers and health advocates have done a pretty good job in making that known. According to data released by the CDC, the number of adult smokers in in the US has fallen to the lowest rate in years. However, if you’re among the number that is still struggling, here are some tips that may be helpful.

Woman quitting smoking

Get a Reason to Quit
You already know its bad for you, you need to find a personal motivation for quitting. Maybe its to protect your family from second- hand smoke or to model a good example for your children. Maybe you want to stay healthy or look better. Whatever the reason, make it matter.

Don’t Think You Can Go Cold Turkey
Nicotine is an addiction and, if you give it up, you need to be prepared for withdrawal. if you are serious, ask your doctor about support methods. There are apps, medications, and counseling all designed for those trying to quit the cigarette habit.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Withdrawal is usually not fun and can sap your energy and cause irritability. Nicotine replacement, like gum, patches, and lozenges can help ease you through hard times without taking that dreaded puff.

Prescription Pills
When you are trying to quit smoking, there is a plethora of medications designed to aid you. Some can curb carvings, making smoking less appealing, while others can help lessen symptoms of withdrawal.

Avoid Alcohol
Drinking and smoking often of hand and hand, so try to cut down on alcohol when you first try to quit. Also, recognize and avoid other triggers. If you accompany your nightly cup of coffee with a cigarette, try switching to tea for a while. If you smoke after meals, try texting a friend instead.

Reward Yourself
One undisputed benefit of giving up cigarettes is the amount of money you will save. Take advantage of it by spending it on something for yourself.

Woman eating veggies

Eat Fruits and Veggies
Dieting while giving up cigarettes may be hard to handle. Try to eat vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins that are good for you. You can focus on cutting calories after you cut out cigarettes.

Lean on Friends
Make sure that you tell everyone close to you that you are trying to quit. Friends and loved ones can supply encouragement and support. You may also want to seek “behavioral therapy” to help you find and stick to strategies to help you quit.

Get Rid of Reminders
When you’re finished with smoking, it is a good idea to get rid of the paraphernalia that accompanies it. Toss out lighters and ashtrays and wash clothes, draperies, and carpets that smell like smoke.

Don’t Give Up
If at first you don’t succeed… A lot of the time quitting takes more than one try. If you relapse, think about what brought it on. Were there emotions that were hard to deal with? Use your failure as an opportunity to do better next time. Set a new quit date within the month and try and stick to it.

If you’re dealing with quitting, or have dealt with it, tell us your strategy. We want to know your secrets. They may help someone else!

The Benefits of Eliminating Soda From Your Diet

Woman drinking soda
If you’re trying to decrease your soda intake, these new touch screen soda machines are not helping things. If you have never seen one of these, the home screen displays icons from almost every brand of drink you can think of: Fanta, Coke, Coke Zero, Sprite, Hi C, Dr. Pepper, Diet Coke, the list goes on and may include some brands most of us have never heard of. If that’s not too overwhelming, when you press on one of these icons, you get a menu of available flavors of each drink. For example, if its Coke Zero you prefer, you can get it in vanilla, cherry vanilla, raspberry, orange, lemon and lime. You can get Hi C in grape or raspberry lime! You can get Powerade ION4 Fruit Punch! You can even get Vault Red Blitz! There are 127 flavors on this thing!

Of course this technological mind-blower also offers healthier alternatives like Peach Dasani Sensations, but the temptation to try every flavor is extremely hard to resist! While the mayor of New York tries to make 64oz. soda illegal, there’s this.

But the truth is, as attractive as this all may be, abstinence is really the best route. There are loads of benefits to cutting the fizzy drink out of your diet.

The Truth About Diet Soda
You may think that diet soda is a gift from heaven. After all, it allows us to indulge in the taste and carbonation of regular soda without the weight gain. However, according to Isabel Smith, MS RD CDN of Isabel Smith Nutrition, “Our bodies are developed to expect a large amount of calories when we take in something exceedingly sweet, and artificial sweeteners are from 400 to 8,000 times sweeter than sugar. ” Smith says that this causes stomach muscles to relax and hormones to be released in preparation to the in food. “It can actually send some people searching for more food, out of lack of satisfaction.”

Quitting Soda Leads to Weight Loss
Although it has no calories, diet soda causes insulin release in your gut which can prevent weight loss. Miriam Jacobson, RD, CDN, says, “Insulin is your body’s primary fat storage hormone, so it will have the body hold on to any extra fat.” Diet coke may, in fact, be more harmful than the regular version because of all the added chemicals.

