With more and more research uncovering the best foods for health, people are learning how important it is to focus on food quality to prevent weight gain and live longer.
There are many approaches to consider. For instance, findings show that a diet high in fiber, especially from fruits and vegetables, can lower stroke risk. Following a DASH-style diet — which is rich in whole grains and low in red meat — boosts heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. And the Mediterranean-style diet, which uses olive oil as the primary fat and encourages mostly plant-based foods, is another great choice for longevity.
Principles from each of these diets can be combined to raise the overall quality of your diet and help you meet health goals. In fact, a Harvard study found that simply eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and fewer sweetened beverages and less saturated fat can reduce type 2 diabetes risk by about 20 percent.
People also need to know what’s not healthy and should be avoided. Another Harvard study identified key culprits — potato chips, processed and unprocessed red meat, as well as sugar-sweetened beverages. Starches, refined grains, fats and sugars all lead to weight gain, while increasing high-quality foods can actually help you eat fewer calories overall because they’re more satisfying.
One interesting finding is that the healthiest diets are made up of a rather small range of good-for-you foods. And the concept of eating whatever you want if you do so in moderation isn’t the sound approach it was thought to be.
Boosting diet quality starts at the supermarket. Focus on the perimeter where you’ll find produce, low-fat dairy, seafood and poultry, rather than the aisles where packaged and process foods are stocked.
Learn about the benefits of the DASH diet from the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
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