Must-have foods to add 10-plus years to your life

Making smarter choices about the foods you eat can add up to 10 years to your life, according to research. So what should be on your menu?

Norwegian research has found young people could increase their life expectancy by a decade by eating more legumes, whole grains and nuts and less red and processed meats.

The same research is also good news for people in middle-age or later life.

It found swapping a Western diet for healthier eating in your early 60s could add around eight years to life and people in their 80s could gain three years.

Poor diet is estimated to be responsible for around 11 million deaths worldwide each year.

Researchers, led by University of Bergen professor Lars Fadnes, say the largest gains in life longevity are estimated from eating more legumes, whole grains and nuts, and less red and processed meat.

Better food choices for life

The Norwegian study builds on previous research that has highlighted how food can add or subtract months or years from a healthy lifespan.

A US study found swapping 10 per cent of the daily calories we get from beef and processed meats for fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and seafood could give us 48 extra healthy minutes each day.

The researchers also found eating a hot dog could cost you 36 minutes of healthy life – but swap that hot dog for a handful of nuts and you gain 26 minutes.

Best foods for life longevity


Packed with plant-based protein and fibre which is vital to gut health.

Kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, black beans and pinto beans are some of the better-known legumes and are rich in vitamins, iron, copper, magnesium and zinc.

Research has found legumes can help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, contribute to healthy cholesterol and having just under one cup of legumes a day may help lower high blood pressure.

“Increase legumes in your diet by using half mince and half legumes when you make a spaghetti bolognaise,” dietitian Felicity Curtain says.

“Add a can of beans to a salad or an omelette, add red split lentils to curry and cook Mexican foods with pinto beans or kidney beans.”


These grains are packed with B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants and disease-preventing phytochemicals.

They also contain healthy fats and proteins.

“We eat grains – but not enough high-quality wholegrains,” Felicity says.

“Swap white grains for wholegrains so instead of buying white bread, choose rye, wholemeal or whole grain bread, and swap white pasta for brown or mix half white and half brown pasta.

“If you bake, use wholegrain flour instead of white.”


All nuts are good for you and, just like vegetables, different nuts contain different amounts of nutrients.

They are all rich in unsaturated fats, protein and fibre which are good for heart health.

Almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, peanuts, pecans and pistachios are all ideal – try to eat a handful a day.

Foods that may inhibit longevity

Processed meat:

“Most of these meats are high in salt and saturated fat which increases the risk of high blood pressure and heart problems,” Felicity says.

A University of Oxford study found that each daily 50g serve of processed meat increased the risk of heart disease by 18 per cent.

So, limit ham, bacon, salami and sausages to special occasions.

Written by Sarah Marinos.