Quitting Soda Improves The Immune System
The acidity in soda spells bad results for your tooth enamel and digestive system and it is no help if you are suffering from acid reflux. Diet sodas are the worst culprits because artificial sweeteners affect gut bacteria which can interfere with weight management and blood sugar levels and cause disease.

Quitting Soda Improves Bone Health
The coloring in soda contains an artificial phosphorous. As a naturally occurring chemical, phosphorous is found in foods like grains and beans, but the kind found in dark soda can affect bone health. Smith explains, “Basically, you’re taking something that exists in nature but making this hyper-absorbable form of it, Your body doesn’t have the choice whether to absorb it or excrete it, so it can cause calcium to leach out of bones.”

woman with energy
Quitting Soda Gives You More Energy
While caffeine can provide an initial lift drinking too much can overstimulate your nervous system. Smith says, “There is way more energy for our bodies in real food than in processed foods. When people cut back on processed items, they often look for more fresh foods and make better choices.

If you have been seeing more of these soda bearing technologies, let us know what you think of them. Are they the next big thing or the next big controversy? We’d love to have you join the conversation.

Battling Adult Acne

  Women examining acne on her face.

Most of us talk about how we would like to turn back the clock.  Sure, we would all like to look a bit  younger, but there are definitely some things about youth that we are happy to see the back of that denim jacket with the heavy metal patches on it that you wore until it rotted, the self-administered buzz cut, the experiments with green hair dye, and acne.  Yes, if there is anything to be glad about when it comes to aging, it would have to be the end of acne.  But, what if you find yourself having graduated to  adulthood when……THEY’RE BACK! Just when you thought you zapped, squeezed and hid your last pimple, white or black head, they’re back and badder than ever.

Why?

Hormones
Teens are not the only ones whose hormones are aflutter.  According to dermatologist Julia Tzu, MD of Wall Street Dermatology says,”Fluctuation in hormones, such as before one’s menstrual cycle, is the main cause.” Hormonal acne is identifiable by a painful outbreak around the chin neck and back and may occur before your menstrual cycle. High-stress levels can also contribute to hormonal imbalance.  When the stress hormone, cortisol, is released by the body, it is often accompanied by testosterone, a male hormone which leads to the production of more oil, ultimately resulting in more outbreaks.

Using the Wrong Products
If you are prone to breakouts, you should be using products that will not clog your pores. DR. Neal Schultz, of Beauty RX Skincare, suggest looking  for  the words “oil-free”, “non-comedogenic” or “water -based” on the label.

Overcleansing
 Dr.  Rebecca Kazin, MD of the John Hopkins Department of Dermatology says cleansing more than twice a day is too much and can just dry out skin “which can cause it to produce more oil to overcompensate.  Grainy and gritty cleansers  that rub your skin can similarly promote acne.    Try switching to a gentle detoxifying gel cleanser and two is the magic number.

Food
Many of us have heard that there is a direct relationship between chocolate, greasy food and acne, but. before you put down that Hershey’s bar, there is no statistic proof of any of this.  However, you would be well advised to avoid iodine, found in shellfish and greens like kelp and spinach.  Sugary food can also be a culprit.  By raising your insulin level, sugary foods can boost oil- triggering hormones, like testosterone.

Treatment Ingredients

Salicylic Acid
Also known as beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid exfoliates gently to unclog pores.  It is go-to in anti-acne products and can be found in most OTC cleansers and spot treatments and is mild enough to use on your whole face.

Benzoyl Peroxide
This stuff kills acne bacteria whole exfoliating the pores but stick to spot treatment for this one.  It has been known to make skin irritated and should not be used all over the face.

Glycolic Acid
If you are facing the acne meets wrinkles stages, this may be just the thing. It removes dead skin cells on the surface and stimulates the collagen and  hyaluronic acid, improving skin’s texture on the whole.

Retinol
Another godsend for the acne meets wrinkles crowd.  It is one of the most effective treatments for acne and also has collagen building properties, but , be aware, can be too harsh for those with sensitive skin so try testing it on  a small spot on your skin before you commit to it.

Exfoliate
Probably the best thing you can do to fight acne is exfoliated and the best way to so it is with glycol acid.  A glycol cleanser is helpful, but exfoliating pads and serums that really soak your skin are more effective.

Keep Spot Treatment on Hand
As soon as you feel that zit waiting to burst our, zap it with some benzoyl peroxide to start killing bacteria immediately.  Try to look for a gentle formula with soothing ingredients  for adult skin.

In closing, while these treatments are all effective, keep in mind that hormones are some pretty powerful players.  If topical treatment isn’t enough, talk to your doctor.  He may have the best advice on the best course of action.

Sip Coffee For Your Health

Woman sipping coffee

No doubt about it. Coffee is the new black.  These days your look is not complete until you are equipped with at least a small white cup in your hand with the telltale lid.  And for a bolder look, you may choose something with whipped cream on top in that cute little bubble cap.  Not only is coffee look, its a lingo.  Quelle  horreur  if you can’t throw the words macchiato and latte into a casual conversation. ( Ex.  While drinking vanilla non-fat latte, the cutest guy came in the shop…)  You get the picture.  What is it about coffee?

Drinking coffee has always been a social activity.  The beat poets gathered at coffee houses in the  1960’s on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to talk about peace with Bob Dylan. Philosophers gathered at coffee houses in Greece with Socrates to debate.  Why is coffee such a social drink?  It  takes a long time to drink.  Hot or cold, no one really chugs coffee.  Also, coffee makes people talkative.  So there you have it, empty time and a loose tongue.  The perfect recipe for conversation.

For years, we have loved our coffee.  But for a while, coffee got a bad rap.  The acidity was bad for your stomach; the caffeine was bad for your nerves, coffee could lead to stroke or heart disease. It seemed to make sense; nothing we enjoy this much could possibly be good for you.  But then….. things changed.  All of a sudden, knowledgable medical professionals started revealing evidence that this caffeinated liquid was actually good for you!  Could it be?  Let’s have a look at all some of the reasons you can feel good about getting your java fix.

Coffee can Make You Smarter and Boost Your Energy
Caffeine blocks inhibitory neurotransmitters in your brain and increases dopamine and fires up your neurons.  Studies she that this improves memory, mood, energy levels and reaction time.  Drink coffee before you take your SATs!!

Coffee can Burn Fat
Caffeine boosts the metabolic rate by 3-11%.  Studies show that it can increase fat burning by 10% in obese people and 29% in lean people.

Coffee is the Biggest Source of Antioxidants in the Western Diet
Sort of sad, but true, studies show that most people get more antioxidants from coffee that fruit and veggies combined!

Coffee Drinkers Have a Lower Risk of Some Kinds of Cancer
One study showed that coffee drinkers have up to a 40% lower risk of liver cancer.  Another study of 489,706 people found the those who drank 4-5 cups of coffee per day had a lower risk of colorectal cancer. Liver and colorectal cancer are, respectively, the third and fourth leading cause of cancer death in the world.

and last but not least….

Coffee Makes You Happy
A 2011 Harvard study showed women who drank 4 or more cups of coffee per day had a 20% lower risk of depression and another study polled 208,424 individuals and found those who drank 4 or more cups o coffee were less likely to commit suicide.

So, be cool, smart, thin and healthy! Keep drinking that java.

Resveratrol and the “Gut Microbiome”

Blueberries

You’ve surely heard about the potential health benefits of antioxidants by now, and you may have heard about one in particular, the antioxidant found in the skin of red grapes (and therefore in red wine and some grape juices as well), but new research may help illuminate and confirm some of the hypothesized benefits that had yet to be proven by science until recently. Let’s take a look.

The Study
While recent studies looked at a possible benefits of resveratrol, one in particular piggybacked on previous studies showing a link between resveratrol consumption and lowered obesity rates and sought to examine this phenomenon more closely and ensure that the link was causal (in other words, looking for further proof that resveratrol does, in fact, help control obesity, and also trying to figure out how it might do that). The study was done on laboratory mice, and has rather promising results. Researchers allowed mice to become overweight by overfeeding, and then administered resveratrol to them in varying amounts, with a control group, and the state of the gut and liver were monitored in various ways. The results of the study showed that applications of resveratrol to the mice changed the composition of the bacteria in their gut in such a way that lowered their weight over time due to changes in digestion and metabolism. Keep in mind this is a somewhat loose interpretation and we’re paraphrasing, but that’s the study in a nutshell; we figure you’ll appreciate us sparing you fine details and technical jargon.

What this Means
Before we go any further, we want to stress that studies like these are very preliminary, and we shouldn’t try to draw concrete conclusions from them just yet; the scientific process takes a bit longer than that to really figure things out. That said, these results are quite promising, and lends a bit of credence to the idea that routine consumption of resveratrol might be beneficial to overall health. This study doesn’t look at other possible benefits of resveratrol, but it’s nonetheless a solid bit of support for the heath benefits of resveratrol.

