Following a healthy diet, especially if you start at a young age, could add up to 13 years to your life, according to a research study.

Why does the study matter?

A new study published in the journal PLOS Medicine, has found that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and legumes could increase longevity — by as many as 13 years — in men and women ages 20 to 80.

  • “Understanding the relative health potential of different food groups could enable people to make feasible and significant health gains,” the study says.
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How was the study done?

  • The research team from Norway wanted to study the effects on a man or woman’s life expectancy if they replaced a typical a diet of meat and processed foods with one that included fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts.
  • The researchers used existing data from the Global Burden of Disease Study, a database that tracks different causes of death, disease, injuries and risk factors in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.

What did the researchers find?

  • A 20-year-old woman who follows a healthy diet could increase her lifespan by more than 10 years.
  • A 20-year-old man following a healthy diet could add 13 years to his life.
  • Men and women in their 60s who focus on a healthier diet can prolong their lives by as many as eight or nine years.
  • The study found that even 80-year-old men and women could add 3.5 years to their by implementing these dietary changes.

What does the study recommend?

  • The study recommends eating more legumes, including beans, peas and lentils, as well as whole grains, walnuts, almonds, pecans and pistachios.
  • The study recommends eating less red and processed meat, such as bacon, sausage and deli meats.
  • “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,” researcher Lars Fadnes, of the University of Bergen, told marthastewart.com. “Our modeling methodology has bridged this gap.”