It is time to eat your veggies.

By Gillie Houston
Updated May 24, 2017

While eating well should always be a top priority, scientists have found that dietary decisions during middle age can drastically affect health down the line—and even shave years off your life.

In a new study out of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, Dr. Nilay Shah studied the data of 11,000 Dallas, Texas residents with an average age of 47. The subjects, both male and female and who had never experienced a heart attack or stroke prior to the study period, kept a multi-day food diary at some point during 1987-1999, and were followed up with for 18 years after completion of their log.

While specific diets—including the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet—didn't appear to directly raise or lower risk of death and disease, certain ingredients and dietary choices were linked to better heart health and a lower chance of dying from a number of causes.

Shah, who presented his findings at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions annual meeting, found that the food groups most beneficial for promoting a longer, healthier life were vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts. The data revealed that those who ate over the median amount of these food groups lowered their death risk in comparison to those who ate less than the median amount.

Overall, vegetables were shown to be the most beneficial in lowering a subject's risk of death. Those who ate the most vegetables had lower risks of dying during the study follow-up period than those who ate less. On the other hand, subjects who ate the most foods high in solid facts—such as fried foods and sugary baked goods—had the highest risk of dying from a number of risk factors compared to the rest of the subject pool.

While Shah and his researchers were unable to confirm one diet plan as the preferable pathway to good health, a number of former studies have connected the Mediterranean diet to lower cancer risks, Alzheimer's prevention, stronger bones, and even living past 100.

(h/t Live Science)