According to a new study, there are a variety of good eating habits that may prolong your life, but only if they emphasize whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes.
Harvard University researchers analyzed data from more than 75,000 women and more than 44,000 men who answered a series of dietary questionnaires during a 36-year period beginning in their early fifties. None of the individuals had ever had heart disease or cancer.
A plant-based diet and the Mediterranean diet were two of the four eating patterns that were used to rate participants’ diets by researchers. The Healthy Eating Index, which follows the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the Harvard-developed Alternative Healthy Eating Index, which considers how what we eat links to the risk of developing chronic diseases, were the other two diets.
According to a study published on January 9 in JAMA Internal Medicine, people who most closely followed any one of these healthy eating patterns had an up to 20% lower chance of dying from any cause during the study as well as a significantly lower chance of dying from conditions like cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses. In the study, those who adopted any of these healthy eating habits had lower probabilities of dying before their natural age across all racial and cultural groupings.
Frank Hu, MD, MPH, Ph.D., senior study author, and professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, says, “The good news from our study is that practically everyone can benefit from adopting healthy dietary patterns regardless of race and ethnicity.”
There Is No ‘Healthiest Diet’ in Any Culture
The fact that the study’s accuracy depended on participants’ ability to recollect and report on their eating patterns over time raises the possibility that some participants may have overstated their actual dietary habits.
However, the findings provide new proof that U.S. dietary recommendations that promote a wide range of eating habits, including a variety of foods popular in various countries, can in fact help people enjoy longer, healthier lives.
“One does not need to commit to only one food pattern because there is a range of healthy dietary patterns available,” explains Dr. Hu. According to their cultural customs and health situations, people can pick a healthy eating pattern in practice.
“Since we are all biologically the same, it is not surprising that this finding was consistent across racial and ethnic groups,” says Michal Melamed, MD, a professor of medicine, pediatrics, epidemiology, and population health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. He wasn’t involved in the study.
What effects do dietary treatments focusing on fruit, whole grains, and fish have on the management of obesity?
As long as they avoid heavily processed foods and heavy fats, people can discover good eating habits in any culture, according to Dr. Melamed. Try to eat a lot of fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, and nuts in your diet. Eating fish and other unsaturated fat sources is also beneficial.