14 Foods 100-Year-Olds Really Eat to Live Longer

Updated: Nov. 01, 2018

Here's what these centenarians eat to feel younger than their years.


They prefer homemade food to takeout

Annie Davis, 107, likes stovetop oatmeal, grits, and rice over instant ones, and she’d rather have a home-cooked meal or eat at a sit-down restaurant than get takeout or fast food. “She’ll go to McDonald’s and say ‘this is not real meat,’” says her granddaughter Emma Powell. “She’ll eat it if you make it.” Processed food tends to be higher in sodium. With too much salt in your body, your system could hold onto too much water, putting a burden on your heart and raising your blood pressure. But making those foods from scratch, using fresh meat without all the preservatives and fillers, could help you cut down.


They avoid deli meat

When making her daily sandwich for lunch, Fanny (Suze) Brown, 103, stays away from prepackaged deli meat. “Occasionally I order from a deli, but I order a chicken salad sandwich on raisin bread,” she says. At home, she enjoys peanut butter and jelly, egg salad, or leftover chicken or turkey from dinner on her sandwich. The occasional ham sammy is fine, but eating one every day could pose a risk. Not only is deli meat surprisingly high in sodium, but the World Health Organization lists some deli meats as carcinogens. A review of more than 800 studies found that eating 50 grams of processed meat—the equivalent of about two slices of deli meat—can increase the risk of colon cancer by 18 percent. On the other hand, eating these foods may decrease your cancer risk.


They get plenty of fiber

To keep her bowel healthy, Eleanor Eder, 101, says she eats fiber-rich green veggies and bran cereal. “I make sure I get spinach, broccoli, and all kinds of vegetables,” she says. Fiber prevents constipation by bulking up your stool and making it easier to pass. Plus, you’ll get its heart-healthy benefits of reducing blood pressure and inflammation.


They satisfy their sweet tooth

“I’m a chocoholic,” says Marion Roth, 108. “Between lunch and dinner, I eat a bunch of chocolate.” But she’ll skip the rich after-dinner pies, cakes, and puddings because she’s not crazy about the taste. A small piece of chocolate can help squash your sweet cravings without going overboard with a huge piece of cake. Plus, research has linked eating dark chocolate to reduced risk of heart failure and lower stress levels, so treat yourself guilt-free.


They go for the good stuff

Eder she prefers real butter to lower-fat substitutes, and Brown says she eats ice cream almost every day. Antoinette Fiore, 100, also likes to treat herself. “The coffee is caffeinated, she uses real sugar, and real butter,” says her daughter, Theresa Pius. “She always has room for ‘goodies’ and she loves ice cream (not frozen yogurt or ice milk).” When you want to indulge, feel free to splurge on the real deal. Trying to kill your cravings with healthy substitutes could leave you unsatisfied, making you more likely to overeat. Find out more eating habits that keep you healthy as you age.


They’re coffee drinkers

In the morning, Matilda Brinkhoff, 100, who receives services from the New York City Department for the Aging, will start with half a cup of caffeinated coffee, then sip more throughout the day. “They’re just half-cups and she takes it four times,” says her home care worker, Nina Viduya. “Before bedtime she drinks coffee.” Studies have shown coffee can reduce risk of stroke, depression, Parkinson’s, and more, so don’t stress about kicking your caffeine habit. Find out the foods to avoid to look and feel younger.


They love applesauce

Growing up, Brown had apple trees, so her family ate plenty of applesauce. She’s kept that tradition alive, eating it three times a day. “Almost all my life that I can remember, I think I had applesauce every day,” she says. Cooking apples softens their cell walls to help them release pectin, a type of soluble fiber that can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. Check out these other fall superfoods to eat more often.


They rarely drink

On the rare chance Eder decides to get an alcoholic drink, she likes to nurse a glass of red wine. “One drink if I go to a party—wine mostly,” she says. Research has shown that resveratrol and other compounds in red wine could hold back newly forming cancer cells and prevent brain plaque found in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains from developing.


They fit in protein

Meat is a must-have at breakfast for Davis, so she’ll eat a piece of baked chicken or sausage with the rest of her meal. “She’ll eat that bowl of oatmeal and I’ll give her a piece of toast, but she wants some meat,” says her granddaughter Emma Powell. “She won’t be satisfied.” Fiore isn’t a huge fan of meat, so she’ll get her protein from eggs and cheese. Fitting in protein early in the morning will help keep you satisfied for the rest of the day. Plus, protein helps the cells in your body repair themselves, which is especially important as you age and have more cellular damage. Don’t miss these other everyday habits to make you look younger.


They don’t overdo it on carbs

Because she has diabetes, Eder says she’s cut back on carbs to help control her blood sugar. Carbohydrates raise blood sugar, so diabetics have to be careful about how many they eat in one sitting. “If I have potatoes at one meal, I don’t eat bread,” she says. Don’t miss these other habits your 80-year-old self will thank you for.


They eat until they’re satisfied

While Davis doesn’t skimp on portions—her typical breakfast includes oatmeal, toast, meat, and fruit—Roth says she doesn’t need to eat much throughout the day. She’ll stick with a slice of health bread for breakfast and a cup of soup for lunch, which she’ll sometimes skip. “I don’t eat a whole lot. I only eat small amounts,” she says. “I don’t push my stomach into overdoing anything.” People have different caloric needs, but as a rule of thumb, you should stop eating when you’re 80 percent full to avoid overdoing it. Don’t miss these other anti-aging secrets to help you stay younger.


They use onions for flavor

Davis likes having onions in her tuna salad and baked foods. “She loves onion,” says her granddaughter. Onions are chock-full of vitamin C and other immunity-boosting phytochemicals, and studies suggest they could help lower cancer risk and stabilize blood sugar.


They don’t go overboard with fats

Eder says she never uses gravy. Her sons didn’t like it, so they’d smear butter on their mashed potatoes instead. “I used a little bit, but not like they did,” she says. “I put it sparingly on my toast.” She doesn’t like butter substitutes, so she goes for the real stuff. Recent studies have shown saturated fats, like the ones in butter, might not be as harmful to heart health and cholesterol as once thought, so enjoy in moderation. Here’s how to know if you’re not eating enough healthy fats.


They follow the doctor’s orders

After being told that the niacin (also known as vitamin B3) could help her weak leg, Marion Roth, 108, took to eating a banana every day. “I don’t love bananas, but I eat them,” she says. Research suggests niacin can also help stop arteries from hardening and lower the risk of having a second heart attack. Next, find out 49 more anti-aging foods that’ll add years to your life.