DERBYSHIRE, United Kingdom — A British dietitian is revealing the things we should all do to add years on to our lives — including eating more plant-based foods and oily fish. Helen Bond says a healthy diet is one of the “best weapons” people have to fight disease and reach old age still in good shape.
Increasing your fiber intake, slashing salt intake, monitoring saturated fats, and staying within the recommended limits for alcohol consumption are all key to a long life, Bond says. She adds that people should be eating around 30 different plant-based foods a week to keep their bodies healthy — as well as eating more oily fish and five portions of fruits and vegetables.
“There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about what we should and shouldn’t eat to look after our health,” says Bond, a registered dietitian based in Derbyshire, England, according to a statement from SWNS. “But one thing most people agree on is that eating more plant-based foods is good for our health.”
“Research shows that people who closely follow diets that include a lot of plants, such as the Mediterranean diet, are less likely to develop health problems later on in life, like cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity,” the dietitian continues.
“Plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nut and seeds provide a valuable mix of vitamins, minerals, soluble fiber and beneficial plant compounds.”
“They all work together to keep our bodies healthy – we should ideally be eating 30 plus different plant-based foods a week.”
The world needs to eat more fish
According to the 49-year-old, people need to be consuming a lot more oily fish in general, with the dietitian revealing the public’s current intake falls well short of the recommended weekly portion.
“Whether white or oily, fish is a great source of protein and provides an array of different vitamins such as vitamins A and D, and minerals like calcium, zinc, iron and iodine, which many of us aren’t getting enough of,” Bond explains.
“Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, pilchards or sardines are also packed with long chain polyunsaturated fats called omega-3 fats, which help the heart to work normally and maintain normal blood pressure.”
“Sadly, dietary surveys reveal that oily fish intake is well below the recommended one portion (140g) per week – at around 56g/week for adults aged 19-64 years,” Bond reports.
“Slightly higher in adults aged 65-74 years (91g/week) and 75 years and over (77g/week) but still falling short.”
How much fiber do you need?
Next up on Bond’s list of tips for a long and healthy life is fiber intake, and says people should be consuming more, with health guidelines recommending we consume 30 grams a day to help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and bowel cancer.
“On average we are only managing about 20g a day,” Bond says.
“Upping our intake of fiber is definitely a must, but staying healthy for longer isn’t just about increasing your fiber intake, it’s about varying your fiber intake too as different fibers have different properties.”
“We need to be eating more wholegrain or higher fiber varieties, such as brown rice, oats, whole wheat pasta and whole meal bread,” she explains. “It’s also good to try your hand at some of the less familiar wholegrains available such as quinoa, whole barley, bulgur (cracked) wheat.”
Fruit and vegetable consumption is still the key
Perhaps the most common of Helen’s tips, it’s our “five-a-day” portion of fruits and veggies, which she says should sit “right at the heart of our diet.”
“Studies have shown that people who eat plenty of fruit and veg have a lower risk of developing many diseases, including high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and stroke.”
“To live a long, healthy life, fruit and veg should always sit right at the heart of your diet – at least 400g or five daily portions of fruit or vegetables.”
“But the reality is that just 33% percent of UK adults (19-64 years) meet the ‘five-a-day’ target – with the typical number of portions consumed is 4.3 each day,” Bond says. “So we have some work to do.”
Put down the salt
The dietitian says people also need to be reducing the amount of salt they consume.
“We need to slash the salt. Salt is linked to high blood pressure – a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and in turn premature death.”
“In fact, around 50 percent of heart attacks and strokes in the UK are associated with high blood pressure,” Bond notes. “Simply put, we’re eating too much. Adults should eat no more than 6g a day.”
“But research shows that adults consume 8.4g salt a day –around a third more than the maximum recommended! So if you want to improve your diet and your long-term health, make lower salt choices.”
“Start reading food labels, as most (75%) of our salt intake is already in the foods we buy. And remember, that all salt – rock, sea, pink or Himalayan is the same.”
Keep your drinking in check
When it comes to alcohol, Bond recommends not to exceed the standard 14 units a week and if you do drink that much, to spread it out across the week.
“Don’t save them up for Friday night – spread them out evenly across the week, ideally with a couple of alcohol-free days in between,” Bond says, according to SWNS.
“Why? First off, drinking too much can increase our risk of developing conditions including some cancers and liver disease. Alcohol is high in calories, an excess of which can lead to unwanted weight gain – and being overweight increases the risk of other conditions like heart disease.”
“It can also hinder our good intentions to eat more healthily. In short, too much booze and in particular binge drinking is not good for your heart and overall health too.”
Beware of the saturated fats in sugary treats
A lot of people also have a sweet tooth and whilst it’s okay to enjoy chocolate and cakes from time to time, Helen says it’s important to pay attention to how much hidden saturated fats we’re consuming.
“Saturated fat is the fat to watch out for when it comes to looking after your cholesterol levels –and remember, you’re never too young to start looking after your cholesterol levels, as levels start to rise with each decade of life,” Bond says.
“Swap saturated fat found in butter, lard and coconut oil for small amounts of unsaturated fats such as rapeseed and olive oils and spreads. You can also remove visible fat and skin from meat and opt for lean cuts where possible, use low fat milk and dairy products.”
“It’s also important to pay attention to how much hidden saturated fat you’re consuming in things like chocolate, puddings and pastries too,” she adds.
Helen’s last piece of advice for living a longer life is for us all to get in the kitchen more often and have control over what we’re eating.
“Cooking from scratch as much as possible can help you eat healthily by allowing you to control the amount of fat, salt and sugar you add,” Bond concludes.
“So get in the kitchen more and move away from too many ultra processed foods and takeaways.”
8 Dieting Tips to Living a Longer Life
- Eat a wide variety of different plant foods
- Reel in more oily fish
- Increase your fiber intake
- Get your 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables
- Slash the salt
- Stay within the recommended alcohol limits
- Keep an eye on your saturated fat
- Get cooking with more homemade meals
South West News Service writer Jake Meeus-Jones contributed to this report.