Life expectancy is largely determined by the decisions people make along the way from exercising to what foods they put in their mouth. Keeping the body’s vital organs healthy can ward off the risk of developing diseases that can shorten a person’s life, such as heart disease. Certain foods have been shown to provide a wide-range of health benefits and following one in particular could help save your life.
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Long life has long been attributed to eating a healthy diet. Experts say this should comprise of five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day, plenty of fibre, some dairy or dairy alternatives, some protein, and small amounts of unsaturated oils and spreads.
But a recent study suggested more specifically switching to a high-protein vegetarian diet could help people live longer.
Researchers at Japan’s Center for Public Health Science followed 70,696 Japanese adults for nearly 20 years and discovered those who got most of their protein from plant foods had lower risk of dying of any cause.
Western diets tend to contain more red meat and processed foods, and in the UK, there are high rates of heart disease and diseases linked to obesity.
The study proves that eating more plant protein may help a person live longer. Frank Hu, medical doctor and head of the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts said:
“Earlier studies have shown that eating more animal protein is linked to chronic disease and death.”
According to researchers, people who replaced just three per cent of red meat with plant protein were 34 per cent less likely to die of any cause.
They were 39 per cent less likely to die of cancer and 42 per cent less likely to die of heart disease during the study.
Those who replaced just four per cent of processed meat in their diet with plant protein were 46 per cent less likely to die of any cause.
They were 50 per cent less likely to die of cancer.
How can protein and plant foods help you to live longer
Dr Frank Hu said: “It is worth noting that these plant foods contain not just protein, but also other beneficial nutrients such as healthy fats.
When individuals eat more plant protein foods such as nuts and lentils, there is a major improvement in cardiovascular risk factors.
These include blood pressure and body weight.” Substituting plant protein for red or processed meat was associated with lower mortality, though the researchers found no correlation between the amount of animal protein intake and mortality when considered alone.
This is probably because most animal protein in the Japanese diet comes from fish, not red meat.
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How to ensure you are getting more protein and plant based foods into your diet
Protein provides energy and supports your mood and cognitive function.
It’s a vital nutrient required for building, maintaining, and repairing tissues, cells, and organs throughout the body.
The key to ensuring you eat sufficient high-quality protein is to include different types in your diet, rather than relying on just red or processed meat.
Good sources of high-quality protein include fish, poultry, dairy products, beans and nuts and seeds.
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