You can live longer by eating better, study says. Here’s how.

You can live longer by eating better, study says. Here’s how.

Now is the time to start eating better because doing so can add years to your life, a new study says.

The study in the journal PLOS Medicine suggests that a woman eating an “optimal” diet starting at age 20 could add 10 years to her life. And a man doing the same could add 13 years. But  if you’ve long since said goodbye to your 20s, fear not. People who are older can still add significant years, too, by adopting a better diet.

The study’s authors write that an “optimal” diet has “substantially higher intake than a typical diet of whole grains, legumes, fish, fruits, vegetables, and included a handful of nuts, while reducing red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and refined grain.”

Of course, you already knew that eating well is good for your health for all kinds of different reasons. But putting that knowledge into practice can be difficult.

Heather Klug, a dietitian with the Karen Yontz Women’s Cardiac Awareness Center at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, put together some simple guidelines to help.

  1. Eat 1-2 (1/2 cup) servings of fruits and/or vegetables at each main meal and for snacks to get in the recommended 5 or more servings each day. Choose a variety of different colored produce with slightly more veggies than fruit.
  2. Include 3-4 servings of legumes (dried beans/split peas/lentils) each week. Easy ways to fit them in: add canned beans to salads; add beans to soups and chilis; add beans to mixed dishes with brown rice or quinoa; dip raw veggies into hummus; turn canned beans into a dip (mash, mix with salsa or herbs/spices) and serve with raw veggies; have edamame as an appetizer or a side dish with dinner.
  3. Make the whole grain switch by switching to intact whole grains and choosing whole grains versions of starchy foods. Easy places to start include: choose oatmeal and other whole grains cereals; buy whole grain breads, rolls, and crackers; cook brown rice or quinoa in place of white rice.
  4. Sprinkle in small amounts of nuts and seeds. Snack on nuts and seeds or turn into a trail mix; top salads and hot or cold cereal with nuts and seeds; use nut butter as a spread
  5. Replace red meat and processed meats with poultry, turkey, fish and the plant proteins in tips 1 through 4. Aim for 2 servings or fewer per week of red meat and processed meats like bacon, sausage, salami, and deli meats. Think more food from plants & fewer foods from animals.

Are you trying to watch your weight? Take a free online quiz to learn more about your healthy weight range here.

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About the Author

Mike Riopell
Mike Riopell

Mike Riopell, health enews contributor, is a media relations coordinator with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. He previously worked as a reporter and editor covering politics and government for the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and Bloomington Pantagraph, among others. He enjoys bicycles, home repair, flannel shirts and being outside.