Simple changes to a daily diet could make a big difference in overall health. A new study published in the journal Nature Food suggests that certain foods can create net beneficial or detrimental health burdens, which could ultimately lead to time taken off of life.
The study evaluated more than 5,800 foods, ranking them by their nutritional disease burden to humans. Their impact on the environment was also calculated.
Researchers found that substituting 10% of daily caloric intake from beef and processed meats for a mix of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and seafood could allow people to gain 48 healthy minutes per day. It can also reduce a dietary carbon footprint by one-third.
This data is based on a new epidemiology-based nutritional index, the Health Nutritional Index. The index can calculate disease and mortality, and morbidity that are associated with a single food choice of an individual.
The environmental impact of food was based on the IMPACT World+, a method to assess the life cycle impact of foods. Researchers developed scores for 18 environmental indicators considering detailed food recipes as well as anticipated food waste.
All foods were classified into three different zones depending on their combined nutritional and environmental performances.
Based on the findings of this study, researchers suggest decreasing foods with negative health and environmental impacts. These foods include high processed meat, beef, shrimp, port, lamb, and greenhouse-grown vegetables. Nutritionally beneficial foods that should be included more in a daily diet include field-grown fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and low-environmental impact seafood.
Previous studies have based their findings around a plant vs. animal-based diet discussion. Lead researcher Katerina Stylianou said. “Although we find that plant-based foods generally perform better, there are considerable variations within both plant-based and animal-based foods.
Researchers offered an example based on their findings: “Eating a hot dog could cost you 36 minutes of healthy life, while choosing to eat a serving of nuts instead could help you gain 26 minutes of extra healthy life.”
“The urgency of dietary changes to improve human health and the environment is clear,” said Olivier Jolliet, senior author of the paper. “Our findings demonstrate that small targeted substitutions offer a feasible and powerful strategy to achieve significant health and environmental benefits without requiring dramatic dietary shifts.”
By taking small steps to change your daily diet, you could literally add healthy minutes to each day of your life.
Start by cutting out fast food, processed foods, and sugars. Add in nutritionally rich foods, and you will not only be offering your body a healthy alternative, but you may also start to feel better and have more energy throughout the day.