Breaking: Science Says Eating Healthy Foods Is Better Than Eating Unhealthy Foods

Are you guys on the edge of your seats yet? I have some shocking news: according to a recent study published in the journal Health Affairs, eating healthy can keep you alive longer. Did you know that healthy food is good for you? Spread the word!

In all seriousness, this study is really interesting, despite its seemingly obvious premise. Researchers found that the cultural shift into healthy eating and #paleo Instagrams between 1999 and 2012 (lest we forget, the early ’90s were apparently a wasteland of Surge soda, Wonder Bread, and zero platforms for healthy eating blogs) prevented 1.1 million premature deaths in the U.S. How amazing is that? The research team examined data on 33,885 American adults over that 13-year period, using a “healthy eating index” to gauge their habits. In that first data set from 1999, the country’s index score was 39.9 (a perfect score is 110). By 2012, the score had jumped up nearly 10 points to 48.2! Researchers found that this improvement translated to 8.6 percent fewer cases of cardiovascular disease, 1.3 fewer cases of cancer, and 12.6 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes.

The index created a points system for participants’ eating habits based on how often or how rarely they ate foods in twelve categories (like fruit, veggies, whole grains, dairy, and empty calories). Each category as a whole was weighted based on how healthful it is, so while it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly what the participants ate each day or whether a specific eating plan was used by any of them, we can venture that the basics we were taught in elementary school — eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, avoid extra sugar — are a perfectly fine foundation for anyone trying to emulate those results.

This seems so obvious, but it’s never less amazing to realize that we can help change the course of our health with what we choose to put into our bodies. Yes, genetics and luck can play a big part in health, but how cool is it that we can help make a difference how long we’ll live? Still, with an index score of 48.2 out of 110, we’ve got a long way to go in improving the nation’s eating habits. Researchers suggest that government policies that enable and encourage healthier eating would make a big difference, and I’m inclined to agree. Eat your kale, friends — it just might make all the difference!

[Glamour]

[Health Affairs]

[Image via Shutterstock]