A long and healthy life is something everyone wants. We might not have figured out immortality but there are plenty of simple ways to maintain and perhaps even improve your life expectancy. So, the diet with longest life expectancy is …
- What Is The Diet With The Longest Life Expectancy?
- Pillars Of The Blue Zone Diet
- Diet With Longest Life Expectancy: Parting Thoughts
What Is The Diet With The Longest Life Expectancy?
Over the years, a lot of diets have claimed to offer different health benefits. The Blue Zone diet is one that claims to increase the life expectancy of anyone who is willing to adhere to a specific set of conditions. There is some debate on whether it actually leads to longevity but it certainly has its merits. Let’s take a look at what it’s all about.
Whose Idea Was It Anyway?
This diet was created by a man called Dan Buettner after observing the diet patterns of people in five different parts of the world known for living longer than the rest of us. The diet gets its name from the fact that the eating patterns are divided into Blue Zones.
Buettner’s team did this for eight years and decided that these five pockets are:
- Okinawa, Japan
- Nicoya, Costa Rica
- Sardinia, Italy
- Loma Linda, California
- Icaria, Greece
The diet patterns of these populations were analyzed and one of the major findings was that most of their diet consisted of fish, plant-based food and whole foods. The pillars of the Blue Zones diet are:
- Whole grains like rice, wheat and corn
- Green veggies
- Tubers such as sweet potatoes
- Beans of any kind
- Locally caught fish
This means that processed meats are completely out of the equation. And that might not be such a bad thing because the WHO already classifies them as group 1 carcinogens or cancer inducing. Sausages, hot dogs, beef jerky and corned beef are all examples of processed meats.
You might have noticed that apart from meat the list of pillars also didn’t have dairy. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing, Buettner says that relying more on plant-based foods and whole foods is the best way to go about it.
Pillars Of The Blue Zone Diet
The most important thing about the Blue Zones diet is that while it is about the food you consume, it is about ways of life that promote a social connection. But here’s a look at the specifics if you want to give it a go.
Meat: Less Than 2 Ounces
People living in the Blue Zones ate a maximum of two ounces of meat and they were able to do it 5 times a month. It’s not clear if eating meat has reduced their lifespan but studies have shown that vegans and pescatarians lived longer.
Those who want a substitute can follow the Okinawans' lead with extra-firm tofu which has cancer-fighting elements and lots of protein.
Fish: Locally Caught
You should consume fish at least three times a week. In some Blue Zones, they only ate fish that are common and not a result of overfishing. They never ate fish that came from fish farms as farmed fish is toxic and often full of anti biotics and disease.
The best fish to eat are small fish like anchovies, sardines and cod fish. They also have low mercury content and no chemicals. Getting a good dose of Omega 3 in your diet which will help with all aspects of health, including brain health.
Fish that have high levels of Omega 3 are:
- Sardines – fresh or canned
- Salmon – wild caught only
Dairy: No More Cow’s Milk
Barring some exceptions, you won’t see a lot of cow milk in the Blue Zone diet. This is mostly because of the amount of sugar and fat in milk. Sardinians and Ikarians prefer sheep or goat milk but usually it is consumed in the form of cheese or yogurt. This is also a great option for lactose-intolerant individuals.
Eggs: 2-4 Times A Week
There are different ways of consuming eggs and in Blue Zones they are usually eaten as a side dish. For a while doctors were suggesting eggs could be bad for your cholesterol, but the medical fraternity has changed their mind and now recommend eating eggs.
Egg yokes are high in choline, which can be of benefit for memory and brain executive function. There is no point living to 100 if you don't know who anyone is.
- Nicoyans like to fry it and add it to a corn tortilla
- The Mediterranean diet consists of a fried egg with almonds, olives and bread for breakfast
- Okinawans like it boiled and in soup
No matter the style, you need to get free-range eggs from chickens that are not given antibiotics or hormones. These eggs also have omega-3 fatty acids.
Beans: Half A Cup Daily
Beans are a part of every diet that aims for longevity because they are the perfect superfood. Nicoyans eat black beans, the Mediterranean diet has white beans, garbanzo and lentils and the Okinawans like their soybeans.
Beans typically have an average of 77 percent complex carbs, 21 percent protein, some fat and lots of fiber. They are also cheap and have more nutrients than other foods.
Added Sugar: 28 Grams A Day
People in Blue Zones eat carefully and mindfully. So, they don’t ingest added sugars which are one of the worst kinds of foods. Most of the sugar they consume is natural and their added sugar consumption is only about 1/5th of what North Americans eat. That comes up to about 7 teaspoons every day. Although we would recommend even less than this.
Sugar causes inflammation in the body and inflammation causes aging. We call it “inflamaging”.
Added sugar is a problem in the US because from 1970 to 2000 its supply grew in sauces, yogurt and sodas. Today, on average, people consume about 22 teaspoons every day. It is bad for the immune system and leads to reduced fertility, diabetes, obesity and cuts your lifespan.
So, if you have to eat sweet stuff, keep it to special occasions. Try to avoid any food that has sugar in its top five ingredients. Better still, just avoid processed foods.
Nuts: Two Handfuls Daily
These are good for you but in small doses. One handful of nuts is about two ounces and you must look at:
- Almonds for magnesium and vitamin E
- Peanuts for B vitamins and protein
- Brazil nuts for selenium which helps fight prostate cancer
- Cashews for magnesium
- Walnuts for omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linoleic acid
Almonds, peanuts and walnuts also help reduce cholesterol levels.
Bread: Sourdough Or Whole Wheat Only
Most of the bread found in the US is bleached and has white flour. This will turn into sugar in your body and very quickly and increase levels of insulin. So, buying sourdough or whole grain bread is how people in Blue Zones do it.
These breads are rich in magnesium, selenium and fiber. Some of their breads are also made of lactobacilli bacteria which creates the sour in sourdough and digests glutens and starches.
However, the wheat that is used in places like Europe has not been treated with chemicals and sprayed with toxic substances. So when choosing sour dough or grain breads in the US, you need to make sure the wheat is organic. It can be very hard to find out this information. So avoiding wheat based breads completely may be the only option.
Whole Foods: Fiber-Rich And Nutrient-Dense
There are two ways to interpret this. The first is to eat any food you pick wholly without wastage. That means eating the egg along with the yolk (unless you have a health condition or allergy), keeping the fat in while making yogurt or drinking fruit juice with the pulp. And you don’t add any flavor-enhancing ingredients like sugar.
The idea is to cook an ingredient completely without adding or removing anything to make sure it’s not too processed. Most of their dishes also have a few ingredients that are creatively put together. This pulls the focus back to nutrition of each ingredient without too much manipulation.
Beverages: Water, Tea, Coffee And Wine
No more soft drinks but you probably saw that coming in a conversation about healthy eating. But there are other delicious beverages to drink.
- 7 glasses of water every day to facilitate blood flow and reduce the chance of blood clots.
- Drink coffee daily to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s and dementia. But drink before 2pm to reduce the restrict the caffeine might have on your sleep.
- Drink tea every day like the Okinawans. Green tea reduces the risk of some cancers and heart conditions. Ikarians drink herbs like dandelion, rosemary and wild sage for their anti-inflammatory properties.
- Maybe 1-3 small glasses of red wine if you have the habit.
Diet With Longest Life Expectancy: Parting Thoughts
There are lots of ways to get healthy, but you can’t be pedantic about how you follow the rules. The Blue Zone diet is no exception. You need to tailor it to your health conditions and personal fitness goals. The people in these zones are not trying to live long. They’re just eating right and enjoying themselves.