So sit back and toast to your health with a glass of red wine! Don’t overdo it, of course; alcohol can kill off bacteria in your gut, so a little bit is fine (say, one glass of red wine every evening) and could help balance your gut flora to help keep obesity in check, but too much might have a negative effect. Also consider that you can also get resveratrol in many grape juices, and especially from eating whole red table grapes.

Spinach for Healthy Skin

Woman sipping green juice

Spinach is an incredibly nutrient dense vegetable that also happens to taste great. It is also a super versatile ingredient to keep in your kitchen because it can make an amazingly fresh salad just as easily as it can supercharge your smoothie. Saturday, March 26th, is National Spinach Day and what better way to celebrate than fixing your favorite spinach recipes. If you need further reasons to grab a bunch of this leafy green, check out the skin benefits that spinach has.

Hydration
Spinach contains an astounding amount of water, and keeping your body hydrated benefits your skin. Just a one cup serving of spinach contains 164 grams of water, which is the equivalent to five ounces! Your skin cells need water in order to function properly and without this water, your skin is more prone to wrinkles, dryness and dullness.

Anti-Aging
Free radical damage and loss of collagen and elastin have significant impacts on how your skin ages. As you age, your natural collagen production slows down, and your skin loses some of the support that keeps it firm and smooth. Spinach contains beneficial vitamin A, which possesses some serious antioxidant power. In a one cup serving of spinach, your receive 943 micrograms of vitamin A, which is more than the daily recommended value for the average healthy adult.

Under-Eye Darkness
There are many factors that contribute to dark circles under your eyes, some of which you can control and others you cannot. Your genes play a role in whether or not you have dark circles as do things like alcohol consumption and lack of sleep. Vitamin K is a powerhouse at combating dark circles because it encourages healthy blood circulation, strengthens blood vessels and promotes blood clotting, all of which help diminish dark circles. Vitamin K can also help clear your skin and it reduces inflammation in the body and skin. One cup of spinach gives you 900 micrograms of vitamin K, which is 10 times the daily recommended value for a healthy adult female.

Skin Repair
Another potent antioxidant contained in spinach is the anti-aging powerhouse, vitamin C. Vitamin C is necessary for the production of collagen, which as we mentioned early is crucial to keeping your skin looking and acting young. Collagen, in turn, is required to manufacture new, young and healthy skin cells. You can get 18 milligrams of vitamin C in a one cup serving of spinach, which is almost 25 percent of the recommended daily value for a healthy adult female.

Spinach is one of the greatest superfoods you can include in your diet. Not only does it benefit your skin, but it has amazing benefits for your overall health as well. Celebrate National Spinach Day on March 26th by enjoying your favorite dishes that incorporate spinach; your skin will thank you.

Food For Collagen Building

You are what you eat. When it comes to skin and beauty, what you put into your body is just as important as what you put onto your body. Changing your diet can have impressive effects on your skin. As you age, your body naturally slows down the production of collagen, a protein responsible for keeping skin healthy, plump and young-looking. To combat the natural aging process, try adding the following five foods that help build collagen to your diet.

Red peppers.

Red Vegetables
Experts recommend consuming red vegetables for collagen building due to the lycopene contained within. Brooke Alpert, a New York based nutritionist, says “lycopene acts as a natural sunblock, protecting the skin from damage while increasing collagen levels.” A study published in the British Society for Investigative Dermatology reports similar findings. Subjects of the study who consumed tomato paste had 33% more protection from sun damage than a control group of participants. If tomatoes aren’t your thing, pick up other red vegetables like sweet red peppers, chili peppers or beets.

Salmon with herbs and lemons

Fish
“Fish like tuna and salmon are loaded with omega-3 fatty acid,” Alpert says. This benefits your skin, and collagen function, because cells are protected by a fatty membrane that surrounds them. With this fatty membrane in place, cells function properly and are able to fully support the skin structure. Aim to eat fish two to three nights per week to get your omega-3 fatty acids. Another excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids is walnuts, so you may want to keep those on hand for quick and healthy snacking.

Kale

Dark Green Vegetables
Dark green vegetables such as kale and spinach can help boost your collagen production. Orlando dermatologist, Dr. Dimitry Palceski, states “vitamin C has antioxidizing properties that stabilize the messenger enzymes that break down collagen. It also protects against free radicals to prevent weak collagen.” It’s quite easy to incorporate more dark green vegetables into your diet. Swap iceberg lettuce for more nutritious alternatives such as romaine, butterhead and arugula lettuces.

