While most young adults don’t think much about aging, a new study shows that those under age 20 could add a significant number of years to life expectancy with a change in diet. What happens if a 20-year old changes their diet from a typical Western diet to one that includes more legumes, whole grains and nuts, and less red and processed meat? It could add decades to life. Women can expect to live another 10.7 years, men another 13 years, according to researchers at University of Bergen Norway. The tool the researchers used to calculate the data is available to the public as the Food4HealthyLife calculator (https://food4healthylife.org/).
If you’ve never tried it, the food4healthylife website is an cool new tool to see which foods are important to health as you age and to see how to add years and even decades to your life. If you need more guidance than an online tool, naturopathic medicine focuses on diet as a foundation for health, and as such, naturopathic doctors are trained to help patients establish healthy eating habits. They take specialized courses in nutrition that support prevention of chronic illness to counter the global trends in poor eating habits, which lead to 11 million deaths and 255 million disability-adjusted life-years annually. Many naturopathic therapeutic modalities derive from the natural world, such as food and nutrition, botanical medicine and hands-on approaches. A naturopathic dcotor will use nutrition and foods to bring the healing power of nature to your individualized treatment plan.
What Does a Longevity Diet Look Like?
In this particular study, consumption of the humble bean, or legumes, made the most difference in life expectancy, followed by whole grains, nuts and less red meat. This looks a lot like what we already know about an anti-inflammatory diet. “An anti-inflammatory diet is designed to knock down the unwanted markers of inflammation and help the body function optimally. It does this by giving the body an abundance of antioxidants, essential fatty acids, flavonols and nutritional compounds that reduce inflammation,” (read more here).
Essential Foods to Add Decades to Life
- Whole grains, beans, peas, soy and lentils.
- Brightly colored vegetables and fruits like leafy greens; red, green and orange peppers; black and blueberries, eggplant; red berries, cherries and beets; and winter and summer squashes.
- Crunchy cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel’s sprouts and cabbage; purple and blue foods, including purple kale.
- Healthy fats from nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, cold-water seafood and whole soy foods.
- Anti-inflammatory foods like mushrooms, herbs and spices.
“Understanding the relative health potential of different food groups could enable people to make feasible and significant health gains,” the authors said. “The Food4HealthyLife calculator could be a useful tool for clinicians, policy makers, and lay-people to understand the health impact of dietary choices.”
This new tool and recently released study sheds new light on the importance of specific foods for optimal health. “Research until now have shown health benefits associated with separate food group or specific diet patterns but given limited information on the health impact of other diet changes. Our modeling methodology has bridged this gap,” said lead researcher Lars T. Fadnes, MD, PhD.
For more on how to add more beans, whole grains and eat less red meat, see these recipes and advice from our featured experts at the Institute for Natural Medicine
Good Food for Good Moods (Good Mood Broth with Miso)
Cuban Black Beans, from naturopathic doctor, JoAnn Yanez, ND, MPH, CAE
What is an Anti-inflammatory Diet?
This article is provided by the Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, partnered with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing health care systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:
- Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of naturopathic medicine
- Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
- Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine
Reference: Lars T. Fadnes, Jan-Magnus Økland, Øystein A. Haaland, Kjell Arne Johansson. Estimating impact of food choices on life expectancy: A modeling study. PLOS Medicine, 2022; 19 (2): e1003889 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003889
Relationships are the epicenter of Dr. McMath’s work with INM as she supports our content Editorial Board and nurtures connections across the naturopathic space. Dr. McMath became involved in the advancement of the profession as a naturopathic medical student as a member of the board of directors for the California Naturopathic Doctors Association, intern for the Integrative Health Policy Consortium, research associate for Bastyr University’s Health Policy and Leadership Committee, and first ND student to be a delegate to the World Health Assembly in Geneva. Early in her career Dr. McMath helped lead the development of Integrative Wellness at the Maryland Proton Treatment Center and was elected to the board of directors of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians where she serves on the Public Relations Committee.