Women who adopt certain eating patterns are far more likely to reach age 70 with their good health intact, according to a recent study, conducted by scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard.
Researchers analyzed the dietary habits and health of over 10,000 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study, a long-term epidemiological study on women’s health. Those who adhered to a Mediterranean-style diet were 40 percent more likely to turn 70 with fewer incidences of physical disability, cognitive decline and chronic disease (i.e. Parkinson’s, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer).
“Better diet quality at midlife seems to be strongly linked to greater health and well-being in persons surviving to older ages,” study authors note.
The connection between dietary habits and overall health is well-established. The Mediterranean diet in particular has been linked with a host of potential positives—from guarding against certain cancers to possibly providing protection against Alzheimer’s disease.
But research into whether the diet promotes healthy aging hasn’t been investigated on this large of a scale before.
The women in the study didn’t stick to a strict interpretation of the Mediterranean diet; rather, they regularly practiced certain nutritional principles:
Gorge on greens: Organic fruits and vegetables are staples of any healthy eating plan. Broccoli, spinach and kale are nutritional powerhouses, offering an array of disease-fighting vitamins and nutrients. Bananas, apples and berries are touted as some of the top players in the fruit category. Avocado is versatile and offers a good dose of heart-healthy fat.
Seek whole grains: The distinguishing characteristic of whole grains is that they are unrefined—they still have their germ and bran intact. This means whole grains maintain their maximum amount of fiber, vitamins and iron. Examples of healthy whole grains include: bulgur, quinoa, rolled oats, millet, barley, brown rice, whole grain pasta and bread.
Go fish and nuts: Protein in the Mediterranean diet generally comes from nuts, fish and beans. Almonds, cashews and pistachio nuts have some of the best health benefits. Salmon and tilapia are good choices for fish. Kidney beans and pinto beans pack some of the highest antioxidant amounts, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Alcohol as an indulgence: The benefits and detriments of alcohol have long been debated. Red wine, in particular, appears to provide some health advantages, if consumed in moderate amounts.
Even though everyone loves a “superfood,” the bottom line of most studies regarding diet and health is that good nutrition is mostly about balance. Like the rest of life, it’s important to seek out more of the good stuff, less of the bad.
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: By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor