Your diet can help predict how long you will live. This is the conclusion of a new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association assessing diet quality and mortality. The study found that individuals who consumed a more nutritious diet were less likely to die.
The eating habits of 119,315 subjects (75,230 women and 44,085 men) from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study were assessed over 36 years. During that time frame, they evaluated adherence and outcomes across four different dietary patterns, all of which meet some degree of dietary guidelines for Americans of the United States.
The four eating patterns analyzed were:
The 2015 Healthy Eating Index (HEI), which measures diet quality and compliance and uses guidelines from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to assess the score.
The Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), which was created by researchers at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health as an alternative to the original HEI. Like the HOI, it provides scores but focuses more on reducing the risk of chronic disease.
The alternative Mediterranean diet (AMED), which measures adaptation to the principles of the Mediterranean diet.
The Healthful Plant-based Diet Index (HPDI), which measures adherence to a healthy plant-based diet.
The study found that there are multiple ways to stick to a healthy diet
Individuals with the highest adherence to at least one of the healthier eating indices had the lowest risk of death compared to individuals with the lowest adherence. This result was seen across all four healthy eating indices. In addition, this result was consistent across multiple racial and ethnic groups. It was also seen in a dose-dependent manner (the higher the score, the lower the risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and cancer). Higher adherence scores for AMED and AHEI were further associated with a lower risk of mortality from neurodegenerative diseases.
There were several key takeaways from the study. First, it emphasized that there are multiple ways to adhere to a healthier diet. Since there is no “one size fits all” diet, it showed that different dietary patterns can be adapted to any ethnic or personal preference. Second, there were many similarities between the four eating patterns. For example, all eating habits were nutritious and provided abundant vitamins and minerals. They were also more inclined towards more plant-based approaches. Dr. Frank Hu, chair of the department of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, was the study’s lead author. He tells TODAY.com, “While these diets differ in some ways, they all contain high amounts of healthy plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes, and smaller amounts of refined grains, added sugars, sodium, and red and processed foods. meat.”
For a longer life, focus on these 5 dietary habits:
1. Focus on fiber
One of the best ways to consume more plants is to focus on getting more fiber. A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis in the journal Lancet found that adequate fiber intake (between 25 g and 29 g per day) was also associated with a reduction in the risk of all causes and decreases in heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.
2. Nosh on nuts
Nut consumption was emphasized in all four eating patterns in the study. Nuts are high in healthy fats, which can help increase satiety and fullness, an important part of weight management. They have also been linked to better brain health and may lower the risk of heart disease.
3. Get colorful
Color is vital in the plant world and comes from compounds called phytonutrients that give the plant both color and benefit. Studies show that consuming colorful fruits and vegetables can also lead to a longer life.
4. Choose vegetable and marine protein sources
Beans, legumes and fish emerged in different eating patterns. For example, the AMED pattern encouraged the consumption of fatty fish such as salmon, which can provide abundant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Beans and legumes, on the other hand, provide fiber in addition to protein.
5. Find flexibility
The study showed that healthy eating can be tailored to the individual – and that taking multiple approaches within the common themes can lead to significant health benefits. “To get someone to eat healthy for a long time, you have to enjoy it. Thus, it is important for individuals to adapt these healthy eating patterns to their own food and cultural preferences. Also, one does not have to stick to just one dietary approach throughout life. To increase variation and compliance, you can switch between these different healthy diets or put together your own flexitarian diet. However, the basic principles of healthy eating should remain the same: eat more minimally processed plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and legumes; eat less red meat and ultra-processed foods high in sugar, sodium and refined starches,” explains Hu.
If reviewing your diet seems overwhelming, consider this – baby steps go beyond no exercise at all. Hu says many healthy diets are associated not only with longer life, but also with a reduction in the risk of chronic disease. Hu explains, for example, that “greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular complications in people with diabetes.” Healthy eating patterns have also been associated with better survival in people with breast or colon cancer.”
As Hu says, “it’s never too late to adopt a healthy diet.”
This article was originally published on TODAY.com