Want to live longer? A study says to eat like this

This article originally appeared on Clean Eating

It’s no surprise that what people eat impacts their health, but trying to figure out exactly which diet among hundreds is most optimal for a long, healthy life can be overwhelming. A new study reports that there is no a optimal diet for longevity, but several general dietary habits that can alter life expectancy.

Published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, the to study found that the risk of premature death can be reduced by almost 20% by eating foods from one of four healthy eating patterns: A mediterranean diet, a plant-based diet, the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (more on those below). The four eating habits emphasize whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes.

Professor and Chairman of Harvard’s Nutrition Department, Dr. Frank Hu, said in a statement: “It is critical to examine the associations between DGA-recommended diets and long-term health outcomes, in especially mortality.

Hu says there’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to healthy eating, and food choices can be tailored to individual preferences as long as they follow the basics of one of the four healthy eating styles. This means that even if you get tired of eating one way, you can switch to another diet.

The study tracked the eating habits of 75,000 women and 44,000 men over the age of 36. Every four years, participants completed questionnaires about the foods they ate, and each person was scored on their adherence to one or more of the food patterns.

Participants who stayed consistent with healthy eating habits could reduce their risk of dying from respiratory disease by 35-46%, cardiovascular disease by 6-13% and dying from cancer by 7-18% .

Most people are familiar with the Mediterranean diet and a plant-based diet, but what about the other half of the four recommended healthy eating habits?

Alternative Healthy Eating Index

Developed by Harvard researchers, the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) assigns ratings to foods based on their ability to prevent chronic diseases and diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.

Some AHEI food choices include a variety of vegetables with an emphasis on leafy greens, four servings of fruit a day, whole grains, nuts, legumes and plant-based proteins like tofu, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil. When following this dietary pattern, it is suggested to avoid potatoes, refined grains, fruit juices and saturated fats.

Study participants who followed the AHEI eating pattern reduced the risk of death by 20%.

AHEI Compliant Recipes:

Spaghetti in olive oil and garlic with artichokes and olives

Ginger-Apricot Chicken with Garlic Greens

Salad of green vegetables and millet

Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) is an indicator designed to measure the quality of the diet according to the degree of compliance with its recommendations: focus on variety, nutrient density and portions, limit added sugars, saturated fats and sodium and avoid sugary drinks. The guidelines are less specific about what foods to eat, but more about how to personalize nutrient-dense meals, meet dietary needs, and meet calorie limits.

In this study, participants who followed this dietary pattern had a 19% lower risk of death.

Recipes compliant with the DGA:

It’s the easiest baked chicken you’ll ever make

Roasted Fall Vegetables with Smoked Trout and Creamy Cilantro Vinaigrette

Roasted Root Vegetables with Tahini Basil Drizzle

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