How to live longer: Best diet to improve your life expectancy – what foods to eat

Longevity is the ultimate goal and following a healthy diet provides a practical blueprint to achieving it. The primary health benefits of following certain diets is that they have been shown to provide a buffer against chronic diseases. Obesity and heart disease, for example, are major killers both in the UK and worldwide and certain dietary regimes have been shown to reduce your risk of developing these deadly complications.


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Increasing evidence suggests the key to longevity may lie in swapping out Western diets for Eastern equivalents – namely the Japanese diet.

The Japanese diet generally consists of steamed rice, noodles, fish, tofu, natto, seaweed, and fresh, cooked, or pickled fruits and vegetables but low in added sugars and fats.

It may also contain a modest amount of eggs, dairy, or meat – a stark contrast to unhealthy western eating habits.

Carrying excess weight poses one of the greatest threats to life expectancy, acting as a precursor to chronic complications such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer.

The Japanese diet, however, has been shown to aid weight loss.

The traditional Japanese diet is rich in vegetables, has small portion sizes, and is naturally low in added sugar and fat compared to other diets, a comparative analysis revealed – these factors all contribute to a low calorie count.

Furthermore, research shows that the fibre-rich vegetables, soy foods, and soups typical of the traditional Japanese diet may help reduce appetite and boost fullness, thus aiding weight loss.

The components found in a Japanese diet have also been shown to directly reduce the risk of developing a number of potentially life-threatening diseases.

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It’s naturally rich in fish, seaweed, green tea, soy, fruits, and vegetables but low in added sugar, fat, and animal protein — all factors believed to protect against heart disease.

Supporting the findings, Japanese people’s risk of heart disease remains relatively low despite their high salt intake, which typically raises heart disease rise.

Additionally, a six-week study in 33 men following the traditional Japanese diet, 91 percent experienced significant reductions in risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including excess weight and high LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

LDL cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood and having too much of it in your blood can hike the risk of heart complications so it is important to keep it under control.


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Furthermore, research indicates that high green tea intake – a feature of the Japanese diet – may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and certain types of cancer.

Studies have taken into account all these factors and compared diets to reveal which one comes out on top in terms of longevity.

In a 15-year study in over 75,000 Japanese people, those who closely followed the traditional Japanese diet experienced up to a 15 percent lower risk of premature death compared with those eating a Westernised diet.

Experts attribute the increased lifespan to the traditional Japanese diet’s emphasis on whole, minimally processed foods, as well as its low added fat and sugar content.

Diet only forms one part of the solution to longevity, however, with health bodies emphasising the importance of engaging in regular exercise too.

According to the NHS, it’s medically proven that people who do regular physical activity have up to a 35 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke and up to a 50 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

To stay healthy, the NHS says adults should try to be active every day and aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities.

It added: “For any type of activity to benefit your health, you need to be moving quick enough to raise your heart rate, breathe faster and feel warmer.”

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