What You Eat Can Add Years to Your Life

Find out what foods you can eat to live healthier, longer lives.

Healthy Aging and Longevity
Live a Healthier, Stronger, Longer Life.

We all have the ability to live healthier, stronger, and longer lives simply by eating the most nutritious foods for our bodies.The importance of good nutrition cannot be overstated. I have personally seen how an optimal diet can prevent and reverse disease. I have written books about the therapeutic power the right foods can have on such problems as heart disease,  high blood pressure, diabetes, allergies, asthma, autoimmune illnesses (including lupus) and headaches.

I firmly believe that few people can expect to have good health without paying attention to the consumption of high-micronutrient foods. The latest scientific advances in nutritional research continue to provide evidence in support of these facts.

The latest to shine a spotlight on the necessity of a superior diet is a new group of data released by The Global Burden of Disease study. It is a huge, ongoing project collecting data in 188 countries. An international research team evaluates studies on each of 79 modifiable risk factors associated with preventable deaths and loss of quality of life years, grading the evidence that links each one to early death and adding more risk factors to the list when new evidence arises.

The study cited poor eating habits as the most significant risk factor for premature death worldwide. It found diet was the primary factor responsible for the greatest number of premature deaths starting in 2000 and up to the most recent data for 2013, accounting for 11.3 million deaths worldwide in 2013.

In recent decades, the American diet has undergone a transformation that has put disease-causing refined carbohydrates, oils, and animal products at the center of every meal, with natural plant foods playing only a minor role. This dietary shift became apparent when researchers looked at the data. As new parts of the world continue to adopt these eating habits, diet is becoming a larger burden on health and lifespan all over the world.

What Foods Place You at High-Risk?

When researchers looked at some of the dietary risk factors individually, they found that between 2000 and 2013 there was a global increase in the numbers of deaths associated with the following factors:

  • Low Fruit Consumption
  • High Sodium Intake
  • Low Fiber Diet
  • Low Consumption of Nuts and Seeds
  • Diet High in Processed and Red Meats

Based on the above dietary factors, it should be no surprise that there was an increase in the number of deaths over this same time period associated with high blood pressure, high BMI or body mass index, and high fasting blood glucose rates.

The Good News

The study didn’t yield all bad news though. Mortality due to the consumption of trans fat and secondhand smoke declined during that time and, as the authors pointed out, each of the risk factors have the potential to be eliminated or reduced in our diets. Already we are seeing a stronger emphasis on whole foods, clean eating, and a wider interest in more thoughtful food selection. Our individual choices have a huge potential to positively improve our health.

The trends the study spotlighted are reversible, and the deaths associated with a poor diet are avoidable. It took many years, but today everyone knows that smoking causes lung cancer and as a result, tobacco use is declining and so are the negative health effects associated with its use. The data suggests that this is beginning to occur with trans fat, too. We are certainly not there, yet, but we are moving toward a time when processed meats, commercial baked goods, and sugar-sweetened beverages will be viewed by everyone as dangerous.

I encourage everyone to eat a nutrient-dense, plant-rich diet of greens, colorful vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and some fruit. Make salad the main meal. Eat big salads and lots of tomato, onion, raw and cooked greens, and mushrooms. Until everyone learns to avoid processed food, excessive animal products and oils   preventable diseases will continue to plague us. A diet that delivers a broad array of micronutrients via a wide spectrum of healthy foods is the most satisfying and the most healthful. 


Collaborators GBDRF, Forouzanfar MH, Alexander L, et al. Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 79 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks in 188 countries, 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Lancet 2015.

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