Some of the so-called secrets to living longer you already know: eating a balanced diet with mostly whole foods, avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol, getting regular exercise, and minimizing stress by learning healthy coping mechanisms for it. But did you know that there are also certain habits that can promote longevity specifically pertaining to those daily smoothies you’re whipping up in your blender?
It’s true: experts say you should be mindful about what foods you include because some have special benefits when it comes to fending off chronic diseases and other health problems that shorten your lifespan. Smoothies included.
“Smoothies are a great tool for promoting health and longevity because they are a tasty, fast, and efficient way to harness the powers of food by blending multiple delicious superfoods into one glass as a small meal or snack,” says Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD. “It’s important to make sure a smoothie still meets macronutrient requirements by adding not only fruits and veggies but also a protein and healthy fat for satiety.”
Next time you’re blending up a smoothie, whether for breakfast, an afternoon snack, or pre- or post-workout fuel, consider adopting at least a couple of the following habits to help you live longer. Then, for more healthy drinking tips, here’s The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science.
Pascalyn Annoh, RD at Fed & Flourishing, highly recommends incorporating plant proteins like pumpkin seeds, almond butter, silken tofu, and chickpeas into your smoothies, not only to make them more filling but also to increase your chances of living a longer life.
A 2020 study published in the BMJ found that plant protein intake was significantly associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality. Specifically, just a 3% daily increase in energy from plant proteins was linked to a 5% lower risk of death from all causes.
Katie Tomaschko, MS, RDN, a contributor at Sporting Smiles, says smoothies should always include some kind of antioxidant-packed fruit for maximum life-lengthening perks.
“Antioxidants fight cancer-causing free radicals in the body,” she explains. “Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in this country, so antioxidants should be a top priority for everyone.”
While most fruits contain some form of antioxidants, Volpe notes that berries boast one of the highest concentrations.
“Berries are high in a type of antioxidants called anthocyanins,” Volpe says. “Studies have shown these antioxidants can block DNA damage, thus delaying cellular aging, when consumed regularly.”
Though hemp seeds may be tiny, they are packed with some huge health benefits — in fact, Anna Rios, RD at Alliance Medical Center and founder of Healthy Simple Yum, says they’re one of the most nutritious smoothie ingredients you can use.
“Hemp seeds are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, which is a healthy fat that helps fight against heart disease,” she explains. “They also contain nitric oxide, which is a gas molecule that dilates blood vessels, leading to lower blood pressure and reduced risks of heart attacks.”
Not only that, but Rios also notes that they’re chock-full of antioxidants that can help to combat inflammation—which contributes to many major chronic diseases.
If you’re not a fan of hemp seeds, Johna Bordeaux, RD, recommends flaxseeds as an alternative since they’re super high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and lignan—a plant compound with antioxidant properties.
“Studies have shown that flax seeds are beneficial for heart and gut health, can lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and have cancer-fighting properties,” adds Bordeaux.
Cacao, which chocolate is made from, doesn’t add a depth of flavor to your smoothies—according to Volpe, it also provides a slew of nutrients, too.
“Cacao is rich in a class of antioxidants called polyphenols that help reduce oxidative stress—cell damage that contributes to aging,” she says. “It’s also loaded with minerals including but not limited to plant-based iron, magnesium for bone health and stress reduction, and potassium for blood pressure regulation.”
Remember: a little goes a long way with this chocolatey goodness. All you need is a tablespoon of unsweetened cacao to reap the health perks and richer flavor.
According to Tomaschko, one of the best ingredients you can incorporate into your smoothie for a longer life is dark leafy greens.
In case you needed some proof: Justine Chan, RD from Your Diabetes Dietitian, notes that research on the Blue Zones—areas in the world where people more commonly live to the age of 100—shows their diets are filled with 95% plant-based foods like spinach and kale.
“From plant-based iron for blood building to vitamin K for blood and bone health, [and] the antioxidant chlorophyll for longevity-promoting activities in the body—like protecting our cells from environmental damage—adding a handful of greens is well worth the return on investment in my opinion,” says Volpe.
You don’t even have to use fresh greens, either. Volpe suggests keeping frozen spinach or kale on hand for a quick, convenient dose of nutrients.
A 2019 meta-analysis in Lancet found that people with the highest dietary fiber consumption had a 15% to 30% lower incidence of all-cause and cardiovascular-related mortalitycoronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer compared to people who have less fiber.
Smoothies tend to be lower in fiber than whole foods, says Chan. However, there are ingredients you can add to bolster the fiber content, like oats, ground flaxseed, and avocado. Chan suggests adding chia seeds to your smoothie, as two tablespoons of this superfood pack a whopping 8 grams of fiber.