Your diet can help you predict how long you will live. This is the conclusion of a new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association that evaluated diet quality and mortality. The study found that individuals who consumed a more concentrated diet were less likely to die prematurely.
The dietary habits of 119,315 subjects (75,230 women and 44,085 men) from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study were evaluated over 36 years. During this time frame, they evaluated adherence and outcomes with four different dietary patterns, all of which, to some extent, conformed to the United States Guidelines for Nutrition for Americans.
The four eating patterns analyzed were:
The Healthy Eating Index 2015 (HEI), which measures diet quality and adherence and uses the guidelines in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in scoring assessment.
The Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), created by researchers at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health as an alternative to the original HEI. It provides scoring like the HEI but focuses more on reducing the risk of chronic disease.
The Alternative Mediterranean Diet (AMED), which measures adherence to Mediterranean diet principles.
The Healthy Plant-Based Diet Index (HPDI), which measures adherence to a healthy plant-based diet.
The study found that there is more than one way to stick to a healthy diet.
Individuals with the highest adherence to at least one of the healthy eating indices had the lowest risk of death compared with individuals with the lowest adherence. This result was seen in all four healthy eating indices. Additionally, this result was consistent across many 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 compliance scores for AMED and AHEI were also associated with a lower risk of neurodegenerative disease death.
There were several important takeaways from the study. First, he stressed that there are many ways to stick to a healthier diet. It showed that because there is no “one size fits all” diet, different dietary patterns can be tailored to any ethnic or personal preference. Second, there were many similarities between the four eating patterns. For example, all their eating habits were nutrient-dense, providing plenty of vitamins and minerals. They were also more inclined towards more plant-based approaches. Professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Frank Hu was the lead author of the study. She tells TODAY.com: “Although 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 lower amounts of refined grains, added sugars, sodium, and red and processed meats.”
Focus on these 5 eating habits for a longer life:
1. Focus on fiber
One of the best ways to consume more herbs is to focus on getting more fiber. A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis in the journal The Lancet found that adequate fiber intake (between 25 g and 29 g per day) was associated with reduced all-cause risk and reductions in heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer.
2. Hazelnut paste
Nut consumption was emphasized in all four eating patterns in the study. Nuts are high in healthy fats that can help increase satiety and fullness, an important component of weight management. They’ve also been associated with better brain health and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
3. Be colorful
Color is vital in the plant world and comes from compounds called phytonutrients that provide both color and benefit to the plant. Studies show that consuming colorful fruits and vegetables can also lead to a longer lifespan.
4. Choose plant and marine protein sources
Beans, legumes, and fish are emphasized in many of the eating patterns. For example, the AMED model encouraged the consumption of fatty fish such as salmon, which can provide plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. In contrast, beans and legumes provide fiber in addition to protein.
5. Find flexibility
The study showed that healthy eating can be tailored to the individual and that following multiple approaches within common themes can lead to significant health benefits. “For one to stick to a healthy diet for a long time, one has to enjoy it. Therefore, it is important for individuals to adapt these healthy eating patterns to their own food and cultural preferences. Also, one does not need to stick to a single dietary approach all their life. To increase diversity and adherence, you can switch between these various healthy diets or create your own flexible diet. However, the basic principles of healthy eating should remain the same: Eat less processed plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and legumes; Eat less red meat and ultra-processed foods that are high in sugar, sodium, and refined starches,” Hu explains.
If overhauling your diet seems overwhelming, consider this – baby steps will go further than just not moving at all. Hu says many healthy eating patterns are associated not only with a longer life, but also with a reduction in chronic disease risk complications. Hu explains, for example, that “more adherence to a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular complications in people with diabetes.” Also, healthy eating patterns have been associated with better survival in people with breast or colorectal cancer.”
As Hu says, “it’s never too late to adopt a healthy diet.”
This article was originally published on TODAY.com.