Long life expectancy can be achieved through eating and drinking the right foods and drinks. Experts consider a healthy, balanced diet to include at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day, basing meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes and rice, having some dairy or dairy alternatives, eating some protein, choosing unsaturated oils and spreads and eating them in small amounts, and drinking plenty of fluids.
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While these are good general rules to follow, one particular diet and way of eating proven to hold life-boosting benefits is a plant based diet.
Eating a wide variety of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and beans, has been shown to decrease disease risk and promote longevity.
A number of studies have linked a plant based diet to a lower risk of premature death, as well as a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.
These effects are said to come from plant foods’ nutrients and antioxidants, which include polyphenols and vitamin C.
Some studies have linked vegetarian and vegan diets, which are naturally higher in plant foods, to a 12 to 15 percent lower risk of premature death.
The same studies also report a 29 to 52 percent lower risk of dying from cancer or heart, kidney or hormone-related diseases.
These claims are stood up even further with other research suggesting the risk of premature death and certain diseases increases with greater meat consumption.
Research has also focused more specifically on the benefits of vegan and vegetarian diets.
Vegan diets have been shown to lower blood sugar levels.
In one study, 43 percent of participants followed a vegan diet and were able to reduce their dosage of blood sugar-lowering medication, compared to only 26 percent int he group that followed an American Diabetes Association recommended diet.
Vegan diets have also been shown to help people lose weight, which is important because being overweight can increase the risk of disease.
In one study, a vegan diet helped participants lose 9.8lbs more than a control diet over an 18-week study period.
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And the participants on the vegan diet lost more weight than those who followed calorie-restricted diets, even when the vegan groups were allowed to eat until they felt full.
Vegetarian diets have been linked to lower risk of developing cancer.
Research has shown vegetarians have a lower risk of many different types of cancer, compared with meat eaters.
The same study found a higher incidence of colon cancer among vegetarians.
Other ways to live longer
Alongside eating a healthy diet there are a number of other lifestyle changes experts recommend to increase life expectancy.
Harvard Health Publishing of Harvard Medical School lists the following:
- Don’t smoke
- Enjoy physical and mental activities every day
- Take a daily multivitamin, and be sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D
- Maintain a healthy weight and body shape
- Challenge your mind. Keep learning and trying new activities
- Build a strong social network
- Follow preventive care and screening guidelines
- Floss, brush, and see a dentist regularly
- Ask your doctor if medication can help you control the potential long-term side effects of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis, or high cholesterol
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