Imagine being in your 70s and 80s, not just living but thriving. Many face a challenging time health-wise as they age, but it doesn’t have to be your story. Your food choices don’t just dictate your current fitness now; they lay the foundation for a vigorous, fulfilling life well into your golden years. Take steps to ensure those years are not just longer but include lots of activity, like golf, bike rides and playing with your grandchildren. Read on to learn what to eat to help you live a longer and healthier life.

Healthspan vs. lifespan: what’s the difference?

Older asian couple eating healthy meal outside

Lifespan is the number of years you live, while healthspan is how many of those years are lived in good health. 

A healthy diet plays a dual role in extending both. By preventing or delaying age-related diseases like cardiovascular issues, metabolic disorders, and certain cancers, a good diet is your ally against time.

Harvard conducted a 35-year-long study with over 115,000 participants. They found that people who improved their diet by just 25% could significantly reduce their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and respiratory disease. Proof that even small changes can have a big impact.

Foods to eat more 

Here’s what to eat to help you live a longer and healthier life.

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables can lower your blood pressure, reducing your risk of heart attack, stroke, and prostate cancer. They also help maintain a healthy gut, boost your immune system and keep digestion issues at bay. 

Lean or plant-based proteins

Poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, lentils and beans are protein-rich foods that benefit your heart health and contain less saturated fat than other protein-rich foods.

Whole grains 

Oats, brown rice, and whole wheat have more fibre than refined grains. Higher-fibre foods can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, colorectal cancer, and type 2 diabetes. They also help boost low testosterone, which affects a diverse range of functions in the body, from sex drive to the ability to think clearly.

Foods to eat less

You don’t have to give up the foods you love but aim to cut back on the following.


Fruit juices, pop, cookies, and candy cause large fluctuations in your blood sugar. Having too much can increase the risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure because your body has to work harder to produce more insulin.

Highly processed foods

Pizza, frozen chicken nuggets, chips and fast food contain excess sodium, sugar, or saturated fats. They also have minimal–if any–beneficial nutrients, like fibre, antioxidants or vitamins. And while they taste delicious, they do a poor job of keeping you full, causing you to eat more calories than your body needs. Eating these foods too often increases the risk of most chronic diseases.

Saturated fats 

Too much saturated fat increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases by increasing cholesterol levels. Beef, butter, cream, and coconut oil are all high in saturated fat. 

How to set yourself up for a longer, healthier life

Make small, sustainable changes

Keep it simple and only do 1 or 2 changes at a time instead of a total diet overhaul. Trying to change everything at once can make eating healthy seem hard as you adjust to eating different foods. In my experience, people have the most success with this approach.

Focus on what foods to add, not avoid

Instead of focusing on what to stop eating, focus on what you can add to your diet. Cutting out your favourite foods can be much more challenging than introducing healthy options to your diet.

Track eating habits

Black man at kitchen table writing notes

Know your eating habits by keeping track of what you eat, how much, and when. Knowing where to start with diet improvements is easier if you know your starting point. 

Try for a couple of days and take note of things like: how many fruits and vegetables do I eat every day? How often do I eat red meat? How often do I eat nuts and seeds? How many sugar-sweetened beverages do I drink?

If you notice you need to eat more fruits and vegetables, try adding 1-2 servings daily, especially at meals or snacks when you don’t typically have them.

Here are some examples:

  • Pair your sandwich with sliced peppers or carrot sticks
  • Grab a handful of nuts instead of cookies or chips for the mid-afternoon slump
  • If you’re thirsty, start with a glass of water 
  • Add some broccoli or zucchini to your pasta

Understand portion sizes

This can be helpful when trying to figure out how much you should be eating. Visual aids like the Handy Guide to Serving Sizes use parts of your hand as reference points. For instance, a serving of meat or fish should be about the size of your palm.

Learn from the Blue Zones

The ‘Blue Zones’ have been making headlines over the past year as regions around the world where people live long and healthy lives. 

People living in these areas share a lot in common, like how they manage stress and the importance of community and connection. Another thing they have in common is how they eat, whether in California, Japan or Greece. Eating whole or minimally processed foods, plant-based foods, moderating portion sizes, and eating slowly are consistent themes across Blue Zones.

The power of healthy eating 

It’s never too late to make healthy changes to your diet. Recently, I worked with a man in his 70s who struggled with heartburn, which also impacted his sleep and energy levels.

By tracking his eating habits, we identified foods that triggered his symptoms and devised a plan. He added more nutritious foods throughout his day and ultimately reduced the negative effects of heartburn. He now sleeps better and has more energy for the activities he loves, like riding his bike. It goes to show how just a few small but consistent changes impact many areas of health, like sleep, energy, and quality of life.

Eating smart isn’t just about living longer; it’s about living better. Start with small steps, track your progress, and embrace the journey towards a healthier you. Your body–and future self–will thank you for it.

Did these tips give you ideas on how to eat healthier? Comment below!

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