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Here Are The Foods You Should Eat (And Avoid) To Live Longer

A new study found that half of all deaths from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are linked to poor diet.

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A new study found that poor dietary habits — basically eating too much of certain foods and not enough of others — is associated with death from heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

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The study, which was published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed data about how Americans eat, causes of death, and links between diet and cardiometabolic disease.

"We estimated that nearly half of all deaths from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes — collectively cardiometabolic diseases — are linked to poor diet," lead study author Dr. Renata Micha, assistant professor at Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, told BuzzFeed Health via email.

"Our results are representative of all Americans and help us identify what’s most important in the American diet," Micha said.

Based on the study findings, we should probably all eat more fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, omega-3 fats from seafood, and heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats.

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These are all foods that, in short, are super beneficial to your health, particularly your heart. Plus, the study found that death from cardiometabolic disease is associated with not getting enough of these in your diet.

Fruits and vegetables are, of course, a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Nuts and seeds provide heart-healthy fats.

Whole grains contain dietary fiber and may help lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and trout, can help decrease triglyceride levels and benefit heart health.

Polyunsaturated fats (found in fatty fish, walnuts, tofu, corn and sunflower oils, etc.), are heart-healthy fats that contain both omega-3s and omega-6s (another essential fatty acid). And when these fats replace some saturated fats in the diet, they can improve cholesterol.

Aaand at the same time, we probably want to cut back on sodium, processed meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages.

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The study found that too much of these is associated with the same health outcome. It's probably not a shock to hear that salt, processed meat, and sugary drinks aren't great for you. But in case you need a refresher about why, here's what BuzzFeed Health has previously reported about each of them:

• High sodium intake increases risk of high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

• Processed meats often contain sodium and saturated fat. And although saturated fats probably aren't as detrimental to heart health as researchers once thought, the ideal strategy for heart health and weight management is to decrease fat intake from red meat and dairy while eating more heart-healthy fats like those found in fatty fish, avocados, nuts/nut butters, and olive oil, etc.

• Research has shown that sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with type 2 diabetes.

But don't panic. This doesn't mean that with every bit of bacon and sip of soda you should cross a year off your life.

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First of all, keep in mind that this study used a complex research model to understand links and associations in order to draw broad conclusions, which makes it useful for understanding patterns in a general population. When it comes to individuals and their health and wellness, remember that lots of different things impact your health and longevity, like how you eat on a regular basis, genetics, and how much you exercise.

Registered dietitian Abby Langer told BuzzFeed Health that when trying to figure out what conclusions to draw from broad nutrition studies, keep in mind that healthy eating is less about obsessing over specific foods and more about your overall approach to your diet.

She also cautioned against drawing sweeping or black-and-white conclusions from studies and approaching any articles (or social media posts) that have a super-simplified takeaway with "a healthy dose of skepticism."

Even though this study isn't exactly groundbreaking, it does offer a great tip for people trying to eat healthier: Adding certain foods to your diet is just as important as removing the less healthy ones.

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Basically, Langer said, think of it as a reminder not just to drink less soda and watch your salt intake, but also to make an effort to get more fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and so on, into your life.

And while the above recommendations may not be ~shocking~, it's a reality check to see an even stronger association between specific health outcomes and the things we pretty much knew were good and bad for our health.

If you want some advice for getting started with some of the study's recommendations, read up on some tips for eating less salt, eating less sugar, eating lots of fat while still being healthy, and eating more fruits and vegetables.

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