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Take It In: More whole grains for a longer life

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Take It In: by Carol Bareuther

If you want to live longer, and with a lower risk of chronic disease, change your diet in three ways: First, eat more whole grains. Second, eat more fruit. Third, eat less sodium.

An improvement in diet such as this on a global scale could potentially prevent one in five deaths worldwide. This is the conclusion of a landmark study, written in an article titled “Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990-2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017”, published in the April issue of respected medical journal, the Lancet.

What’s more, study author, Dr. Ashkan Afshin, and colleagues discovered that dietary risk factors, unlike other risk factors, affected people regardless of age, sex and sociodemographic development of their place of residence. In other words, this diet advice is good for you.

Here’s how to put the study’s profound yet simple diet findings on your plate.

1. Eat more whole grains. Whole grains are those that contain the entire kernel: outer bran, central germ and endosperm that makes up the bulk of the seed. Foods in this group include breakfast cereals, crackers, bread, rice, pasta, biscuits, muffin, tortillas, and pancakes, to name a few, made from whole wheat, whole grain corn, whole oats, brown rice and other whole grains.

An easy way to eat more whole grains is swapping these for their more processed counterparts. Beyond this, try other types of whole grains. Quinoa is exceedingly popular now and is a good base for cold salads or hot pilafs.

2. Eat more fruit. This includes fresh, frozen, cooked, canned or dried fruits. Fruit is the original fast food. Instead of chips or a candy bar, bananas, apples, oranges, grapes are easy to pick up, wash and eat. Many stores now sell cut fruit in grab-and-go sections.

If fruit is about to get too ripe, freeze it. Frozen fruits are ideal smoothie fixings. Or puree fruit such as berries, freeze in ice cube trays and add to cold beverages such as teas, fruit juice and lemonade.

Beyond this, add fruit to cereal, hot or cold, or use as a topper for yogurt. Try peanut butter spread on an apple for a snack. Add fruit when baking: substitute half the amount of oil in a recipe with mashed bananas. Or, for every 1 cup of vegetable oil, replace with ½ cup of apple sauce or fruit puree.

3. Eat less sodium. Surprisingly, the majority of dietary sodium doesn’t come from the salt shaker. In fact, only about 5 to 6 percent is delivered through this route. Instead, some 70 percent of sodium in the U.S. diet is found in processed and restaurant foods, according to a 2017 study published in the journal, Circulation. Therefore, choose fresh foods first.

Eating more whole grains, more fruit and less sodium is an easy and tasty prescription for a longer, healthier life.

Carol Bareuther is a registered dietitian and freelance health and nutrition writer. Comments are welcome below.

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