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The #1 Best Eating Habit to Slow Aging, New Study Suggests

Your diet could be keeping you young, or it could be aging you prematurely.
FACT CHECKED BY Kristen Warfield

Growing older may be inevitable, but some of the lifestyle choices you make could either speed up the process or slow it down. For instance, you probably know that excess drinking will make it harder for you to live to 100, while exercising regularly will keep you healthy and energized as you age.

Now, new research offers evidence that sticking to the Mediterranean diet could combat aging. 

In the study, published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, researchers looked at more than 4,500 adults ages 35 and up, collecting information about their diet from a questionnaire about how often they eat certain foods, comparing this information to signifiers in participants' blood indicating biological aging. The study found that, the more closely their eating habits adhered to the principles of the Mediterranean diet, the less participants showed signs of biological aging.

whole foods salad bar mediterranean lunch
Lauren Manaker/Eat This, Not That!

Related: The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science 

Additionally, researchers found a similar link between adherence to the DASH diet and delayed aging. The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Diet, features a set of guidelines as to how much to eat from various food groups each day.

"This study reinforces what we know about the MIND Diet, which is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, which many previous studies have shown to be an incredibly beneficial combination for cardiovascular and cognitive health," Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, a culinary nutrition and communications dietitian based in Westchester, New York, tells Eat This, Not That! "The key recommendations from these two diets (and the MIND diet) are a focus on fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, lean meat, fish, healthy fats, low-fat dairy, whole grains."

The study authors suspect that the reason that these diets appear to fight aging may come down to the high levels of polyphenols in both the Mediterranean and DASH diets. Polyphenols, antioxidants found in some plants, have been linked with a range of potential health benefits, including offering protection from many diseases including certain cancers, heart diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis and more.

"Highly processed foods can cause inflammation and aging of cells, whereas fresh, plant based foods (which are rich in polyphenols-substances that act as antioxidants) fight inflammation which can play a role in healthy aging.'" Elena Paravantes, RDN, Mediterranean Diet expert and author of The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Beginners, tells Eat This, Not That!

Paravantes notes that nearly all the foods at the core of the Mediterranean diet include polyphenols, and she suggests making extra virgin olive oil the main source of fat in your diet. Additionally, she recommends plant-based meals, fresh fruits, nuts, herbs and vegetables from the allium family (think smelly and flavorful—onions, garlic, leeks, et cetera).

For more on how your diet can affect your aging, be sure to check out these Secret Eating Habits to Reverse Aging, Say Dietitians.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more about Clara