Optimal Diet for Longevity

New study shows that changing your diet can add years to your life
May 25, 2022 at 2:47 p.m.

Everyone knows that a healthy diet is good for you, but new research suggests that eating specific foods can add up to a decade to your life. Young adults can expect to add up to 10 years to their lifespan, middle-agers starting this new approach could extend their lifespan by six or seven years. Even 80-year-olds can expect an increased lifespan of more than three years.

The new study, published by PLOSMedicine, also offers a free food calculator to estimate the outcomes of food choices on longevity (Food4HealthyLife).

The simplest approach to an optimized diet, say the researchers, is to increase your consumption of legumes (beans, peas, lentils), whole grains and nuts, while at the same time decreasing red and processed meat. Of course, adding vegetables, fruit and fish increases the effectiveness of the optimal diet (and limiting sugars and processed foods).

However, the scientists realize that many people find switching their eating habits to be very difficult. They conclude that simply adding legumes, whole grains and nuts (along with limiting red and processed meat) is the easiest path and will still offer benefits. One of the key takeaways is that the optimized diet should be something you strive for throughout the rest of your life.

Life expectancy estimates from this study come from meta-analyses of multiple scientific studies on diet and mortality, alongside data from the Global Burden of Disease study. Combining the various data, the authors of the study were able to provide estimates of life expectancy based on diet.

Most people following a typical Western diet eat high amounts of processed foods, red and processed meats, and food with high fat, sodium and added sugars. At the same time, the typical American diet is low on vegetables. While increasing vegetables and sticking 100% to the optimized diet is ideal, even a modified version is beneficial.

The bottom line: consider adding legumes, whole grains and nuts. Maybe go for an “Impossible Burger” or other plant-based meat substitutes instead of your typical meat patty. These surprisingly satisfying options are readily available at your local grocery store, and even at some fast-food joints.

More information about this study can be found at An optimal diet: how healthy eating can make you live longer | World Economic Forum (weforum.org).

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