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Live Longer, Feel Better with a “Longevity Diet”

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A so-called “longevity diet” means just what it says. By switching to a longevity diet – one designed to help your body shed pounds, avoid inflammation, and gain energy and strength – you can add years to your life, and – as the old saying goes – life to your years. So, if that’s true, why don’t more American adults lay aside the processed food full of calories, sugar, and saturated fat, and adopt their own version of the longevity diet?

We think the answer is a combination of habit and complacency. We like to eat what we like to eat, and until there’s a reason to change, many of us would rather stick to our old, bad habits, even if we know better.

We just came across this article on the NextAvenue website in which writer John Wasik explains what it was that caused him to adopt a longevity diet: he experienced an unexpected health crisis that turned this issue into a life-or-death choice. Let’s see what Wasik has to say. It might cause you to re-think your eating habits!

A Longevity Diet in Response to a Health Crisis

Wasik begins with his own harrowing experience about a year ago when, three days after he turned 65, a health emergency landed him in the hospital for a handful of days. He writes, “My doctor and wife told me for years to lose weight and alter my diet, but the stubborn, neolithic, 1950s guy inside my head told me I didn’t have a problem and could eat whatever I wanted, which I did.”

But, as Wasik explains, that time in the ICU got his attention. As a result, he adopted a low-carb, low-cholesterol, low-fat, low-sugar diet.

“I lost more than 20 pounds,” he writes. “I feel better and have more energy; my vital signs have improved. Like many who have had a similar experience, I began to deeply explore the connection between longevity and diet now that I was serious about living longer.”

A Longevity Diet Helps Address Hidden Health Issues

Wasik’s diet overhaul led him to review the literature and research about the link between a long life and a healthy diet. He had assumed that, since he didn’t have any obvious signs of illness, his eating habits were fine. “While I wasn’t obese, didn’t have high blood pressure, or didn’t smoke, I definitely had some metabolic issues I needed to address,” he writes.

Along with added exercise, Wasik stopped eating white bread, pasta, and rice, and he severely cut back on meat, focusing on fish and beans for his protein, instead. “I cut out as much cholesterol as possible by avoiding processed meats and whole-milk dairy products,” he adds. “Most of my new diet consisted of vegetables and fruit.”

Longevity Diets: Good for Us, Good for the Planet

While the science is pretty clear on the positive effects of such a diet on the human body, it’s been shown to be a net positive for Mother Earth, too.

Wasik explains, “Recent research shows that low-meat, ‘earth-friendly’ diets are also good for the planet. Meat production is methane and carbon-intensive, creating tons of greenhouse gases. Vegetable and fruit growing is less impactful.”

In fact, researchers found that “people who followed a more environmentally sustainable diet were 25 percent less likely to die during a follow-up period of over 30 years compared to those with a less sustainable diet.” 

As Wasik quips: “Save me, save the planet. Sweet deal!”

But with Wasik’s dietary change comes a logical question: did he adopt the “ideal diet”?

“My doctor liked what he saw, but that’s a hard question,” Wasik writes. “I have a profound desire to stay out of the hospital, although there’s one caveat to keep in mind: There are as many ‘healthy diets’ as there are economic and behavioral theories.”

Longevity Diet versus the “Standard American Diet”

Diets and dietary trends “come and go like pop songs and can make your head spin,” as Wasik puts it. But on the whole, most diet longevity studies agree that they have a common enemy: the “Standard American Diet (SAD)”. This diet consists of the usual suspects, from highly processed meats to refined “white” grains to snack foods and sodas, according to Houston Methodist Hospital.

Wasik writes that SAD “contributes to inflammation that may trigger diabetes, heart disease, strokes and possibly Alzheimer’s Disease.”

One thing often absent from SAD is fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, according to Kimberly Gomer, a licensed dietician and researcher in Palm Beach, Florida. In fact, Gomer recommends that, “Vegetables should be the largest part of your meal.”

She also explains that the inflammation caused by SAD can damage arteries and accelerate damage to cells and DNA, and therefore causes rapid aging. And while, yes, genetics can play a role in these things, dietary choices should not be ruled out as a way to either avert or double-down on inflammatory diseases.

As Gomer says: “Genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.”

Longevity Diet: No Single Plan but Some Common Denominators

It has long been debated exactly what makes an ideal diet—and the “diet industry” has made billions of dollars off of the constant arguments and trends—but while there’s no simple answer, healthy diets all seem to share certain traits.

Wasik turns to the famous “Blue Zones“, places in the world where people live longer than average, and looks for the common threads in what those people eat. We’ve provided a summarized version of his findings below:

  • Mostly Plants. Blue Zone diets are dominated by vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts and whole grains.
  • Quality Protein. Most Blue Zone diets include little to no sugar, red meat, and processed food, and focus instead on eating more fish, unprocessed grains, beans, and low-fat dairy.
  • Eat Less. It should be said that Americans, on average, eat a lot more than we should. Blue Zone diets are often more moderate, and longevity is linked to eating only until you are full.

If you think it’s too late to make a change, think again. According to a recent meta-analysis published by the National Library of Medicine, “Changing from a typical diet to the optimized diet at age 60 years would increase longevity estimates by 8 years for women and 8.8 years for men; 80-year-olds would gain 3.4 years.”

Diet Alone Can’t Extend Your Life Span

Wasik is quick to note that diet alone is not always enough to extend your lifespan, if other lifestyle choices are working against you. He writes, “Other key factors cited in research include adequate sleep, exercise, positive social relationships and managing stress. And the rock-solid no-nos still include smoking, excessive stress, and drug and alcohol intake, reports Medical News Today.”

He also warns that no one diet will address or fix your medical conditions. “Some may need to lose a lot of weight, while others may need to focus on lowering blood sugar and LDL, the ‘bad’ cholesterol. So a longevity diet may not always concentrate on weight loss,” he writes.  

“Metabolic dysfunction” is a more apt indicator of health than weight, though it’s less obvious. According to Dr. Peter Attia, “Not everyone who is obese is unhealthy, and not everyone who is metabolically unhealthy is obese. There’s more to metabolic health than meets the eye.”

In Seeking a Longevity Diet, Avoid Current Fads

Lastly, Wasik turns his attention to so-called “fad diets”, which can do more harm than good in your search for a healthier way of eating.

“Rather than jumping headlong into a fad diet, try fine-tuning using scientific evidence to see if specific dietary changes will add years to your life,” he writes. “Substituting plant-based food such as beans, whole grains, nuts and fruit for processed junk food is a good start.”

 He adds, “The best first step is to consult your doctor to see if your metabolic function works well. If your doctor doesn’t, discuss or explore healthy nutrition, find one that does or seek the services of a licensed dietician.”

And it’s also important to remember that finding a longevity nutrition program will take work, dedication, and “uncomfortable adjustments”, especially when breaking old habits. “I miss sausage, white bread and pizza but I reward myself with the positive feeling of having more energy and mental alertness,” Wasik writes.

Gomer agrees: “If you can’t sustain a plan, it’s worthless.”

In the end, experts agree and Wasik concludes: the perfect diet for you will be the one that makes you feel good, that you can stick to consistently, and that helps you meet your goals. Trends and fads need not apply.

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(originally reported at

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