Food Choices and Life Expectancy

Sara Dow is a ACE Certified Weight Management and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. She is also a ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Small Group Trainer at the Y. Twice a month, her blog posts will feature nutrition education, a healthy recipe she has tried and loves, and tips to help you achieve your health goals, as well as answers centered around a nutrition question from a Y member.

A newly published study reveals that dietary changes can add up to 13 years to life! The researchers found that swapping a typical Western diet high in red meat, saturated fats and refined gains for a diet high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts provided longevity gains at every age. 

Those who made the switch in their twenties added 10-13 years of life.  Those in their sixties added 8-9 years. Those in their 80’s added nearly three and a half years of life!  The most significant gains come from eating more legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), nuts, whole grains, and less red and processed meat. 

While it’s possible to reap the benefits of a healthy diet at any age, the earlier you start, the greater the gains!  Start today with these simple swaps.

  • Swap brown lentils for half the ground meat in sauce (spaghetti, sloppy joes, etc.)
  • Swap roasted chickpeas (a legume) for croutons on your salad.
  • Swap air-popped popcorn (whole grain) for chips and pretzels (refined grain).

A Healthy Recipe…

Fiesta Salad with Crispy Fajita Chickpeas by Sara Dow (vegan and gluten-free)
Fiesta Salad:


  • 2 cups mixed salad greens
  • ¼ cup corn
  • ¼ cup black beans
  • ½ cup red, orange, or yellow bell peppers
  • 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup crispy fajita chickpeas (see recipe below)

Add-ons: diced tomatoes, avocado slices, and black olives. This salad pairs nicely with Little Salad Bar Avocado Ranch dressing found in the produce section at ALDI.

Crispy Fajita Chickpeas:


  • 2 – 15 oz cans chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp fajita seasoning

Preparation: Rinse, drain, and dry chickpeas. Toss with olive oil & seasoning. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake @400 for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Chickpeas can be enjoyed on their own as a protein-rich snack or as a nutritious salad topper.

Nutrition information: This colorful salad combines protein-rich legumes with an assortment of veggies packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals to support digestive health and boost immune function. Chickpeas and black beans provide plant-based protein and a fiber boost.  Enjoy!

Check out this Resource…

In the study mentioned above, researchers created a model estimating the benefits to life expectancy from eating certain foods. Their Food4HealthyLife calculator is publicly available online.  Check it out for a personalized look at how various dietary changes might add years to your life.

About Sara Dow

Hi, I’m Sara and I am passionate about helping people improve their quality of life through the knowledge and practice of good nutrition.  

In 2018, I was inspired by the YMCA community to go back to school and pursue my dream of becoming a registered dietitian. I am now in my senior year, double majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics at Kansas State University.  I am excited to share with you what I am learning. 



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