‘How to live longer’ is a question many people ask themselves, particulary as they get older. Alongside regular exercise, not smoking, and reducing alcohol intake, eating a healthy diet has been found to help add years onto a person’s life. As a general rule, people should eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day, base meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, have some dairy and dairy alternatives, eat some protein, and choose unsaturated oils and spreads. But individual foods have also been found to have life-boosting properties.
One food found to hold a host of health benefits is onions.
According to medical consultant Dr Sarah Brewer and dietician Juliette Kellow, onions, and other members of the allium family, are packed with naturally occurring plant chemicals that help keep the heart healthy, regulate blood sugar levels, and protect against cancer.
In their book titled ‘Eat Well Live Longer’ the duo explain white onions contain sulphur compounds, which give them many of their health benefits.
Red onions are a great source of heart-healthy quercetin.
Other alliums worth including in your diet are garlic, leeks and spring onions.
So what other health benefits have alliums been found to have to boost life expectancy?
Among their many benefits, alliums are believed to help control blood sugar levels, protect against cancer and to aid memory.
When it comes to blood sugar control, the women advise: “Garlic and onions may help to lower blood sugar levels, making them beneficial for people with insulin resistance (the precursor for type 2 diabetes) or diabetes.
“In one study of patients with diabetes, a 100g serving of red onion significantly reduced blood sugar levels.”
In terms of cancer protection, the pair write: “Alliums are rich in sulphur-containing compounds which, when crushed, are transformed into new compounds such as allicin (in garlic). These give them their familiar flavour, odour and potential health benefits.
“These benefits may include protection against cancer, in particular of the digestive tract (such as the stomach and bowel), although further research is needed.”
And explaining how onions can help aid memory, Dr Brewer and Ms Kellow explain: “Alliums may help with memory, for example spring onions contain good levels of memory-boosting nutrients such as folate and lutein.
“Plus leeks contain five times more folate than onions, which is great news as good intakes of folate may help to protect us from Alzheimer’s disease.”
Another food that’s been found to have life-boosting benefits is peppers.
Peppers boost our intake of health-promoting carotenoids and vitamin C, while chillies have been linked to weight loss and better heart health.