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Posts Tagged ‘longevity’

HEALTHY MEAL 2

Who doesn’t want to extend years of life as long as possible? Researchers confirm that even after middle age, we can lengthen our life span. In a study of nearly 74,000 health professionals 60 years-of-age or older, those who shifted to better eating habits lived longer. What changes did they make? Those who increased the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains plus other healthy foods in their diets lowered their risk of premature death compared to those whose diets remained the same. Likewise, those who let their eating habits slip to less healthy fares in their older years increased their risks for dying.

Researchers used three scoring systems based on the Alternate Healthy Eating Index, the Alternate Mediterranean diet, and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. While those diets differ somewhat, all promote fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, low-fat dairy, olive oil, and nuts. Some foods may include more of certain vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, or other nutrients, but all of these received higher scores and are good options. In all diets, less healthy choices such as sweets, processed foods, and red meats received low scores. The higher the overall score, the lower the risk of premature death.

Even changing a few items, such as fish or legumes in place of red meat, made a slight difference.  Alice Lichtenstein, spokesperson for the American Heart Association stated, “The key is to make changes that you can stick with for the rest of your life.” She added, “There are no magic-bullet foods or nutrients.” The message isn’t new. However, many believe if they haven’t followed healthy eating rules throughout their lifetimes, change is hopeless. Not so. It’s never too late to improve eating habits.

Choosing healthy foods helps prevent an early death and assures that the years we live will be less hampered by the many diseases resulting from poor diets. Quality of life is a precious commodity for everyone, especially as we age. Making slight diet changes can improve physical well-being and make those extra years’ worth living. It’s a win-win choice.

 

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Want to Live Longer?—Eat Your Veggies

Few of us, if any, look forward to dying young. A Swedish study, conducted over a thirteen year period, found that the number of servings of fruits and vegetables affected longevity. Those who ate no fruits or veggies were more likely to die three years earlier than their counterparts who ate five or more fruits and vegetables daily. Eating more than that amount did not seem to influence length of life. Three servings increased the life span by thirty-two months. On average, those who ate at least one serving per day lived nineteen months longer than those who never ate any.

Nutritionists tout fruits and vegetables for their high content of antioxidants—substances that block chemicals that can damage cells. While antioxidant supplements don’t seem to directly influence prevention of heart disease or cancer—both often associated with a lower life span—eating fruits and vegetables may. The nutrients folate, magnesium, potassium, and dietary fiber plus vitamins A,C, and K in fruits and vegetables also play a significant role in cellular health and longer life.

High intakes of white fruits and vegetables may protect against stroke. White fruits include bananas, pears, and apples (regardless of outside skin color). Vegetables include cauliflower and cucumbers but not potatoes, which are a starch. Green, orange/yellow, and red/purple fruits and vegetables do not seem to have the same protective advantage.

However, other fruits and vegetables have their place. The amount of fruits and vegetables eaten correlates with certain disease entities—obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases—and mortality. In an eighteen year study of 71,346 female nurses, three servings per day of whole fruit lowered the risk for type 2 diabetes. Women who ate more green leafy vegetables and fruit (but not fruit juice) were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, while refined grains and white potatoes increased the risk.

The American Heart Association and other health organizations and professionals recommend at least four to five and preferably five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily. The nutrients they contain make a big difference when it comes to optimum health. Mom was right. Eat your veggies.

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