Eating For Longevity

A recent article on CNBC talks about how simple changes in our eating habits can also increase our lifespan, citing a Harvard nutrition expert.

As we step into the new year, many of us think about tweaking our diets for better health. Dr. Frank B. Hu from Harvard says we don’t need to overhaul our diet completely, but a few small changes to our food choices can make a big difference in managing chronic diseases, mortality, and longevity.

Longevity, of course, is influenced by many factors. But diet is one of the most important factors that can impact chronic disease risk, mortality and longevity.

-Dr. Frank B. Hu, a nutrition and epidemiology professor at Harvard (source: CNBC)

Here are four simple ways to enhance our eating habits and lead a healthier and longer life:

  • Eat more whole foods: Dr. Hu strongly recommends focusing on whole and minimally processed foods, especially plant foods, which include fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and legumes in every meal. Following diets like the Mediterranean or Okinawan, rich in whole foods, can cut the risk of chronic diseases and promote a longer life.
    • “Those dietary patterns have been shown to reduce the risk of chronic disease like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and also the risk of dementia.
    • “And because those are the major causes of death. That’s why those healthy dietary patterns have been shown to reduce the risk of premature death and lead to longer life expectancy.
  • Reduce consumption of processed and ultra-processed foods. After adding more whole foods, Dr. Hu advises reducing consumption of processed and ultra-processed foods. In the US, almost 60% of calories come from those foods, which can cause health issues. Studies show that people who are heavy alcohol consumers have a 31% higher risk of all-cause mortality. Cutting on these unhealthy foods is key to living a healthier life.
  • Be flexible with your diet. Dr. Hu emphasizes that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, or rigid type of diet that everyone should follow. Try to be flexible and create your own diet by combining healthy ingredients from a Mediterranean diet and an Okinawan diet or create an entirely new diet altogether. This improves the sense of enjoyment and long-term commitment to a nutritious diet.
  • Use meal time for social gatherings. Dr. Hu emphasizes the connection between food and social connections, and suggests using mealtime as a chance to socialize, not only for the body but also the soul. This fosters a sense of community and increases the likelihood of a longer lifespan.

The connection between food and social connections is very natural, because food does bring people together. Eating healthy food together, not only nourishes our bodies, but also nourishes our souls.

– Dr. Frank B. Hu (source: CNBC)

Simply put, small diet changes can lead to a longer and healthier life by choosing whole foods and cutting back on processed foods. We can also make simple yet impactful changes to our diet by being flexible with our diet and making meals a social affair.