Your diet can help predict how long you will live. That’s the conclusion of a new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association assessing diet quality and mortality. The study found that people who ate a more nutrient dense diet were less likely to die prematurely.
The dietary habits of 119,315 people (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 this period, they assessed adherence and outcomes related to four different diets, all of which adhered to some degree to the United States Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The four eating habits analyzed were:
The 2015 Healthy Eating Index (HEI), which measures diet quality and adherence and uses the Dietary Guidelines for Americans guidelines in its scoring assessment.
The Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), which was created by researchers at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health as an alternative to the original HEI. Like the HEI, it provides a score 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 revealed that there are several ways to adhere to a healthy diet
People with the highest adherence to at least one of the healthier eating indices had the lowest risk of death compared to people with the lowest adherence. This result was observed across all four healthy eating indices. Moreover, this result was consistent across multiple racial and ethnic groups. It was also observed 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 the AMED and AHEI were further associated with a lower risk of neurodegenerative disease mortality.
There were several key takeaways from the study. First, he pointed out that there are many ways to adhere to a healthier diet. Since there is no “one size fits all” diet, he demonstrated that different diets could be adapted to any ethnic or personal preference. Second, there were many similarities between the four eating habits. For example, all eating habits were nutrient dense, providing vitamins and minerals in abundance. They were also more oriented towards more plant-based approaches. Dr. Frank Hu, director 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: “Although these diets differ in some respects, they all include large amounts of healthy plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, and low amounts refined grains, added sugars, sodium, and red and processed meats.”
For a longer life, focus on these 5 eating habits:
1. Focus on fiber
One of the best ways to eat more plants is to focus on getting more fiber. A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis in the Lancet journal found that adequate fiber intake (between 25g and 29g per day) was also associated with reduced risk from all causes and less disease heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.
2. Nosh on nuts
Nut consumption was emphasized in all four eating habits of the study. Nuts are high in healthy fats, which can help increase satiety and fullness, a key part of weight management. They have also been linked to 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 tint and benefits to the plant. Studies show that eating colorful fruits and vegetables can also prolong life.
4. Prioritize vegetable and marine proteins
Beans, legumes and fish were highlighted in several of the eating habits. The AMED model, for example, encouraged the consumption of fatty fish, such as salmon, which can provide abundant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. In contrast, beans and legumes provide fiber in addition to protein.
5. Find flexibility
The study demonstrated that healthy eating can be tailored to the individual – and that following multiple approaches within common themes could lead to significant health benefits. “For someone to stick to healthy eating long-term, it has to be enjoyed. It is therefore important that individuals adapt these healthy eating habits to their own dietary and cultural preferences. you don’t have to stick to one dietary approach for life. To improve variety and adherence, one can switch between these different healthy diets or create their own flexitarian diet. However, the fundamentals of a healthy diet healthy should stay 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 starch,” says Hu.
If overhauling your diet seems overwhelming, consider this: small steps will go further than no movement at all. Hu says many healthy diets have been associated not only with longer life, but also with reduced risk of chronic disease complications. Hu explains that, for example, “greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular complications in people with diabetes.” Additionally, healthy eating habits have been linked to better survival in people with breast or colorectal cancer. »
As Hu says, “it’s never too late to adopt a healthy diet.”
This article originally appeared on TODAY.com