Eating a diet rich in legumes, whole grains and nuts — while simultaneously cutting back on red and processed meat — might add an extra decade of life to those who make the changes when they are young, according to a recent study.
Even those who are older can benefit from the change, according to the study by researchers at Norway’s University of Bergen, which was published in PLOS Medicine.
The researchers used existing analyses and data from the 2019 Global Burden of Diseases study to build a model that helped them instantly estimate how a variety of changes in diet affect life expectancy.
How much longer could you live?
Those who shift from the typical Western diet to what the researchers call an “optimized diet” at age 20 could expect a lifespan increase of 10.7 years for women and 13 years for men.
Even if you wait to change your diet, the payoff can still be substantial. A change at age 60 can add eight years of life for women and 8.8 years for men. At age 80, gains were roughly 3.4 years for both men and women.
An ‘optimized diet’
In order, the University of Bergen researchers found that the biggest gains in life expectancy are likely to arise from eating:
- More legumes (including beans, lentils and peas)
- More whole grains
- More nuts
- Less red meat
- Less processed meat
Other dietary changes that may increase life expectancy
In a University of Bergen article, lead researcher Lars Fadnes says:
“Further gains are also associated with increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables, and fish, while reducing the intake of sugar-sweetened drinks, eggs, and refined grains.”
Calculating your potential benefits of dietary change
The model that the researchers used to calculate the extended life expectancies is available online as the Food4HealthyLife calculator. You can use it to estimate how various dietary changes might impact your own lifespan.
For more about which foods to eat — and which to avoid — check out: