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Diet for Long yet Healthy Life

No one wants to live merely a longer life BUT a longer, healthier, better, active and independent life, with improved mental and physical wellness is certainly everyone’s dream – and it is achievable.

This is the fourth and final pillar of the foundation to achieve the above AT NO COST. The earlier three were SLEEP, INTERMITTENT FASTING, EXERCISE AND NOW DIET   

While genetics do play a minor role, lifestyle is a much more significant factor, and nutrition is a big piece of the puzzle. Here are important eating habits to adopt to optimise your chances of extending your life and enjoying each year with vigour.

  1. Avoid overeating

The link between calorie intake and longevity currently generates a lot of interest. Animal studies suggest that a 10–50% reduction in normal calorie intake may increase maximum lifespan. Studies of human populations renowned for longevity also observe links between lower calorie intake, an extended lifespan, and a reduced likelihood of disease.

Calorie restriction may help reduce excess body weight and belly fat, both of which are associated with shorter lifespans, but long-term calorie restriction is often unsustainable and can include negative side effects, such as increased hunger, weakness and lower body temperature.

Sensible calorie restriction slows aging or extends your lifespan though it should not be overdone.

However, over-eating is definitely a ‘NO-NO.

In the words of Kenneth Galbraith (Economist and leading proponent of 20th-century American liberalism). ‘More people now die of over-eating than hunger’.

2. Eat more Nuts

Nuts are nutritional powerhouses. They’re rich in protein, fibre, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds. Eat nuts like walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pistachios etc. They are a great source of several vitamins, like folate, niacin, B6 and E and minerals, like copper, magnesium and potassium. Several studies show that nuts have beneficial effects on heart disease, high blood pressure, inflammation, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, belly fat levels, and even some forms of cancer. One study found that people who consumed at least 3 servings of nuts per week had a 39% lower risk of premature death. Similarly, two recent reviews including over 350,000 people noted that those who ate nuts had up to 27% lower risk of dying during the study period — with the greatest reductions seen in those who ate 1 serving of nuts per day.

3. Eat plenty of healthy plant foods

Consuming a wide variety of plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and beans, may decrease disease risk and promote longevity.

Many studies link a plant-rich diet to a lower risk of premature death, as well as a reduced risk of cancer, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, depression, and brain deterioration.

These effects are attributed to plant foods’ nutrients and antioxidants, which include polyphenols, carotenoids, folate, and vitamin C.

Accordingly, several studies link vegetarian and vegan diets, which are naturally higher in plant foods, to a 12–15% lower risk of premature death.

The same studies also report a 29–52% lower risk of dying from cancer or heart, kidney, or hormone-related diseases. Overall, eating plenty of plant foods is likely to benefit health and longevity.

This does not mean that non-vegetarian foods are bad if eaten in moderation (2-3servings  a week) but could be problematic if taken daily.

Polyphenols and Its Benefits

Polyphenols are a category of plant compounds that offer various health benefits. Regularly consuming polyphenols is thought to boost digestion and brain health, as well as protect against heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain cancers. Red wine, dark chocolate, tea, and berries are some of the best-known sources.  Many other foods also contain significant amounts of these compounds.

Polyphenols have been linked to various health benefits, like:

a) Lowers blood sugar levels: Polyphenols may help lower your blood sugar levels, contributing to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. That is partly because polyphenols may prevent the breakdown of starch into simple sugars, lowering the likelihood of blood sugar spikes after meals. These compounds may also help stimulate the secretion of insulin, the hormone that is required to shuttle sugar from your bloodstream into your cells and keep your blood sugar levels stable. Various studies, further link polyphenol-rich diets to lower fasting blood sugar levels, higher glucose tolerance, and increased insulin sensitivity — all important factors in lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes. In one study, people eating the highest amounts of polyphenol-rich foods had up to a 57% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes over 2–4 years, compared with those eating the lowest amounts. Among polyphenols, research suggests that anthocyanins may offer the most potent anti-diabetic effect. They’re typically found in red, purple, and blue foods, such as berries, currants, and grapes. 

b) Lowers your risk of heart disease: Adding polyphenols to your diet may improve cardiac health. This is largely due to the antioxidant properties of polyphenols, which help reduce chronic inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease. Two recent reviews link polyphenol supplements to lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, as well as higher HDL (good) cholesterol. Another review found a 45% lower risk of death from heart disease in those with higher enterolactone levels, which are a marker of lower lignan intake. Lignans are a type of polyphenol typically found in flax seeds and whole grains.

c) Prevent blood clots: Polyphenols may reduce your risk of developing a blood clot. Blood clots are formed when platelets circulating in your bloodstream begin to clump together. This process is known as platelet aggregation and is useful in preventing excess bleeding. However, excess platelet aggregation can cause blood clots, which can have negative health effects, including deep vein thrombosis, stroke, and pulmonary embolism. According to in vitro and animal studies, polyphenols may retard the platelet aggregation process, thereby preventing the formation of dangerous blood clots.

d) Protection against cancer: Research consistently links diets rich in plant foods to a lower risk of cancer, and many experts believe that polyphenols are partly responsible for this. Polyphenols have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, both of which can be beneficial for cancer prevention. A recent review of in vitro studies suggests that polyphenols may block the growth and development of various cancer cells. In humans, some studies link high blood markers of polyphenol intake to a lower risk of breast and prostate cancers, while others find no effects. Therefore, more studies are needed before a strong correlation can be made.

e) Promotes healthy digestion: Polyphenols may benefit digestion by promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria while fending off harmful ones. For instance, evidence suggests that polyphenol-rich tea extracts can promote the growth of beneficial bifidobacteria. Similarly, green tea polyphenols may help fight off harmful bacteria, including C. difficile, E. Coli, and Salmonella, as well as improve symptoms of peptic ulcer disease (PUD) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Furthermore, emerging evidence indicates that polyphenols may help probiotics thrive and survive. These are beneficial bacteria that occur in certain fermented foods and can also be taken as a supplement. However, more research is needed.

f) Promotes brain function: Polyphenol-rich foods may boost your focus and memory. One study reports that drinking grape juice, which is naturally rich in polyphenols, helped significantly boost memory in older adults with mild mental impairment in as little as 12 weeks. Others suggest that cocoa flavanols may improve blood flow to the brain and have linked these polyphenols to improved working memory and attention.  Similarly, the polyphenol-rich plant extract Ginkgo biloba appears to boost memory, learning, and concentration. It has also been linked to improved brain activity and short-term memory in those with dementia.

4. Drink green tea

Numerous studies have linked it to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and obesity. It can also help you live longer. In one study of older Japanese adults, those who drank the most green tea seven or more cups a day were 76% less likely to die during the six-year study period. Another found that among over 40,000 Japanese adults followed for up to 11 years, women who drank at least five cups of green tea a day had a 23% lower risk of death from any cause.

5. Eat more meat-free meals

For longevity, you should build plant-based meals into your eating routine more than one day a week.

Researchers have discovered five areas in the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives. These regions are found in very diverse areas, from Okinawa, Japan to Ikaria, Greece. One commonality they share is the consumption of primarily plant-based diets. A review showed that RESTRICTION of meat consumption to just once a week  

  1. Is associated with a significant decrease in risk of death in 4 studies, a non-significant decrease in risk of death in the fifth study, and virtually no association in the sixth study;
  2.  Two of the studies in which a low meat intake significantly decreased mortality risk also indicated that a longer duration (>/=2 decades) of adherence to this diet contributed to a significant decrease in mortality risk and a significant 3.6-y (95% CI: 1.4, 5.8 y) increase in life expectancy;
  3. The protective effect of a very low meat intake seems to attenuate after the ninth decade.
  4. A recent 2020 JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) – excerpts

Conclusions and Relevance These findings suggest that, among US adults, higher intake of processed meat, unprocessed red meat, or poultry, but not fish, was significantly associated with a small increased risk of incident CVD (3-7%), whereas higher intake of processed meat or unprocessed red meat, but not poultry or fish, was significantly associated with a small increased risk of all-cause mortality. These findings have important public health implications and should warrant further investigations.

However, some meats and milk products in our food are advisable – so, the bottom-line is eat sensibly and widely.

A SUMMARY OF ALL 4 SECTIONS SLEEP, EXERCISE, IF AND DIET

Sleep

  1. Regular timing of sleep and waking – improves both quantity and quality of sleep.
  2. Avoid naps
  3. No alcohol or caffeine after 3 pm.
  4. Avoid heavy meals 2 hours before bedtime
  5. Refrain from using electronic devices just before bedtime
  6. Exercise regularly but not just before bedtime
  7. An hour before bedtime do relaxing activities like reading, listening to soft music, meditating or taking a bath.
  8. Keep the room cool

Exercise

  1. Exercise can be started at any age, even by those who live a sedentary life or in seniors.
  2. Just a daily walk of 30 minutes can positively affect our health.
  3. There is evidence for prescribing exercise in the primary and secondary prevention of pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases; metabolic disorders; muscle, bone and joint diseases; cancer; and depression.
  4. However just like any medicine, the dosage (volume and intensity of the exercise), frequency of administration (sessions per week), type (aerobic vs. resistance exercise), systemic and psychoactive effects and contraindications and side effects of the exercise must be taken into account to achieve the best clinical outcome.

Intermittent Fasting

  1. Intermittent fasting and restricting the availability of food to the normal night time feeding cycle improve metabolic profiles and reduce the risks of obesity and obesity-related conditions, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cancer.
  2. It appears that almost any intermittent fasting regimen can result in some weight loss. Among the 16 intervention trials included in this review, 11 reported statistically significant weight loss.
  3. Alternate-day fasting appeared to result in weight loss, as well as reductions in glucose and insulin concentrations, in the three studies evaluating this regimen.
  4. Evidence suggests that intermittent fasting regimens are not harmful physically or mentally (i.e., in terms of mood) in healthy, normal weight, overweight, or obese adults.

Healthy Eating

  1. Avoid overeating: Sensible calorie restriction slows aging or extends your lifespan.
  2. Eat more nuts: nuts have beneficial effects on heart disease, high blood pressure, inflammation, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, belly fat levels, and even some forms of cancer
  3. Eat Plant based foods: Plant-rich diet to a lower risk of premature death, as well as a reduced risk of cancer, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, depression, and brain deterioration.
  4. Polyphenols is thought to boost digestion and brain health, as well as protect against heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even certain cancers. Consume dark chocolate, berries and red wine (moderation) to reap the benefits.
  5. Drink green tea: It lowers risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and obesity. Drink atleast 4-5 cups of green tea daily
  6. Eat meat-free meals: As mentioned earlier plant based meals boosts longevity. Meat consumption should be restricted to 2-3 times a week.

FOLLOW 4 SIMPLE BUT GOLDEN RULES TO LIVE A LONGER, HEATHIER LIFE

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