Add 14 years to your life

Recently, through conversations with friends, I have become aware that I am part of a small minority.
I love vegetables!
Years ago I used to say if I ever have to give up any food, I hope it isn’t vegetables. Now I take a blood thinner, so I can’t eat as much broccoli or spinach as I would like, but I still can eat some as long as I consume the same amount every day.
After vegetables, my favourite food is fruit. So every meal our plates are full of beautiful, colourful food: steamed green broccoli, purple grape juice, red onions, ripe green avocados, yellow bananas, bite-sized red tomatoes, buttered orange squash, and blueberries with yogurt.
I’m not completely a vegetarian, but with meals like that I easily could be!
Like everyone else, I always knew that eating lots of fruits and vegetables is good for your health, but I really didn’t know how important it is until I read about a recent British study.
University of Cambridge researchers studied the lifestyles of more than 20,000 people aged 45-79, who came from all walks of life and from a wide geographical area. The researchers knew lifestyle influenced health and mortality, but they wanted to know just how much influence it had on longevity.
In this well-designed, long-term study, the goal was to quantify just how much eating veggies and other healthy behaviours influences longevity. They hoped the results would motivate people to choose healthier lifestyles.
And quantify it the researchers did.
In the journal PLoS Medicine, they reported, “The evidence that behavioral factors such as diet, smoking, and physical activity influence health is overwhelming.”
The astounding result was that subjects who followed four healthy habits, including eating five vegetables and fruits a day, actually lived 14 years longer than their peers.
Imagine that! Just by choosing healthy habits, the subjects lived 14 years longer. No wonder the researchers called the findings “overwhelming.”
Notably, they also found the same differences in survival rates for people with existing chronic disease.
In addition to eating vegetables and fruits, the other healthy behaviours are not smoking, having moderate alcohol intake, and getting exercise.
As for me, I don’t smoke or drink alcohol, so I’m focusing on exercising and eating a healthy diet—a diet rich with colourful fruits and veggies.
The authors said “that high fruit and vegetable intake . . . predicts lower mortality in men or women.”
And we all know that exercise is key to staying healthy. Exercise strengthens your bones, your muscles, and your lungs. It relieves depression and helps with sleeplessness. It keeps your heart healthy and your brain sharp.
And most important of all, it makes you feel good.
In fact, exercise may be the fabled “fountain of youth.”
“Even small differences in lifestyle may make a big difference to health,” say the researchers.
So whether you are in perfect health or have some health problems, why not begin right now? Start exercising and eat your veggies.
You can take baby steps because even small differences can make a big difference to health. And changing your habits just may help you enjoy a longer healthy and happy life.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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