The majority of Americans want to live to 79 and 100 years old. The desire for long life isn’t new, with many movies and books playing with the idea of living forever. One myth that remains is the existence of the “fountain of youth”.
While there may not be any magical, healing waters that freezes the clock, there are certain foods you can eat that are proven to extend life for at least a decade.
A recent study by PLOS Medicine revealed that switching up your diet can add years to your life. In the study, the researchers created a model that compared traditional Western diets with an “optimized diet”.
The food in the traditional Western diet consists of red meats and processed foods, while the “optimized diet” focuses on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts.
The study found that women who ate optimally at age 20 could increase their lifespan by over 10 years and men could add 13 years to their life. The same diet worked in older adults too.
The logic is simple. Poor diets increase the risk of developing chronic disease and premature death, so with less chronic disease and premature death (from a plant-based diet), the life expectancy increases.
The Secret Ingredient to Long Life
It was found that the Mediterranean diet reduces risks to long life because the foods in a Mediterranean diet contain nutrients that enhance longevity and other health benefits.
We aren’t eating healthy enough!
Unfortunately, many Americans struggle to consume enough fruits and vegetables each day. The average adult should consume 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruits and 2-3 cups of vegetables each day. Fifty percent of grain consumption should also be whole grain. And we need at least 5 grams (1 teaspoon) of nuts and seeds each day.
These foods contain protein along with healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant phytochemicals that lower risk of chronic diseases.
So, how can we make these changes to our diet?
How to Improve Your Diet
Eat less red and processed meats
Processed meats are classified as “carcinogenic” by the World Health Organization (WHO), these meats have been linked to significant health risks including coronary heart disease and bowel cancer. Processed meats include bacon, sausage, and preserved deli meats.
A 2020 study found midlife Americans who ate mostly plant protein were 27% less likely to die unnaturally than those with less plant proteins in their diet.
What are substitutes for red and processed meats?
The secret to improving your diet is incorporating more plants and eating less red meats! Thankfully, there are some great substitutes to help us reap the nutrients without all the negative effects. You can replace red and processed meats with lean poultry, fish, and plant proteins including soybeans, chickpeas, whole grains, seeds, and lentils.
Before jumping on any new diets or dieting trends, you should consult with your doctor and a nutritionist to make sure it is right for you.
A few diets that fall under this “optimized diet” include the Mediterranean diet, DASH diet, and the flexitarian diet. These focus on fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Adding plant-based recipes to your daily meals is difficult if you are used to cooking other types of foods, so we suggest cooking one meal per week that focuses on beans, whole grains, and vegetables. Then gradually increase how many plant-based meals you have each week.
We distilled info from this research to create this blog.