Healthy Eating: Increase Your Life Expectancy, Feed Your Piggy Bank

Last Updated Jul 27, 2010 10:12 AM EDT


Adopting healthy eating habits can help extend your lifespan and your healthspan - the period during which you're vital and living independently. This conclusion is supported by tons of medical and scientific research, and is summarized well in two popular books:

And here's a nice bonus: Healthy nutrition can potentially reduce the amount of money you spend on medical bills, up to $175,000 for a couple, as I've written about previously.

So what foods should you be eating more of, and what should you pass up? Here's the list of foods that can improve your odds of remaining healthy:
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, the more variety, the better. Choosing different colors gives you a large number of vital nutrients.
  • Fish, especially those with Omega-3, such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans and lentils
  • Herbal teas
  • Low-fat meat and dairy products
  • Healthy oils, such as olive and coconut
  • Flavoring spices, such as cumin, curry, ginger, and chili powder
Now some things to avoid. Here's the list of foods that have been linked to the chronic, expensive medical conditions of old age, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes:
  • Salt and sodium
  • Processed sugar
  • Fried foods
  • Heavily processed food products (those things that Grandma wouldn't recognize as food)
  • White breads and grains
  • Meat and dairy products with high fat content
  • Sodas of any kind -- diet or regular
  • Saturated fats or hydrogenated oils such as margarine
  • Fast foods that use a lot of the above ingredients
These lists are just the beginning. There are many more details available on both healthy and unhealthy foods, and I urge you to learn more. The above-mentioned books are good places to start.

Be aware that you have enemies in your efforts to eat healthily -- those companies that pay a lot of money to create very persuasive ads meant to convince you to buy the unhealthy foods. Can you think of the last time you saw an ad for a food on the healthy list? How about a food from the unhealthy list? You get my point.

In addition to eating the right foods, you'll want to eat the right amounts of food, and adopt good exercise habits. Neither of these steps may be easy. Given the high cost of medical bills and the potential for high bills for long-term care, however, it's a great investment of your time to make the effort. It's also an important part of your planning for retirement and your rest-of-life.

Here's to good health and low bills for medical and long-term care!

More on CBS MoneyWatch
How to Spend Less in Retirement
Will Good Health Save You Money in Retirement or Not?
Uh-Oh: Good Health Will Cost You More in Retirement
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    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck and Recession-Proof Your Retirement Years.

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