There are an endless number of diets. There’s everything from a caveman diet to a juice fast. But, which one works best? Fortunately, a large number of studies have been done on nutrition. So, we’ve read as many of the studies as we could find and have constructed a diet based on just the foods that have been shown to lower mortality risk.
Not surprisingly, plants make up the core of the S + P diet. Plants are inclusive of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains. Here’s the research on each component:
- Fruits and vegetables: A meta analysis found an additional serving a day of fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of all-cause mortality by 5%. This relationship appeared to hold up to 5 servings a day. A review also found convincing evidence that fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease and stroke and probable evidence that they reduce the risk of cancer. Aim for a variety of fruits and vegetables of all colors.
- Nuts and seeds: Studies show that people with the highest intake of nuts (5x or more a week) have a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease. Nuts have also been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, respiratory disease and all-cause mortality. Research has shown that 1 oz. (about a handful) a day is optimal. Aim for variety.
- Legumes: Another study found that legume consumption of more than 4x a week is associated with a 22% reduced risk of coronary heart disease and an 11% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Whole grains: Whole grains are grains that have not been processed (like refined grains) and so they still include the bran, germ and endosperm of the grain. A study looked at whole grain and mortality over a 25 year period. After adjusting for other variables like smoking and other dietary factors, the researchers found that greater whole grain intake was associated with a 16% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and a 9% reduction in all-cause mortality. Three servings a day have been found to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 17%. Whole grains have also been found to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Whole grains include: wild rice, brown rice, wheat, spelt, rye, quinoa, millet and barley.
So, should we be vegans or vegetarians? Some studies have found that there is a better way to go. A study found that vegetarians and vegans had a 9% and 15% reduced risk of all-cause mortality, respectively. However pescetarians were even better off, with a 19% reduced risk of all-cause mortality.
A seperate meta analysis found that consuming fish once a week was associated with a 15% reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Eating fish 2- 4 times a week was associated with a 23% reduced risk, while eating fish 5 times a week or more was associated with a 38% reduced risk of heart disease. Overall, each additional 20 grams of fish a day was associated with a 7% reduction in coronary heart disease mortality. Another study found that fish consumption also reduces the risk of colorectal cancer by 12%. Yet another study found that 3 servings of fish a week reduces your risk of stroke by 6%. When choosing fish, look for high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and low levels of mercury. Some great options include: salmon, rainbow trout, sardines and anchovies.
How does this differ from a pescetarian diet? A pescetarian diet only comments on what type of meat you eat. The S + P is based on which specific foods have been empirically shown to improve your health. Slowly try to increase these foods in your diet until you’re eating mostly, if not only, seafood and plants.
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