Dietary Changes That Could Add Years To Life

Dietary changes along with lifestyle adjustments can bring about changes and add to healthy years to life. Read to discover these dietary changes.

By URLife Team
18 Jun 2024

In a world filled with “anti-aging” products, it's easy to be tempted by promises of eternal youth. From wrinkle creams to vitamin supplements and meal replacements, many solutions claim to make you look younger. However, these quick fixes often don't live up to their promises. But what if there was a real, research-backed way to add healthy, fulfilling years to your life? Imagine a method based on solid science that offers not just the appearance of youth, but truly extends your active, vibrant years. 

A 2023 study published by the PLOS Medicine analysed the data from 467,354 participants in the UK Biobank – a large-scale database and research resource containing genetic, lifestyle and health information, on people living in the United Kingdom. The model found that if a 40-year-old changed from an ‘unhealthy diet’ to a ‘longevity-associated dietary pattern’, and kept this up over time, they could live an extra 10 years (10.4 years for women and 10.8 years for men).

Making the same changes at age 70 years could also extend life expectancy – at about half of that achieved by 40-year-olds (or around five years), suggesting it’s never too late to adjust food choices. If people changed to this optimal diet starting in young adulthood, it would add an estimated 10.7 years to women’s lives and 13 years to men’s lives. But you don’t need a time machine to benefit. According to the study, even making these dietary changes at age 60 added about 8 years to a person’s lifespan. And at age 80, it still tacked on 3 years. 


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Related story: How to Resist Toxic Diet Culture


Snack on Nuts

A 2022 study published by PLOS Medicine found that consuming 25g of nuts per day, from 20 years of age, could increase life expectancy by almost two years.  Another major 2022 review found eating a handful of nuts a day, compared to eating no nuts, was associated with a 22 per cent reduced risk of dying from all causes.

Incorporating nuts into your diet is easy and versatile. Instead of reaching for junk food, try snacking on a handful of mixed nuts for a satisfying and nutritious alternative. Add chopped nuts to your morning oatmeal or yoghurt for an extra crunch and boost of protein. You can also sprinkle nuts on salads for added texture and flavour, or blend them into smoothies for a creamy consistency. Including nuts in baking, such as in muffins or homemade granola bars, is another delicious way to enjoy their benefits. By substituting nuts for less healthy options, you can enhance your diet with a nutrient-dense and heart-healthy food.


Related story: The Truths About Diet: Going Gluten-free


Eat More Meat-Free Meals 

In a 2016 article from the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, researchers identified five regions in the world where people live the longest and healthiest lives. Known as Blue Zones, these areas include diverse locations such as Okinawa, Japan, and Ikaria, Greece. A common factor among these regions is their primarily plant-based diets, with beans and lentils as staples. Meat is consumed sparingly, averaging about five times per month in three- to four-ounce portions, roughly the size of a deck of cards.
In a 2014 study analysing 150 dietary surveys from Blue Zones spanning 80 years, it was discovered that over 90 per cent of their food intake consists of complex carbohydrates from whole plant-based sources. 95 per cent of centenarians consumed plant-based diets rich in beans, which are affordable, high in fibre and protein, and packed with nutrients. 

A 2013 study in JAMA Internal Medicine examined over 73,000 Seventh Day Adventist men and women, finding that vegetarians had a significantly lower overall mortality risk compared to omnivores. This included vegans, lacto-ovo vegetarians (who consume dairy and eggs), and pesco-vegetarians (who eat seafood). A 2019 follow-up study, published in the Journal of Nutritional Science, found that vegetarian diets were associated with significantly lower levels of cardiovascular disease risk factors compared to non-vegetarian diets.


Related story: Seven Adaptogen-rich Foods You Should Add To Your Diet


Limit Food To 80 Per Cent of Your Appetite

Feeling full but still want to eat? That might not be the best idea. Feeling full implies that you have eaten 80 per cent of your appetite and this is considered the ideal quantity to consume. The idea is to be still a little hungry when you finish. You can do this by skipping desserts or reducing the portion size. Try to avoid serving food in courses. Instead, serve everything at once on small plates. This is because eating more than required leads to longer digestive processes that accelerate cellular oxidation.
By stopping before feeling completely full, you give your body a chance to properly digest the food and avoid overloading your digestive system. Additionally, incorporating a variety of foods in smaller portions on one plate promotes balanced nutrition and prevents the temptation to overindulge in any one dish. This mindful approach to eating not only supports optimal digestion but also fosters a healthier relationship with food.


Related story: Add These 7 Superfoods in Your Diet to Boost Your Health


Incorporate Protein in Your First Meal 

Including protein in your meal first helps slow down the absorption of sugars from other foods you eat alongside it. This slows the rate at which glucose is released into the bloodstream, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Consequently, it leads to a more gradual and steady rise in glucose, promoting better blood sugar control.
For individuals managing conditions like diabetes or insulin resistance, maintaining stable blood sugar levels is paramount. Incorporating protein can help reduce the glycemic impact of a meal, reducing the risk of sudden glucose fluctuations. According to a 2019 report mentioned in the Journal Nutrients, starting your meals with protein-dense foods followed by carbs can help with satiety, make you feel full for longer and hence aid in weight management and weight loss. The better the health, the longer you live.

A 2015 study in ​Diabetes Care​ found that the sequence in which we consume food had an effect on measures of blood sugar in adults with obesity and type 2 diabetes. A significant decrease in post-meal glucose and insulin levels was noticed when vegetables and protein were eaten before carbs in comparison to the reverse food order. When you eat protein-rich foods first, they have a minimal impact on blood glucose compared to consuming carbohydrates before proteins.


Related story: Five Easy Ways To Add More Protein To Your Vegan Diet


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