10 Foods That Can Increase or Decrease Life Expectancy

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produce-departmentWe all know that a healthy diet can have a big impact on your overall well being, but a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reveals which foods we need to eat more of and which foods we need to eat less of to decrease mortality from heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

According to this study, poor diet is the cause of at least half of deaths from heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. In 2012, about 700,000 Americans died from these diseases and diet was linked to nearly 319,000 of these deaths. This study suggests that changing Americans’ dietary habits could have a significant impact on the risk of death from these diseases.

Here are 10 foods that can increase or decrease life expectancy.

Eat Less of These Foods

1. Sodium. The top of the list for risk factors was sodium. Consuming too much salt was associated with 9.5% of the deaths. Eating out a lot, consuming prepackaged foods and eating processed meats and foods all increase your sodium intake. Read labels carefully. Optimal intake should be no more than 1500mg per day.

2. Processed meats. Hate to break it to you bacon lovers, but you need to cut down. Eating processed meats like bacon, hot dogs and cold cuts was linked to 8% of the deaths. These foods are also very high in sodium.

3. Unprocessed red meat. Eating too much steak can affect your risk of death just as much as eating processed meats.

4. Sugary drinks. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends less than 5% of your daily caloric intake come from sugar, but Americans on average consume almost 10 times that amount, mostly coming from beverages like sodas, energy drinks and sugar. According to this study, sugary drinks were a factor in 7.4% of the deaths. Do yourself a favor and stick to water.

It isn’t just eating too much of the above foods that is leading to higher deaths, it is also a lack of certain foods. In fact, not eating enough nuts and seeds and omega-3 rich seafood is just as big a risk factor as eating too much bacon.

Eat More of These Foods

5. Nuts & seeds. Low consumption of nuts and seeds was linked to about 9% of deaths. Choose raw nuts and seeds over roasted and salted for a healthier option. Sprinkle nuts or seeds on cereal or yogurt or just pop a handful in your mouth for a high protein, good fat, heart healthy snack.

6. Omega-3 seafood. Eating sardines and salmon twice a week can have a positive effect on your heart health. Not eating enough of this type of seafood was linked to an 8% risk in death.

7 / 8. Fruits and vegetables. Low consumption of produce was linked to 7.5% risk of death due to cardiometabolic disease. Aim for 6 to 8 servings per day and vary the color to add more health benefits to your diet.

9. Polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fat is a healthy fat found in plant and animal foods, such as salmon, vegetable oils, and some nuts and seeds. Research shows that  eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. These fatty acids may also help decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.

10. Whole grains. Whole grains include whole oats, brown and wild rice, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, rye, bulgar, corn and popcorn. Past research  has shown that people who eat more whole grains may have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. This study shows that people who do not eat enough whole grains are actually at risk of death due to heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes. Whole grains include all three parts of the kernel and are higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals when compared to refined grains and enriched grains.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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February 2023