Your dietary pattern may help predict how long you will live. That’s the conclusion of a new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, which assessed diet quality and mortality. The study found that individuals who consumed more nutrient-rich diets were less likely to die early.
The Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study assessed the eating habits of 119,315 individuals (75,230 women and 44,085 men) over 36 years. During that time frame, they assessed compliance and outcomes related to four different dietary patterns, all of which follow the United States’ Dietary Guidelines for Americans to some capacity.
Four eating patterns were analyzed:
- The Healthy Eating Index 2015 (HEI), which measures diet quality and adherence and uses the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in its scoring evaluation.
- The Alternative 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 HEI, it provides scoring but focuses more on reducing chronic disease risk.
- The Alternative Mediterranean Diet (AMED), which measures an adaptation of Mediterranean dietary principles.
- Healthy Plant-Based Diet Index (HPDI), which measures adherence to a healthy plant-based diet.
Study finds there are many ways to follow a healthy diet
Individuals with the greatest adherence to at least one healthy eating index had the lowest risk of death compared to individuals with the lowest adherence. This result was observed across all four healthy eating indices. Additionally, this result was consistent across several racial and ethnic groups. This was also seen in a dose-dependent fashion (the higher the score, the lower the risk of early death from cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and cancer). Higher adherence scores for AMED and AHEI were associated with a lower risk of neurodegenerative disease mortality.
Several important findings emerged from the study. First, it emphasized that there are many ways to follow a healthy way of eating. Since there is no “one size fits all” diet, this demonstrates that different dietary patterns can be adapted to any ethnic or personal preference. Second, there were many similarities among the four eating patterns. For example, all of the food habits were nutrient-dense, providing an abundance of vitamins and minerals. They also leaned more toward 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 lead author of the study. He tells TODAY.com, “Although these diets differ in some aspects, they all include high amounts of healthy plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, and low amounts of refined grains.” , sugars, sodium, and red and processed meats.”
Focus on these 5 dietary habits for a long life:
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 grams and 29 grams per day) was also associated with a reduction in the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. Was connected
2. Nosh on Nuts
The study emphasized nut consumption across all four eating patterns. Nuts are high in healthy fats, which may help increase satiety and fullness, a key component of weight management. They have also been linked to better brain health and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
3. Get Colorful
Color is important in the plant world and comes from compounds called phytonutrients that provide both color and benefits to the plant. Studies show that consuming colorful fruits and vegetables can also lead to a longer life.
4. Choose Plant and Marine Sources of Protein
Beans, legumes and fish were highlighted in many eating patterns. For example, the AMED pattern encouraged the consumption of fatty fish such as salmon, which can provide an abundance 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 can have significant health benefits. “For someone to stick to a healthy diet over the long term, one needs to enjoy it. It is therefore important for individuals to adapt these healthy eating patterns to their own dietary and cultural preferences. There is no need to stick to just one dietary approach for life. To increase variety and compliance, switch between these different healthy diets or create your own flexible diet. However, the basic healthy eating principles Should stay the same: Eat more minimally-processed plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and legumes; eat red meat and ultra-processed foods low in sugar, sodium, and refined starches,” explains Hu.
If overhauling your dietary patterns sounds overwhelming, consider this – baby steps will go ahead without much fuss. Hu says that many healthy dietary patterns are associated with not only longer life, but also decreased chronic disease risk complications. Hu points out that, for example, “higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet appears to reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications in people with diabetes.” In addition, healthy eating patterns have been associated with improved survival in people with breast or colorectal cancer.”
As Hu says, “It’s never too late to adopt a healthy diet.”
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from today:
Leggings that promise all-day comfort
gift guide for 18 year olds
Woman gave birth to 16 pound baby