A study of middle-aged women suggests that those who eat the healthiest diets also eat a lot of fruit and a wide variety of foods. The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) is a measure that US nutritionists have developed to assess the quality of someone's diet. This emphasises your eating pattern rather than intake of specific nutrients. You get marks out of ten for servings of grains, vegetables, fruit, milk or meat, ten more possible points for dietary limitations - total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, then ten more points for dietary variety. The total possible is 100. The mean score, for a group of 340 women of average age 50, was 77.8 - as measured by researchers at the Loma Linda Medical Centre.
Women with high scoring diets ate a lot more fruit than those with low scores. They also had a greater variety of foods in their diet. The researchers found that those with the highest HEI scores were older, better educated, more affluent and more likely to be married. It may be that socioeconomic factors influencing chronic disease do so through quality of diet.