A 27-year global study analyzing the world's diet found that it isn't just the red meat and high sugar and salt intake that's killing us, it's also what we aren't eating. The study shows that in addition to reducing your intake of unhealthy foods, improving your health requires adding certain healthy foods to your diet.
Let’s take a look at the results of the study and dig into what it says you should be eating to improve your health and extend your life.
The Most Important Risk Factor for Diet-Related Death
According to the study, which was published in April 2019 in the journal The Lancet, the high intake of unhealthy foods (besides salt) is a less important risk factor for death than a low intake of healthy foods. Twenty percent of deaths in the world in 2017 was the result of a deficit of whole grains, fruits, nuts, and seeds, along with high sodium intake.
The study found that 10 million diet-related deaths in 2017 were the result of cardiovascular disease, with another 913,000 resulting from cancer and 339,000 from diabetes. Sixty-six percent of disabilities that year was also due to these three chronic diseases.
According to the study's results, the greatest risk factor for diet-related death in the U.S. is a lack of adequate whole-grain consumption. Rather than eating whole grains, people in the U.S. tend to eat processed grains, which are very high in calories but very low in nutritional value.
Whole grains are defined as the entire seed of a grain: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. Unfortunately, some products that are labeled as whole-grain foods, actually aren't. To be sure, look for the Whole Grains Council seal of approval, which ensures a product contains 100 percent whole grains.
The study identified a low intake of nuts and seeds as the second most important risk factor for diet-related deaths in the United States. Low nut consumption, which is defined as eating fewer than five 1.5-ounce servings of nuts each week, contributes to about eight percent of deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
A 2015 Harvard study found that people who ate nuts every day lived longer and healthier lives than those who didn't eat nuts each day. Nuts are packed with healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, and other rich nutrients. Nuts help improve cholesterol levels, prevent some heart problems, reduce blood clots, and relax your blood vessels.
The third most important risk factor for diet-related deaths in the U.S. is high sodium, and the fourth is a lack of fruit. Next, are a deficiency of vegetables and low omega-3 intake. Other factors include low fiber, low legumes, and low calcium.
How to Improve Your Diet For Optimal Great Health
Strive to eat a mostly plant-based diet that consists of whole foods, including fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and low-fat dairy. For the most part, avoid highly processed foods, including bread, pasta, pastries, frozen meals, and sweetened beverages. A mostly plant-based diet helps you maintain a healthy weight, which is essential for good overall health.
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It's true that you are what you eat. If you eat unhealthy food, you will be unhealthy. If you fill your plate with fresh, whole foods, a whole new world of health and vitality will open up for you, likely extending your life and improving your quality of life for the long-haul.
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