It’s safe to say that setting healthy eating habits for a longer life is common knowledge at this point. If you eat a healthier diet, you are bound to add years to your life. But what exactly does a “healthy diet” entail, and are there certain foods that you should keep in mind when choosing your meals? While there are numerous healthy foods to choose from, research shows that snacking on nuts and seeds is linked to a lower risk of death of all causes.

According to a recent study published by the British Medical Journal, nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils are all linked to a longer life—specifically when it comes to maintaining healthy blood vessels as well as decreasing your risk of developing heart disease. This is all thanks to a type of polyunsaturated fat found in these items called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. Nuts, canola oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, soybeans, and flaxseeds have high amounts of ALA.

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The study was a systematic review of 41 different articles evaluating the risk of mortality following the dietary intake of rich ALA sources of food, all published over the past 30 years. 120,000 participants between the ages of 18 and 98 were evaluated, taking other factors into consideration like weight, smoking status, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and energy (i.e. calorie) intake.

The researchers concluded that consumption of high ALA foods reduced the risk of mortality from all causes up to 11%. While “all causes” can mean all sorts of things, the researchers did point out that ALA foods can specifically help with reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Although there were some cases where cancer risk was slightly higher for people consuming high ALA foods, there still isn’t enough research to make any kind of claim on the connection.

At the end of the study, researchers conclude that consuming one gram of ALA in a day is associated with at least a 5% decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

How does this translate to your diet? One of the richest sources of ALA is walnuts, followed by pecans. So adding walnuts into your bowl of oatmeal, into your salad, or even snacking on it in the afternoon with a cup of tea, this nut is certainly one of the healthiest snacks you can have for a longer life to come.

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