Five Ways to Improve Your Diet, Reduce Healthcare Costs and Improve Longevity

Everyone knows that taking steps to improve your diet is good for your health, but few understand that proper eating can directly increase your lifespan and also the balance of your bank account. Here are some examples:

Dan, a 40-year-old male with high blood pressure, will live one year longer and save an average of $4,320 in annual healthcare costs between age 40 and 65 by simply limiting his salt intake and reducing his drinking to one nightly glass of wine – and also gardening twice a week (a hobby he enjoys). If he puts that money into his 401(k) or HSA, that will be $182,000 at age 65!

Cheryl, A 35-year-old woman with type II diabetes, will live 4.4 years longer and save $4,280 per year in annual healthcare costs by simply following her diabetic diet – in addition to attending doctors’ appointments, taking medications as prescribed (50% of U.S. adults don’t after 6 months), and going for a walk a few times a week.4 Put into her retirement account, that savings would equal $257,000 at age 65!

As you can see, dietary changes can yield significant gains in your life expectancy and savings. To get started, here are a few simple tips:

  1. Reducing Salt Intake

    • Read Labels: When grocery shopping, read the nutrition facts. Look for no salt added. (This means that no salt has been added, not that the product is necessarily salt or sodium free). You can also look for sodium-free, very low sodium, and low-sodium Those foods will contain less than 5mg, less than 35mg, and less than 140mg per serving, respectively.[1]
    • Home Cooking: You can also reduce your salt intake by cooking your own meals and limiting the amount of salt, as well as buying fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats.[2]
    • Avoid Eating Processed and Packaged Foods: These account for most of the sodium in people’s diets. If you are going to eat canned foods containing sodium, such as beans and vegetables, rinse them prior to eating or cook them to reduce salt.[3]
    • Spice It Up: Another tip is to add spices to your food. The figure below shows that a preference for spicy foods improves OFC (Orbitofrontal Cortex) activity and reduces one’s salt intake and blood pressure. 

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  • Reduced Portion Sizes: This automatically reduces your daily salt intake, as less food correlates to less salt.
  1. Limit Carbs

    • Less Sugar: Try to limit carbs with added sugars or refined grains (like white bread). Simply substituting a whole-grain wheat bread is an easy fix!
    • Read Labels: Pay attention to labels when buying food. Manufacturers are aware of new diet trends, so there are a still a lot of options on the shelf when you’re looking to cut added sugars.
    • Choose Healthy Carbs: Buy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and low-fat milk.
  2. Fiber Rich Foods

    • Shop With A List: Make a list for the grocery store and add a few of these fiber-rich options each week:
      • Fruits: such as raspberries, pears, apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries
      • Vegetables: such as peas, broccoli, brussels sprouts, sweet corn, turnip, cauliflower, carrots
      • Grains: such as whole wheat spaghetti, barley, bran flakes, quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat and rye bread
      • Legumes: such as nuts, and seeds such as lentils, split peas, black beans, baked beans, chia seeds, almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds.[5]
    • Read Labels: Read the nutrition facts to see how many grams of fiber are in a serving!
    • Gender Makes a Difference: Men need even more fiber than women. While women should eat between 21-25 grams of fiber daily, men should eat between 30-38 grams of fiber per day.[6]
  3. Heart-Healthy Fish

    • Super Food: Eating fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce one’s risk of dying from heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids have many health benefits including lowering blood pressure, reducing blood clots, and decreasing the risk of stroke and heart failure by reducing inflammation throughout the body.[7]
    • Shop With A List: Make a list for the grocery store and make sure to have at least one heart-healthy fish on the list. Some fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, herring, lake trout, and mackerel.[8]
  1. Focus on ‘Good’ Fats

    • Super Food: Eating good fats is essential for better reproductive health, better brain function, better mood, reduced risk of cancer, better cholesterol level, stronger immune system, healthier skin and eyes, and better body composition.[9] Good fats also help you lose weight more easily and are beneficial for muscle gain![10]
    • Shop With A List: Make a list for the grocery store and make sure to have at least one “good fat” option on the list such as nuts, avocados, olives, and tropical oils like coconut oil.[11]

Use these tips to reduce your salt intake, limit carbs, and choose heart-healthy foods, which will help you enjoy a longer, healthier, and wealthier life. These dietary suggestions are easy to implement – and with the added incentive of living longer and lowering healthcare costs, nothing can stop you now!

 

 

Works Cited

American Heart Association. “Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”, March 23, 2017, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/fish-and-omega-3-fatty-acids.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Chart of High-Fiber Foods.”, November 17, 2018, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Omega-3 in fish: How eating fish helps your heart.”, January 9, 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/omega-3/art-20045614.

Poliquin Group Editorial Staff. “Ten Amazing Benefits of Eating Fat.”, November 13, 2013, http://main.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/1069/Ten_Amazing_Benefits_ of_Eating_Fat.aspx.

Seeber, Barbara H. “7 Ways to Reduce Your Salt Intake and Lower Your Blood Pressure.”, August 25, 2016, https://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/white-seeber-grogan-the-remedy-chicks/ways-to-reduce-salt-intake-every-day/.

Wainford, Richard. “How to Reduce Dietary Salt Intake: Just Add Spice?” Hypertension, vol. 70, American Heart Association, Inc, United States, 2017. doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.117.10025.

 

[1] Seeber, Barbara H. “7 Ways to Reduce Your Salt Intake and Lower Your Blood Pressure.”, August 25, 2016, https://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/white-seeber-grogan-the-remedy-chicks/ways-to-reduce-salt-intake-every-day/.

[2] IBID

[3] IBID

[4] Wainford, Richard. “How to Reduce Dietary Salt Intake: Just Add Spice?” Hypertension, vol. 70, American Heart Association, Inc, United States, 2017. doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.117.10025.

[5] IBID

[6] IBID

[7] Mayo Clinic Staff. “Omega-3 in fish: How eating fish helps your heart.”, January 9, 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/omega-3/art-20045614.

[8] American Heart Association. “Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”, March 23, 2017, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/fish-and-omega-3-fatty-acids.

[9] IBID

[10] IBID

[11] Poliquin Group Editorial Staff. “Ten Amazing Benefits of Eating Fat.”, November 13, 2013, http://main.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/1069/Ten_Amazing_Benefits_of_Eating_Fat.aspx.