What to Eat to Live Longer in the Hudson Valley

Learn more about three trending diets that lean into warding off disease and promoting longevity.

For decades, the word “diet” mostly referred to one thing: weight loss. But these days nutrition experts are paying a lot more attention to eating plans that ward off disease and help us live as healthy as we can for as long as we can. The two diets that are touted most often are the Mediterranean diet and the MIND diet, but recently a third one has cropped up in the news that also promises life-extending benefits—the Atlantic diet. Here’s a look at what each of these healthy eating plans has to offer.

The Mediterranean Diet

This plant-forward diet, which has been extensively researched since the 1950s, has been shown to increase lifespan and ward off chronic diseases including cancer and heart disease. According to a study published in the May 2022 issue of the British medical journal The Lancet, the Mediterranean diet prevents future heart problems better than a low-fat diet.

For that study, Spanish researchers recruited over 1,000 people ages 20–75 who had coronary artery disease. Half were randomly assigned to follow a low-fat diet, while the others followed a Mediterranean diet. They all met with a dietitian at least once a month. Both diets emphasized vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, as well as fish and poultry. But the Mediterranean diet included more olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish, while the low-fat diet included more grains, potatoes, and legumes and emphasized low-fat cooking techniques.

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After seven years, those following the Mediterranean diet had significantly fewer heart attacks, strokes, and related problems than those following the low-fat diet. This long-running study provides the most extensive evidence to date about the heart benefits of a Mediterranean diet.

Meals should be built around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and legumes, and extra-virgin olive oil and nuts are the main sources of fat. Protein should be primarily seafood and fish. Also important: Cook with a variety of herbs and spices; eat seafood and fish two to three times a week; eat poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation; red meat and sweets should be considered occasional treats; and limit alcohol.

The MIND Diet

This is a cross between the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet and it can greatly improve your brain health. There’s a lot of evidence that what you eat makes a difference in your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. This combo of two well-researched diets has been shown to slow brain aging by seven and a half years and lessen the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. One main difference between the MIND diet and the Mediterranean diet is that on the MIND plan, wine with dinner is fine. While too much alcohol can harm the brain and overall health, studies suggest that light to moderate drinking may lower the risk of dementia and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by two to three years. One possible reason: Alcohol seems to help blood flow, making it less sticky and less prone to clotting.

To follow the MIND diet: Eat seven 1-cup servings of leafy green vegetables and five ½-cup servings of berries weekly; include whole grains and other vegetables daily; snack on nuts most days and eat a ½-cup of beans every other day; have poultry at least twice weekly; eat fish at least once a week; extra-virgin olive oil, with two single-tablespoon daily servings, is your go-to, replacing butter, margarine, or vegetable oil when cooking; have fewer than four servings of red meat and meat products like sausage weekly; consume two single-ounce servings or less of full-fat cheese weekly; drink a daily glass of wine (optional).

The Atlantic Diet

The traditional diet of northwestern Spain and northern Portugal, called the Southern European Traditional Atlantic Diet, or simply Atlantic diet, may lead to better heart health and a lower risk of dying early from cancer, heart disease, or any cause.

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A study conducted in Spain and published last December found that the Atlantic diet lowered the risk of death from any cause over a 14-year period in Spain, Czechia, Poland, and the UK for people without severe chronic diseases. The diet also lowered the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer for the nearly 36,000 study participants who were between the ages of 18–96 years old.

The Atlantic diet includes: fresh fish, particularly cod, with some red meat and pork products; dairy; legumes; fresh vegetables; potatoes typically eaten in vegetable soups; whole-grain bread; and moderate wine consumption. The main difference between this diet and the Mediterranean diet is the Atlantic diet allows for more red meat and dairy.

Related: How to Detect and Prevent Heart Disease in the Hudson Valley

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