The one surprising vegetable America's oldest person, 113, ate daily


There is a new oldest living person in the United States: Ohio resident Lessie Brown, 113, who is now thought to hold the distinction.

Brown assumed the title after Delphine Gibson, 114, of Pennsylvania, died on May 9. When Brown heard the news, said her 88-year-old daughter, Verline Wilson, she said, simply, “That’s good,” according to Wilson added that her mom, who was born in 1904, lives with her, and that she spends most of her days sleeping.

Another one of Brown’s daughters — 90-year-old Vivian Hatcher — says her mother believes she has lived this long because it was God’s plan, pointing out that Brown continued going to church even past the age of 100.

But other family members chalk up Brown’s health to a particular root vegetable: the humble yam, which she ate daily until she was nearly 110.

Yams are edible tubers that come with plenty of health benefits and are often compared to sweet potatoes, although the two are not the same. “Yams are a good source of fiber, moderate in calories, and naturally fat- and sodium-free,” dietitian Julie Upton, co-founder of nutrition website Appetite for Health, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They are unique in that they’re loaded with beta carotene, generally found in orange-fleshed fruits and veggies.”

You can actually meet 25 percent of your fiber needs with a yam, since they contain about 6 grams of fiber each, Gina Keatley, a nutritionist practicing in New York City, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Yams also contain a little fat, but most of it is in the form of “good” fats, such as omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids, Keatley says.

Lessie Brown is now America’s oldest person. (Photo: AP)
Lessie Brown is now America’s oldest person. (Photo: AP)

The vegetable is filling, so it can help lower the odds that you’ll eat less healthy foods, and it has potassium, which can help counter the effects of having too much sodium in your diet, adds Keatley.

Of course, it’s impossible to attribute longevity to one particular food, but Upton says that yams may help. She points out that research has shown that people who live the longest tend to eat primarily plant-based diets, eat little processed foods, have a diet full of healthy fats like fish and nuts, eat fewer calories than those who live shorter lives, drink in moderation, and exercise regularly.

If longevity is your goal, Keatley recommends trying to keep a healthy weight, lowering your sodium intake, and having your recommended daily allowance of potassium. This can help manage your blood pressure and stave off heart disease and kidney issues, she says.

And apparently tossing some yams into the mix can’t hurt, either.

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