Diets That Add 13 Years to Your Life – Fact or Fiction?

Here’s the truth about longevity.

So, what’s with this new study that made it to the front pages of every major media house with the eye-catching statement, “Making dietary changes can add up to 13 years to your life”? Yes, we are referring to the study published earlier this year in the PLOS Medicine Journal. It sounds like a plan most would be happy to sign up for!

What’s new is that researchers created an online calculator that anyone can use to get an idea of how food choices can influence how many birthdays you celebrate – check it out, especially if you are from Europe, China, Norway, or the United States. This can be applied to all countries, so don’t turn away if you don’t find yours.

Key Points from the PLOS Study

Changing your diet might add anywhere from six to 13 years to your life, depending on two factors: 

  1. How drastic the changes are. 
  2. How old the person is when they start.

How Was the Research Done?

Researchers used two patterns of eating – one largely consists of added sugar, red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened drinks, and refined carbohydrates (essentially a diet heavily leaning towards croissants, sodas, cookies, cakes, etc). The other was what they called the ‘Optimal’ diet – higher in whole grains (barley, buckwheat, millets, quinoa, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, pasta, brown rice), legumes (chickpeas, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, edamame, navy beans, black beans, mung beans), nuts and seeds (almonds, cashew nuts, macadamia, pistachios, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds), fish, fruits and vegetables, with way fewer foods from the first dietary pattern mentioned above.

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

The Results

What the researchers found was that the younger you are when you make the switch to the Optimal diet, the more years you can add to your life. For example, a 20-year-old could add another 10 to 13 years to their lifespan. Women won’t like what I’m going to say next: it seems if a woman began eating optimally at age 20, she could increase her lifespan by over 10 years whereas a man starting at the same age could add 13 years to his life! Not very fair, is it? Remember, this is not written in stone, so do give it a go anyway!

The additional number of years that can be added to your lifespan does reduce with age, according to this study, but the results are still worth making the change. Say you switch your food choices to the optimal diet at age 60. You could most probably increase your time on planet earth by another eight or nine years. This is great news for anyone who thinks it’s too late to make positive dietary changes – now we know it’s never too late!

Guess which foods made the most impact? Yes, increasing legumes, whole grains, and nuts while decreasing processed and red meats made a good difference. It is best to audit your present diet and go in the direction of adding these food types without going overboard. Of course, always speak to a qualified and registered dietitian/nutritionist to help create a bespoke nutrition blueprint in line with your individual needs. It is the best long-term investment you can do for self-care. 

The results of the study are in line with what global bodies like the World Health Organization have been saying about the effect of increased production of processed foods, rapid urbanisation, and changing lifestyles that have led to a shift in dietary patterns. These patterns involve increased consumption of hyper-palatable (tasty and easy to overconsume) foods that are high in calories, salt, sugar, and fat. It also shows a pattern where many people do not eat enough vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and other nutrient-rich foods. 

Healthy Lifestyle Benefits

Going Green

A plant-based (not vegan) diet is what we are eyeing. This is easily said than done for many, and I understand. Best to start now than never, and I am sure the below five ideas will come in handy, especially for those in a complicated relationship with plants.

  1. Blend in or hide greens into your stews, pasta sauce, dough or batter used to make bread, idlis (Indian steamed rice cakes), and pancakes. Even smoothies are a great place to add them.
  2. Making a beef stew? Reduce the amount of beef and add in some beans or legumes for plant-powered nutrition.
  3. Aim for variety. This does not mean just eating different varieties of fruits. It can also mean eating different types of the same fruit. Magnify this to all foods; trust me, boredom will never be an issue. 
  4. Embrace meat-free Mondays (if not Mondays, any day or two would do) – it’s a great way to start small without feeling overwhelmed if you are working your way around plants. One meal, one day at a time, does it easy and nice!
  5. Make a meal out of a salad. Many people can’t think beyond lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes when it comes to salads. A good place to start is to think of the rainbow. Purple cabbage, blueberries, broccoli, carrot, tomatoes, and then add some chicken or beans with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds topped with herbs, olive oil, salt, and a good mix of your favourite lettuce. You’ve now got an amazingly delicious meal that will add years to your life. 

Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle

In the grand scheme of things, we will all do well by eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, and poultry while minimising /avoiding/going really slow on hyper-palatable foods made with excess sugar, fat, and salt. The thing to acknowledge is that humans can thrive on varied diet patterns. This is why you have all those conflicting conversations around the ‘best’ diet, foods, exercise plans, etc.

Be it vegan, keto, intermittent fasting, pink salt vs white salt, all things brown or white, ignore all this jibber jabber and let’s understand that nutrition is a controllable factor for most of us. It is also for a lifetime. At this point, we have enough data (scientific as well as real life) to conclude that the more whole foods you include in your diet, the better your health parameters. Of course, it is not a standalone factor. Other aspects like total energy balance, physical activity, sleep, emotional well-being, and financial security are equally important – and that’s the secret to life! 

Lovely Ranganath is a licensed clinical dietician in Dubai. Visit @good.food.guru for more information.


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Revitalise After Feasting: A Post-Thanksgiving Workout Regimen to Recharge Your Body

Revive, Recharge, Thrive

As the Thanksgiving feast fades into fond memories, it’s time to give your body the attention it deserves. In this post-feasting recovery guide, we’ll explore a tailored workout regimen designed to revitalise your body, recharge your energy, and counterbalance the indulgences of the holiday season.

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Digestion Essential Oil Mist

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Green Tea Assorted Energy Drink

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Beauty Treats

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1. Wake Up the Body with Cardio Bursts:

Kickstart your post-Thanksgiving regimen with invigorating cardio bursts. Whether it’s a brisk morning walk, a jog, or a dance session, get your heart pumping and awaken your body from its food-induced slumber.

2. Core-Strengthening Pilates:

Engage your core muscles with a Pilates session to restore balance and stability. These low-impact exercises are perfect for toning and strengthening, providing a gentle yet effective workout for your post-feast body.

3. Yoga for Digestive Ease:

Explore a sequence of yoga poses designed to aid digestion and promote relaxation. Gentle twists and stretches will help soothe your stomach and release tension, leaving you feeling rejuvenated.

4. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT):

Inject a burst of energy with HIIT exercises to elevate your heart rate and boost your metabolism. Short, intense intervals followed by rest periods are an efficient way to burn off excess calories and jumpstart your fitness routine.

5. Mindful Cool Down with Stretching:

Wind down your workout with mindful stretching. Focus on areas that may have tightened during the holiday festivities, allowing your body to recover and preventing post-feast stiffness.

As you embrace this post-Thanksgiving workout regimen, remember that it’s not about punishment but restoring balance. This curated routine aims to invigorate your body, clear your mind, and set the tone for a healthy and active holiday season. So, lace up those sneakers, roll out the yoga mat, and let’s embark on a journey to revitalise and recharge after the Thanksgiving feast.

Frequently Asked Questions

How soon after Thanksgiving should I start this workout regimen?

The post-Thanksgiving workout regimen can be started as early as the day after the feast. However, listen to your body, and if needed, allow a day or two for digestion before engaging in more intense exercises.

Can I customize the workout routine based on my fitness level?

Absolutely! Tailor the regimen to suit your fitness level and preferences. Modify intensity, duration, or choose alternative exercises to ensure a comfortable and effective workout experience.

Is it necessary to follow the entire workout routine, or can I focus on specific exercises?

Feel free to adapt the regimen to your needs. While the full routine provides a well-rounded approach, you can choose specific exercises based on your preferences or focus on areas that feel particularly tight or in need of attention.


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