Making These Dietary Changes May Add Up To 13 Years To Your Life, Study Says
What the study reveals about life expectancy.
Researchers used dietary intake and health outcome data and meta-analyses from the Global Burden of Disease study to create a model that estimates life expectancy based on potential dietary changes. The model—now available publicly as an online tool called the Food4HealthyLife calculator—estimates that people, no matter their age, can potentially add years to their life by making these key shifts in dietary pattern:
- adding more legumes, whole grains, and nuts
- eating fewer processed and red meats
According to the advanced data model, these longevity-focused changes in our nutrition intake are associated with an increased life expectancy of three to 13 years—and the sooner they're implemented, the better.
The following increases in life expectancy are expected with a sustained adoption of this optimal diet, according to the age an individual initially making the shift:
- Age 20: 10.7 years for women, 13 years for men
- Age 60: 8 years for women, 8.8 years for men
- Age 80: 3.4 years for both women and men
In other words, the sooner we embrace nutrient-dense dietary patterns, the better off we are.
"Research until now has shown health benefits associated with separate food groups or specific diet patterns, but given limited information on the health impact of other diet changes," says Lars Fadnes, Ph.D., one of the study authors. "Our modeling methodology has bridged this gap."
Eating to add years to your life.
While this fascinating model is a fantastic tool that can help people conceptualize their diet choices, shifting your entire diet to optimize your longevity can still be an overwhelming practice. Here are some actionable tips to help you add more longevity-boosting foods to your diet.
Eat more legumes, nuts, and whole grains.
Legumes—which include lentils, beans, and chickpeas—are packed with protein, fiber, and phytonutrients, making them a staple for any plant-based (and longevity-focused) diet. If you're looking for a filling lunch recipe, try this chickpea and samphire salad. For a hearty dinner, take a stab at this smoky chickpea, red lentil, and vegetable soup.
When it comes to whole grains, there are so many incredible nutrient-dense options to choose from! Choose from ancient grains (such as millet, fonio, amaranth, bulgur, rye, quinoa, and buckwheat) for their unprocessed health benefits. You can eat whole grains for breakfast (e.g., this raw buckwheat and clementine winter breakfast bowl) or add them to a light salad for some added protein and carbs, like this roasted cauliflower and pea salad.
Nuts are high in protein and healthy fats, but each has a unique nutrient lineup to offer. For example, Brazil nuts are especially high in selenium; walnuts boast benefits for the heart, brain, and gut; and quite a few types of nuts can give you a big boost in magnesium. The best part of nuts? They're extremely versatile and add a healthy crunch to just about any recipe. (Try our nut butter falafel, citrus superfood granola, or easy pine nut pasta sauce recipes to see what we mean.)
Eat less red and processed meat.
If you're used to eating meat often, cutting back on your red and processed meat intake can seem difficult at first. However, these meats are known to contribute to suboptimal mental focus and acuity and inflammatory pathways, and other less-than-desirable effects (not to mention their environmental consequences). Consider swapping your steak or salami for a cleaner, healthier protein source—such as a nice fish filet or humanely raised, organic chicken.
Supplement with a longevity-focused multivitamin.
According to a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, multivitamins have been shown to increase telomere length in women.* Telomere length is a biomarker for aging, which means epidemiologic evidence indicates something as simple as taking a daily multi can increase your life span.*
In addition to a longevity-focused diet, a well-formulated multivitamin can help ensure nutritional sufficiency on the daily and help you live a long, happy, healthy life.* While all essential nutrients in a multi are important to whole-body health and overall well-being, mindbodygreen's ultimate multivitamin+ includes six bonus botanicals (glutathione, resveratrol, piperine, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene) with unique phytonutrients that promote longevity.*
The bottom line.
We can't live forever, but embracing a diet that supports our longevity and overall health is a great way to enjoy the time we have. Swapping red and processed meats for whole grains, nuts, legumes, and a high-quality, comprehensive multivitamin is a great start to a rich life. To eat like those who have lived to 100, check out these Blue Zone–inspired healthy recipes to increase your life span.
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.