Today in Science: Being Lazy-Healthy Is Good Enough to Live Longer

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It's no secret that I prefer to take a more laissez-faire approach to dieting. When it comes to my chosen lifestyle, I abide more so by the anti-diet than anything else—full fats, no artificial sweeteners, eating foods that taste really, really good, and being kind to myself. Farah Fahad, dietitian and founder of The Farah Effect, helped me learn to forget about fad-dieting and short-term tricks in order to create a plan that's genuinely helpful and good for my body. Afterward, I decided I'm no longer willing to serve up my well-being in exchange for this year's fad eating plan. Instead, I look at the best way to feed myself for my overall health.

Luckily, research backs up this way of thinking. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds you don't actually have to drastically change your diet in order to live a healthier, longer life. Instead, after studying 74,000 adults over a 12-year period, results showed "participants who modestly improved their diet over time lived longer than those who didn't," reports Fortune.

"Overall, our findings underscore the benefits of healthy eating patterns including the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. Our study indicates that even modest improvements in diet quality could meaningfully influence mortality risk and conversely, worsening diet quality may increase the risk," said Mercedes Sotos-Prieto, a researcher on the study and postdoctoral fellow in the Harvard Chan School Department of Nutrition.

So are you meant to eat healthy foods to keep your body in tip-top shape? Yes. But it doesn't have to take over your life, and it certainly doesn't have to taste bad. Opt for delicious, nutrition-packed foods like heart-healthy fish, fresh produce, olive oil, and red wine (in moderation, of course).

The short of it:

  • The food groups that helped improve diet quality the most were whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fish or n-3 fatty acids.
  • Thus, the Mediterranean and DASH diets positively influence mortality risk.

Next up: Join Byrdie editors for a (very) honest discussion about dieting.

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