Every day, it seems like more and more health-conscious individuals are touting the benefits of adhering to a largely plant-based diet. Earlier this week, filmmaker Kevin Smith shared a post on Instagram showing off the staggering 51 pounds he lost as a result of eating mostly veggies—and the photos are enough to convince meat and dairy-lovers that subsisting on potatoes and broccoli is the way to go.
But if you’ve got your eye on longevity instead of extreme weight-loss and the thought of not eating a cheeseburger ever again makes you want to cry, we’ve got some good news.
A study presented earlier this week at the European Society of Cardiology Congress assessed more than 218,000 people from over 50 countries in five continents and found that people who consumed a diet high in meat and dairy had a 22 percent decreased risk of heart attack and a 25 percent decreased risk of early death.
As always, moderation is key. Dr. Andrew Mente, the professor of nutrition and epidemiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, said that eating red meat and diary is “protective up to the serving sizes that we’ve identified.”
That means up to three portions of dairy (which could translate to six slices of cheese or three cups of full-fat yogurt) and one portion of red meat (about a 4 oz serving) per day. This may not seem like a lot, but it’s way more than the recommended amount of advocates of the Mediterranean diet (in which you can only eat red meat once a week) or the outright ban proposed by those who believe a vegetarian or vegan diet is the way to go.
“Thinking on what constitutes a high quality diet for a global population needs to be reconsidered,” Professor Salim Yusuf, senior author and director of the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) at McMaster University and co-author of the study, said. “For example, our results show that dairy products and meat are beneficial for heart health and longevity. This differs from current dietary advice.”
However, even this study concedes that red meat and diary should only account for a quarter of your daily calorie intake, and that the rest should be taken up by fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and seafood. For what it’s worth, the omega-3s in fish have gotten a lot of attention recently in the scientific community for their health benefits, with studies showing that a seafood-rich diet can help you sleep and can even improve your sex life and chances of getting pregnant.
And while carbs have long been pronounced the enemy, a recent study found that some carbs can boost your longevity. All of which points to the fact that a truly healthy diet contains a variety of foods eaten at the appropriate portion size.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “Foods contain combinations of nutrients and other healthful substances. No single food can supply all nutrients in the amounts you need. For example, oranges provide vitamin C but no vitamin B12. Cheese provides vitamin B12 but no vitamin C. To make sure you eat all of the nutrients and other substances needed for health, choose the recommended number of daily servings from each of five different food groups.”
And for more ways to boost your lifespan, be sure to pick a copy of Becoming Ageless, the new book from Strauss Zelnick, otherwise known as “America’s Fittest CEO.”
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