Pinpointing the exact diet for a longer and healthier life is overwhelming! Conducted by Harvard University researchers, a long-duration study shows that instead of one specific diet to achieve longevity, there can be several healthy diets and eating patterns to gain a positive shift in our life expectancy.
The painstakingly extensive research followed the diets and eating habits of 44,000 men and 75,000 women over 36 years. The participants filled out questionnaires every four years regarding their food habits. Then, each participant was scored based on their adherence to one or more eating patterns. The consistent participants with healthy eating patterns reduced the risk of issues with cardiovascular diseases by 6-13%, respiratory diseases by 35-46%, and chronic illnesses by 7-18%. Here are the two main eating patterns the participants adhered to during the study:
Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI)
The Alternative Healthy Eating Index, or AHEI, rates foods based on their capability of preventing chronic illnesses and diseases like strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, etc. AHEI food choices mainly include a variety of seasonal vegetables, especially leafy greens, and also legumes, nuts, whole grains, four servings of fresh fruits per day, vegetable proteins such as tofu, healthy fats such as olive oil, and fish, while avoiding saturated fats, fruit juices, refined grains, and potatoes. As per the study, participants following this diet achieved a decreased risk of health issues by a rate of 20%.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA)
The DGA or Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a metric designed to measure the quality of diets by how closely the person follows its recommendations. These diets focus on portions, variety, and nutrient density. Avoid sugary beverages, and limit saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium intake. Less specific on the foods to eat, the DGA guidelines mainly outline ways to customize daily nutrient-rich meals, staying within calorie limits while at the same time meeting dietary needs. Within the study, participants who followed the DGA eating pattern achieved a 19% lower risk of health issues.