New research, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, suggests that changing your diet and making healthier eating choices could add up to 13 years to your life. Especially if you start when you are younger.
Substituting the typical Western diet of red meat and processed foods for a healthier diet with more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts could help extend life expectancy of a man or a woman.
The study team, from Norway, used data from the Global Burden of Disease, a database that records 286 causes of death, 369 illnesses and injuries, and 87 risk factors in 204 countries and territories around the world, to model the effect of dietary changes.
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The results show that, by practicing an optimal diet at age 20, a woman could effectively increase her life by more than 10 years , and a man by 13 years.
While starting young helps people live longer, switching to a healthier diet could help older adults as well. The study states that a woman who starts at age 60 could add eight years to her life and a man who does the same could get nine more years.
A mostly plant-based diet could work even for people in their 80s: men and women could gain about 3.5 years from a diet change.
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What foods contribute to this result? well, here we find legumes, which include beans, peas and lentils, whole grains and dried fruits, such as walnuts, almonds and pistachios.
A healthier option to replace red and processed meats with fish and plant-based proteins, such as soy, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, nuts, whole grains and seeds like quinoa, plus protein-rich vegetables like broccoli.
In addition to adding years to your life, changing your eating habits with plant-based options could be beneficial for the environment and a sigh of relief for the animals.