Want to Live Longer? Eat the Right Foods

By Michael A. Smith, MD

If your diet closely resembles the Mediterranean diet, your chances of dying from any cause drops 23%.1 Think about it: A diet based on vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, cereals, fish and monounsaturated fats can actually decrease the risk of dying from anything! That’s pretty amazing.

The report we’re referencing was published online in the Journal of Nutrition. It reveals a protective effect for two healthy diets on mortality from any cause over a 14 year average follow-up period.

Let’s “dig in” to the specifics of the report.

Diet Quality Predicts Longevity

A team from Australia and the UK analyzed the diets of 972 people registered in the British Diet and Nutrition Survey. The average age was 65 and older and included men and women who participated in the diet survey from 1994-1995.

The researchers performed a four day food inventory and applied a score for them according to their adherence to three separate diet categories. This means that each participant received three separate scores, one score for each category listed below:

  • The Healthy Diet Score – Analyzed the intake of saturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, fruit and vegetables, pulses and nuts, sugars, cholesterol, fish, red meat and meat products, and calcium.
  • The Mediterranean Diet Score – Analyzed the intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts, cereals, fish and seafood, a high monounsaturated to saturated fats ratio, dairy products, meat and meat products, and alcohol.
  • The Recommended Food Score – Analyzed various fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and reduced fat dairy products. This particular score is a "a food-based score calculated based on the frequency of consumption of a range of foods considered to be consistent with existing dietary guidelines.”
So each individual was analyzed against all three diet scores. The higher the score the more closely that person’s diet resembled that particular diet’s analysis. Here’s what they discovered:

  • A higher Mediterranean Diet Score was associated with a 23% lower adjusted risk of dying over the follow-up period.
  • A higher Recommended Food Score was associated with a 33% lower adjusted risk of dying over the follow-up period.
  • No association was found for the Healthy Diet Score.
The authors concluded, "The study shows that diet quality is an important predictor of longevity among older adults. With the aging population worldwide, the role of diet quality in improving functional status and quality of life becomes increasingly important and further research is required on the role of diet in these aspects of aging."

The Mediterranean Diet for Just One Day

So the Mediterranean diet reduces your chances of dying from all causes. Awesome! But let’s be honest … that’s really not news to us. We propose that Americans try the following diet (or something very similar) for just one day. We’re pretty sure that’s all it will take for you to fall in love with the food.

1. Breakfast & Mid-Morning Snack – Pick one for each

  • Toast with Cheese, Fruit and Nuts
  • Granola with Fruit and Nuts
  • Oatmeal with Fruit and Nuts
  • Handful of Nuts, Tomato Slices and Cheese
2. Lunch & Mid-Afternoon Snack – Pick one for each

  • Orange Salad with Feta and a Lean Protein
  • Fresh Tomato Whole-grain Penne
  • Greens with Lemon Dressing and a Lean Protein
  • Greek Salad with Feta and a Lean Protein
3. Dinner & Dessert

  • Salmon with Orange and Lemon Salad
  • Grilled Swordfish (or any fish really) with Couscous
  • Broiled Chicken with Garlic and Lime
Sound appetizing? What would you do differently? Let us know in the comments below!


  1. J Nutr. February 2012 142: 320-325; first published online December 21, 2011. doi:10.3945/jn.111.148692


Rani said...

Hi Dr. Smith,

I just finished creating an infographic that I think is a good fit for your readers on The Life Extension Blog.

It's called "7 Superfoods That Help You Live Longer." You can see it here(http://www.jesrestaurantequipment.com/jesrestaurantequipmentblog/eat-these-7-superfoods-and-live-longer/).

I wanted to get in touch because while researching, I read the post you wrote about Superfoods, Want to Live Longer? Eat the Right Foods, so I wanted to get in touch to see if you'd like to use my infographic, too.

I put HTML code that you can copy and paste below the image to make it easy to put on your site. If you'd like a different size, please let me know and I'll make it for you.

Thank you!

~ Melanie

Life Extension said...

Thanks for the infographic!

Ivor Goodbody said...

Yay to the Mediterranean diet findings.

Nay to your suggestion of swordfish. Almost ANY fish would be preferable, as swordfish tops the league of seafood most likely to be contaminated with mercury. May I suggest instead sardines, herring, mackerel or, for a few $ more, wild salmon (as you mentioned) or anchovies?

See this infographic for a quick and easy guide to fish choices:


Wishing you evolutionary health


Life Extension said...

Ivor Goodbody- Thanks for chiming in and for the infographic!

ari said...

sounds like a low fat high carb diet to me

Life Extension said...

Sowpath das - We appreciate it!

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