New Book: Choosing Regular Food to Extend Longevity

By Ralph Nader
April 12, 2024

It is not often that a best-selling author and correspondent on consumer, food, medical, and health issues comes up with an idea for all Eaters that nobody has thought of before. Jean Carper, with sixty years of experience, has done just that with her brand-new book provocatively titled “100 Life or Death Foods: A Scientific Guide to Which Foods Prolong Life or Kill You Prematurely.”

Based on scientific studies about the life-expectancy effect of different foods – positive and negative – (many cited in the book’s Appendix and available at the National Institutes of Health Library of Medicine). Carper writes: “The evidence is stunningly clear that people who eat ‘optimal’ diets can slow their aging process and add years to their lives.”

Carper reports that researchers have found common legumes (beans, peas, soybeans), whole grains, and nuts, extend longevity, while refined grains (white bread), sugar-sweetened beverages, heavy salt use, and red and processed meats can shorten one’s life.

Carper’s book is instantly usable because she efficiently runs through specific foods. For example, studies give high life-extension marks to apples, bananas, beets, berries, cabbage, carrots, hot chili peppers, coffee, eggplant, fermented food (pickles and sauerkraut), garlic grapes and raisins, green leafy veggies, herbs and spices, kale, oats, olives and olive oil, brown rice, tea, tomatoes, vinegar, yogurt and whole grain cereals.

On the life-shortening side, she names alcoholic beverages, candy, diet sodas, cured meats (bacon, hot dogs), fried foods, ice cream, fruit juices (stripped of fiber and called “high-calorie sugar water”) ultra-processed foods, including those labeled with high amounts of sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, and refined sugary cereals that corporate hucksters advertise to youngsters.

In addition to specific foods, Carper explains why the Mediterranean Diet is so superior to the corporate Western Diet. She also praises the Dash Diet (similar to the Mediterranean Diet) which she reports as a “famous blood pressure downer.” She advocates getting your protein more from plants than from animals.

Much of the “bad food” cited in “100 Life or Death Foods” is high on the list of the corporate marketeers who exploit “taste and texture” – meaning sugar, salt, and fats – to seduce children at a young age for a lifetime of ingesting junk food and junk drink. Their advertising is relentless, with heavy psychological manipulation. Fast food companies know from their own research the damage they have been doing to the health of their customers. That is why they fill their ads with lies and deceptions and have focused promotions on “kiddy TV,” over the decades.

The natural foods grown locally for generations have been mostly displaced by pesticide-heavy factory farms that fuel processed corporate diets.

This book is a guide for all eaters to work their way back to unprocessed natural foods, with organic-certified labels. These foods have another advantage – they frequently come in at lower prices than steaks, chops, and highly processed foods, including those from fancy bakeries.

Carper recognizes, of course, that many factors influence life expectancy, such as genetics, exercise, lifestyles, smoking, pollution, alcohol abuse, and, of course, endemic poverty. Inadequate healthcare and health insurance also contribute to shortened life expectancies. However, food is something people can have personal control over without asking the permission of higher authorities.

Some people are in a position to grow their own vegetables and fruits and share the harvest with neighbors. Now you have what Carper calls “a unique, up to date, one stop guide to more than 100 common foods, beverages and popular diets, revealing whether they prolong health and life or accelerate aging and death.”

The guide works for all ages as well. It will show you that nutritious and delicious food prepared with all kinds of simple recipes can be healthy and tasty. (See, 100 Life or Death Foods: A Scientific Guide to Which Foods Prolong Life or Kill You Prematurely, December 9, 2023).