Soy

Soy
Soy contains plant hormones that serve as antioxidants known as genistein. Genistein helps to block enzymes that are harmful to collagen as well as prompting the production of collagen. Another reason to enjoy soy for great skin is the plant-derived compound isoflavones. A specific form of isoflavones called aglycones lessen visible signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles. Tofu and tempeh are excellent sources of soy, and tempeh has tons of protein. However, you don’t have to love tofu to get soy in your diet. Substitute your regular or chocolate milk for soy milk or try a soy-based cheese on your next pizza.

White tea.

White Tea
You know that drinking green tea has some great health benefits, including some for your skin, but you might want to swap your green tea for white tea to help build collagen. A Kingston University London study looked at green tea skin benefits and white tea skin benefits and the data showed that white tea is estimated to have three to six times the amount of green tea when it comes to protecting the skin’s matrix. White tea is thought to protect the structural proteins of the skin, collagen included. Additionally, white tea adds antioxidant benefits that fight free radical damage.

Eating a well-rounded diet full of vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients may dramatically improve your skin from the inside out. When you incorporate the proper ingredients into your diet, your skin will reflect these healthy changes and become clearer, stronger and more radiant. The next time you take a trip to your grocery store, load up on these foods to protect your skin and help build collagen.

What to Eat to Live Longer

You know that what food you choose to put into your body has a significant effect on your health. A carton of french fries will leave you tired and sluggish while a handful of almonds can re-energize and invigorate you. When it comes to living a long, healthy life, diet and exercise are often the most important components. If you want a diet full of life-extending foods, this list is exactly what you need. The five foods on this list are all backed by scientific research that indicate proven longevity.

Dark chocolate.

Dark Chocolate
A diet with chocolate? But of course. Dark chocolate is actually super beneficial to your health, but it must be dark chocolate with a cacao content of 70% or higher to provide these benefits. Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidant flavanoids known as flavanols. Flavanols improve blood flow and regulate cholesterol levels. Studies such as the one conducted by Penny Kris-Etherton, a professor of nutrition at Penn State University, indicate that individuals whose blood levels of flavanoids are high have a lowered risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer, type 2 diabetes, asthma and prostate cancer. While dark chocolate provides wonderful health benefits, gorging yourself on it will negate these effects. Just a one ounce serving of dark chocolate daily provides you with all the antioxidants you need to get these health perks.

Green salad

Dark, Leafy Greens
Salads have always been good for you, right? It depends. You know not to slather on fat-laden dressings, but what you make the salad with has a significant effect on the health of a salad. Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach contain high amounts of vitamins A and C, calcium and flavanoids. These greens also have important phytochemicals and just a one-cup serving of kale has 700% of your daily requirement of vitamin K. Research suggests that it is the high levels of vitamin K that provide one of the most amazing benefits of dark, leafy greens: the slowing down of age-related cognitive decline.

Chili peppers

Chili Peppers
Spice up, and lengthen your life by adding chili peppers to your diet. One huge (nearly 500,000 participants) Chinese study published in the BMJ 2015 journal discovered that spicy foods contribute to a lowered risk for all causes of premature death. Capsaicin, the molecule in peppers that creates the heat, is thought to be responsible for the life-extending benefits. The study concluded that those who ate spicy foods six to seven times each week had a 14% lower risk of premature death than those who chose to stay away from spice. If that seems excessive to you, simply eating spicy foods once or twice a week reduces the risk of premature death by 10%.

Pecan pie

Pecans
A Dutch study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology took place over 30 years found that eating nuts decreases mortality rates. The study included Dutch people who were between the ages of 55 and 69 who ate a small serving of nuts each day had lowered (23%) mortality rate than those that did not eat nuts. Almonds and walnuts are also excellent choices for you health, but pecans have a certain type of vitamin E (gamma-tocopherols) that lower LDL (the bad) cholesterol as well. When you decide to eat nuts, remember to practice moderation because of the high fat content.

Blueberries

Blueberries
The fact that blueberries are beneficial to your health should come as no surprise. Their soluble fiber lowers cholesterol, keeping your heart healthy and they are packed with antioxidants, such as resveratrol. One of these antioxidants, in particular, may decrease the rate of mental decline during the aging process. Anthocyanin is an antioxidant that supports muscle retention and healthy brain function. A recent study showed that women with a diet that included strawberries and blueberries had a slower rate of mental decline than those who skipped the berries.

Including these amazing foods into your healthy diet may indeed increase longevity. When it comes to dark chocolate and nuts, be aware of the serving sizes so you don’t counteract the health benefits. Enjoy a varied and nutritious diet by adding these five foods to your grocery list.