We all want to age gracefully and live active lifestyles in our golden years. As simple as it may sound, making that a reality can start with what you eat for breakfast, and there’s one meal in particular that longevity experts recommend: scrambled tofu with turmeric and veggies. Bonus points if you add fruit and sourdough toast on the side!
Buettner’s research focuses on the Blue Zones, or parts of the world where more people than usual live much longer than average, including Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan and Loma Linda in California. “One thing that we learn from all of the Blue Zones is that people start their day with a savory breakfast, so there’s no cereal or pancakes or waffles,” Buettner says.
“Every little thing you can do now to preserve and maintain your health really makes an impact for later in life,” says Rebecca Kerkenbush, RD-AP, a certified specialist in gerontological nutrition and president-elect of the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “You want to age gracefully and healthfully and be able to function, do the activities you love, keep up with your grandchildren and remain independent in your home. Your nutrition has a lot to do with supporting that.”
To make a standard tofu scramble recipe (which does not include eggs), all you have to do is sauté vegetables with tofu and add turmeric and black pepper as a savory topping. Here are four benefits a tofu scramble will have on your health today and far into the future.
1. It May Help Lower Inflammation and Pain
Turmeric is common in many Indian dishes, and its main active component curcumin (which gives the spice its vibrant yellow color) has anti-inflammatory properties, per the Mayo Clinic. As such, it’s often touted as a remedy for many health conditions.
In fact, when people with knee osteoarthritis received either 1,200 milligrams of ibuprofen or 1,500 milligrams of curcumin extract per day for four weeks, the extracts were observed to be as effective as ibuprofen in relieving pain, per a March 2014 study in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging. The turmeric group also reported fewer unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects.
“Consuming turmeric as a spice, such as adding it to tofu, is a great idea because it has anti-inflammation, anti-cancer and antibacterial qualities,” Buettner says.
Turmeric has also been studied for its effects on brain health. Adults ages 51 to 84 who took curcumin supplements were observed to have significant memory improvements compared to those taking a placebo — and had decreased plaque formation associated with Alzheimer’s disease — in a small March 2018 study in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
You should always pair turmeric with black pepper — here’s why.
Having a bowl of antioxidant-fruit with your breakfast can also fight inflammation, and fruits tend to be a mainstay on the plates of people who live the longest.
“When you eat the whole fruit, it slows down your body’s absorption of sugars and provides phytonutrients,” Buettner says. “In every Blue Zone, people are eating tons of fruit. It’s their main dessert and snack, and these people are living the longest.”
2. It Packs Protein, Which Helps You Stay Functional for Longer
As you get older, your protein intake becomes more important — and a 4-ounce serving of tofu provides 8.3 grams per serving, or 17 percent of your daily value, per the USDA.
“Tofu is made from soybeans, and beans are the cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world,” Buettner says.
Older adults process protein less efficiently and need more to maintain their muscle mass and strength, bone health and other physiological functions, per the Kaiser Family Foundation. However, about 46 percent of older adults don’t get enough protein, according to a February 2019 report in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, likely due to reduced appetite, impaired taste and oral issues.
“Tofu is a very good source of protein, and also a plant source of iron and calcium,” Kerkenbush says. “Protein not only helps with repairing and building muscle, but also with tissue growth and repair. When you get a wound or scratch, your skin needs protein to regenerate.”
Top your sourdough toast with peanut butter as a side, and you’ll get an even greater protein boost at breakfast.
“With peanut butter, you get healthy fat and protein — and when you mix peanut butter and sourdough bread, you get complete protein,” Buettner says. “That means you get all of the amino acids necessary for human sustenance. Plus, it’s a little sweet and satisfying.”
Eating enough protein can help you stay active for longer. When researchers followed more than 2,900 older adults over 23 years, they observed that those who ate the most protein were 30 percent less likely to become functionally impaired than those who ate the lowest amounts, per a September 2018 study in The Journals of Gerontology.
Another team of researchers followed nearly 2,000 older adults for six years and observed that those who ate the least protein were almost twice as likely to have trouble walking or climbing steps as those who ate the most, even after adjusting for chronic conditions, per a March 2017 study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Why Choose Sourdough Bread?
It may help to keep your blood sugar steady, which could benefit your heart health in the long-term. “When people eat sourdough bread with their meal [in place of other types of bread], it’s been shown that the glycemic load of the entire meals drops,” Buettner says. “But it has to be long-fermented with Lactobacilli as opposed to only yeast.”
3. It Can Protect Your Heart and Bones in the Long-Term
Another benefit to getting your protein from tofu at breakfast is that you’ll cut back on the saturated fat typically seen in breakfast foods like bacon or sausage.
Saturated fat can increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol, which raises your risk of heart disease and stroke and can lead to weight gain, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Heart disease is the top cause of death in the United States, per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Replacing processed meats with tofu at breakfast — and using turmeric for flavor instead of salt — will also reduce your sodium intake. Most Americans eat too much sodium, which can raise blood pressure, a big risk factor for heart disease and stroke, per the CDC.
Your body also loses more calcium through urination as you eat more salt. That can lead to the leaching of calcium from your bones if you don’t get enough in your diet. In turn, a high-sodium diet could contribute to bone-weakening osteoporosis as you age, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Tofu contains 10 percent of your daily value of calcium per 4-ounce serving, per the USDA.
4. Its Fiber Is Linked to a Longer Life
This breakfast is high in fiber, which is linked to disease prevention and longer life overall.
Several studies have observed that people who eat high-fiber diets live longer and experience less disease. In fact, each 10-gram increase in fiber per 1,000 calories equated to 4.3 fewer years of biologic aging in an April 2018 study in the journal Nutrients.
You should aim for about 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you eat, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eating more fiber will help to increase your satiety (which plays a role in weight management), lower cholesterol, improve digestion and prevent disease.
Most people get less than 20 grams of fiber per day. However, eating 25 to 29 grams of fiber per day is linked to a 15 to 30 percent lower risk of all-cause and heart-related mortality, according to a February 2019 meta-analysis in The Lancet.
The vegetables you add to your tofu scramble will contribute to your breakfast’s fiber level. “If you sauté onions and red bell peppers with your tofu, it’ll be a lot more flavorful and it’s going to add a lot of colors, so it’s going to look more like a western omelet,” Buettner says.
Meanwhile, high-fiber fruits you can add to your breakfast include raspberries (8 grams per cup), blackberries (8 grams per cup) and pomegranate (7 grams per cup), per the USDA.
More Tips to Eat for Longevity
- Have a cup of coffee or green tea with breakfast. “These were the beverages of choice in all Blue Zones,” Buettner says. “Coffee, for instance, is a huge source of antioxidants in the American diet.”
- Choose the right tofu: Look for tofu made with calcium sulfate to make sure you’re getting the bone-building benefits. Soft tofu is typically called for in tofu scramble recipes.
- Try berries on the side: Blueberries are specifically highlighted in the MIND Diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay), and have been associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline, per the Mayo Clinic.