No matter what you hear, the key to living a long time is making sure you eat healthily. Period.
If you haven’t heard of it, there is a New York Times bestseller titled Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer By the People Who Have Lived the Longest. Author Dan Buettner describes the habits of small sub-groups of people throughout the world who consistently live longer than everyone else.
And by longer, an unusually high amount of these people live to see 100 and beyond. Buettner studied and surveyed members of these groups to catch the inside scoop as to how they live so long,
What he found out was that unlike most Americans who have some bad habits when it comes to health, these pockets of individuals shared common traits like a sense of community, drinking red wine, more active lifestyles, and of course – healthy eating habits.
So what were these healthy eating habits, you might be wondering? Today, we will cover some of the most common food rules from the oldest living people.
1. Plants, plants, plants
While some advocates for a nose to tail, meat-only diet (yes, this is real) because of the impact plants might have on things like our thyroid; plants are still the better option for living a long life.
As evidenced by many of the oldest living adults, over 90% of their diet consisted of vegetables and fruits. The people who consistently live to see triple digits have diets that mostly consisted of leafy greens and homegrown vegetables indigenous to their area.
Additionally, things like potatoes, beans, grains, and fruit were common in their diet!
Note: Many of these people got these vegetables from gardens they personally had. This was also an ingredient to living longer – activity – and the act of gardening is a good idea if you have space!
2. Make meat special
Suppose 90% of the 100 plus crew’s diet plants don’t leave a lot of room for meat. In fact, go back 75 years in America, and eating meat was a celebratory/special event type of dish.
Put another way, if you want to align your life like the people who see 100, retreating from a high meat diet might be a good idea. According to Buettner, these folk ate two ounces or less of meat just five times per month!
Many Americans eat that much meat in the span of two days! Consider substituting your meat dishes for tofu or fish and opting for “Meatless Mondays” or limiting red meat, which is commonly linked to being a carcinogen.
3. Limit your sugar
There is another popular book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, that talks about how mega food companies increased the use of sugar, fat, and salt in our processed foods.
Why, you might ask?
Because you will crave it, thus buy it more often! This is why limiting sugars (which might be the hardest thing to do on this list) is a must. Not only does consuming too much sugar hurt your wallet and waistline, long term, but the health side-effects also are not good.
Those who live to see 100 eat sugar, but they eat it intentionally, or they consume it when they have it in a naturally occurring state (like fruit). Adding sugar to everything or purchasing foods with sugar in them already is a quick way to hurt your health.
Limit sugar to less than 25 grams per day!
4. Drink water and wine
All of the sugary drinks, soda, beer, liquor, multiple cups of coffee, energy drinks, and more all have one thing in common:
Centenarians rarely consume them.
Instead, those who live longer lives drink water with a few glasses of wine at night.
Coffee in moderation, tea, water, and red wine seems to be the preferred drink for the 100+ crowd. What you will notice about each of these, they’re a drink with no additives or processed chemicals. It also happens to be where the whole “7 glasses of water per day” concept comes from.
5. Get your protein from beans
If you’re like me and saying to yourself, “I can’t live off a salad diet,” I feel you! Eating only plants and consuming meat just a handful of times per month sounds simple for people who garden every day, but what do you do if you work 40-50 hours a week with a commute?
In this case, your solution is beans and lentils!
Beans and lentils will get you your protein, add fiber to your diet, thus making you feel full. This will help you avoid cravings and eat less. Older folk don’t overeat, so be sure to use beans to your advantage!
6. Avoid the bleached white flour bread!
Dr. Atkins made it popular not to eat carbohydrates. From there, what people on the popular Atkins diet would do is a cycle on and off carbs while seeing their weight yo-yo. That is when the attack on carbs began.
However, not all carbs are created equal!
Some carbs, like those from vegetables, potatoes, and whole-grain bread, are OK. It’s the highly addicting processed bread (carbs) you want to avoid.
Bleached white flour is highly processed and results in an insulin spike, followed by a crash. The energy that isn’t used is stored in the form of glucose. Thus our Paleolithic brains store it as fat.
And here is the catch – we crave more of it! This is why if you’re going to eat bread, be sure to listen to what the older people have to say and eat sour-dough or whole grain!
The verdict: Eat clean, live long
Similar to how Walmart talks about saving money to live better, the same can be said when it comes to what you eat, to live longer.
While there are countless fads, diets, and ways to “Eat Healthier,” the truth is that the term healthy has become increasingly vague. For example, advocates for the ketogenic diet truly believe a diet high in fat and protein is the trick to losing weight.
And while there are certainly plenty of results that show ketogenic diets help people lose weight, the premise of this article was not to look good or lose weight… but to outline what some of the world’s oldest people ate to live so long!
Perhaps the best case study for living longer and eating healthy is going directly to the source, the centurions! Keep in mind, the best way to start incorporating these eating habits into your life is gradual.
Start small and resolve to stay true to yourself so one day you can share how you got to 100!