According to Dan Buettner, a National Geographic reporter, longevity expert, and founder of the Blue Zones, there’s no doubt that fruits and vegetables play a vital role in the diet of many of the longest-living people in the world. As such, Buettner recommends that folks aim to consume a 95 percent plant-based diet.
Today, we’re honing in on the best fruits for longevity with the help of Buettner’s extensive research on the topic. But first, a word to the wise: All fruits are considered nutrient-dense, meaning they’re packed with key nutrients that can help boost your overall health and when consumed long-term, your longevity. The ones Buettner’s outlined for us here are simply the most common in the five Blue Zones regions (meaning calling these eight delicious options the “healthiest fruits of all” would be far beyond superlative).
Why is eating fruit essential for healthy aging?
Even if you don’t live in a Blue Zone, Buettner has found ways to practice longevity-boosting lifestyle habits no matter where you are. “The particular foods important to Blue Zones centenarians vary from one culture to the next, but my team has found a few evidence-based commonalities after extensive research. These can be used as guidelines,” says Buettner.
To that end, Buettner emphasizes that one key way to boost your longevity is to eat more local plant-based foods. According to a study of over 100,000 subjects, eating more fruits and vegetables was associated with reduced mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory disease. “Most of the Blue Zones residents I’ve come to know have easy access to locally sourced fruits and vegetables—largely pesticide-free and organically raised,” Buettner shared in a recent blog post.
So, exactly how much should you be eating? Researchers found that eating an average of five servings per day was associated with a 13 percent lower risk of death than eating only two servings per day. Variety is also key—so next time you toss together a Caesar salad, perhaps swap some shaved and roasted Brussels sprouts in for your regular romaine?
What are the best fruits for longevity?
Although there are a few popular fruits found in the Blue Zones to pick from, Buettner doesn’t believe folks should limit (or pressure) themselves to only consume the ones on the list. “Don’t try to force yourself to eat the ones you don’t like. That may work for a while, but sooner or later, it will fizzle,” Buettner says.
Instead, he suggests trying a wide variety of fruits (and vegetables) and seeing what sticks. And if you have trouble getting access to fresh fruits, Buettner notes that frozen ones are equally swell. “In fact, they often have more nutrients in them since they’re flash-frozen at the time of harvest rather than traveling for weeks to your local grocer’s shelves,” he says.
Now, let’s get to the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Here are the top eight fruits for healthy aging commonly consumed in the Blue Zones:
1. Avocados: They’re a great source of healthy fats, fiber, carotenoids, and antioxidants.
2. Bananas: One word: Potassium. Along with potassium, bananas are also high in magnesium. Together, these two nutrients can help promote restful sleep, so it might be a good idea to nosh on a banana before heading to bed.
3. Bitter melons: Folks in Okinawa eat this fruit regularly. They’re super hydrating, and can potentially help regulate glucose levels.
4. Lemons: Lemons and longevity go hand in hand. One reason why? This citrus-forward fruit has loads of polyphenols that have been linked to anti-aging benefits.
5. Papayas: This fruit is high in fiber and has been shown to help boost gut health (a key indicator of healthy aging), promote regularity, and reduce constipation.
6. Pejivalles (peach palms): Also known as pejibayes, these peach-like fruits are commonly consumed in Costa Rica. The benefits of this fruit include fiber, antioxidants, and essential vitamins and minerals.
7. Plantains: The less-sweet version of bananas, plantains are lower in sugar than the closely-related fruit. Additionally, plantains also contain more vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium than bananas…not to mention loads of gut-healthy fiber.
8. Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, an anti-inflammatory plant compound known to boost heart health and longevity.
Pro tip: Buettner suggests that upping your fruit intake will be easier if you make their presence known. By that, he means placing a fruit bowl in the middle of your kitchen on the counter or in an area that gets a lot of traffic and visibility. According to him, the more we see the food, the more likely we are to eat it, especially if it’s one we really do enjoy.
Pro tip: Buettner suggests that upping your fruit intake will be easier if you make their presence known. By that, he means placing a fruit bowl in the middle of your kitchen on the counter or in an area that gets a lot of traffic and visibility.
Now, let’s move on to other important topics—like which foods can help you poop: