Professor Valter Longo, author of The Longevity Diet, reveals 8 simple changes we can make to our diet to live longer and healthier...
Follow a pescatarian diet
Aim for a diet that is close to 100 percent plant and fish-based, limiting fish consumption to two or three portions a week and avoiding fish with high mercury content (tuna, swordfish, mackerel, halibut). If you are past age sixty-five and start to lose muscle mass, strength, and weight, introduce more fish into the diet, along with other animal-based foods commonly consumed by populations with record longevity, like eggs and certain cheeses (preferably feta or pecorino) and yogurt made from goat’s milk.
Don’t eat too much protein
Consume 0.31 to 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. If you weigh 130lb (59kg), this would be about 40- 47 grams of protein per day (equivalent to 1.5 filets of salmon, 1 cup of chickpeas or a 2½ cups of lentils) - of which 30 grams should be consumed in a single meal to maximize muscle synthesis. If you weigh 200-220lb and have 35 percent body fat or higher, 60-70 grams of protein per day is sufficient (equivalent to 2 fillets of salmon, 3 ½ cups of lentils or 1 ½ cups of chickpeas), since fat cells require lower levels of protein than muscles. Protein intake should be increased slightly after age 65 in individuals who are losing weight and muscle. For most people, a 10 to 20 percent increase (5-10 grams more each day) is sufficient. Finally, the diet should be free of animal proteins (red meat, white meat, cheese) with the exception of proteins from fish, but relatively high in vegetable proteins (legumes, nuts, etc.) to minimize the former’s negative effects on diseases and maximize the latter’s nourishing effects.
Minimize bad fats and sugars, and maximize good fats and complex carbs
Part of the confusion and constantly changing recommendations around diet stem from the over- simplification of food components and their categorization into fats, carbs, or proteins. Every day we hear about “low carb versus high carb” or “low fat versus high fat.” It shouldn’t be a question of either/or, but of which type and how much of each. In fact, your diet should be rich in good unsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil, salmon, almonds, and walnuts, but as low as possible in saturated, hydrogenated, and trans fats. Likewise, the diet should be rich in complex carbohydrates, such as those provided by whole bread, legumes, and vegetables, but low in sugars and limited in pasta, rice, bread, fruit, and fruit juices, which are easily converted into sugars by the time they reach the intestine.
Be nourished: the supplements to take
You can think of the human body as an army of cells always at war. The enemy includes oxygen and other molecules that damage DNA and cells; bacteria; and viruses, which are constantly trying to defeat the immune system. Like an army in need of rations, ammunition, and equipment, the body needs proteins, essential fatty acids (omega-3, omega-6), minerals, vitamins, and, yes, sufficient levels of sugar to fight the many battles raging inside and outside cells. When your intake of certain nutrients becomes too low, the body’s repair, replacement, and defence systems slow down or stop, allowing the damage to accumulate or fungi, bacteria, and viruses to proliferate. As extra insurance, take a multivitamin and mineral pill, plus an omega-3 fish oil soft gel every two or three days.
Eat a variety of foods from your ancestry
To take in all the required nutrients, you need to eat a wide variety of foods, and it’s best to choose from foods that were common on your parents’, grandparents’, and great-grandparents’ table. This does not mean you should eat like your grandparents, but that within the guidelines of this book, you should pick foods your grandparents ate. The human body is the result of billions of years of evolution, and even the last one thousand years have helped filter out people not fit for a particular environment, or foods not appropriate for a particular genotype (the collection of all genes in a person). For example, in many northern European countries where milk was commonly consumed, intolerance to lactose (the sugar contained in milk) is relatively rare, whereas lactose intolerance is very common in southern European and Asian countries, where milk was not historically part of the traditional diet of adults. If a person of Japanese ancestry living in the United States suddenly decides to start drinking milk, which was probably rarely served at her grandparents’ table, she will likely start getting sick. Whether it’s lactose or kale, quinoa or turmeric (curcumin), you have to ask whether these were foods common at the table when you, your parents, or your grandparents were growing up. If not, it’s best to avoid them or consume them only occasionally. The potential problems are intolerances (for example, an inability to break down the lactose sugar in milk) or autoimmunities, such as the reaction to gluten-rich foods like bread and pasta observed in people with celiac disease. Although clear links have not been proved yet, it is possible that consumption of the wrong foods based on ancestry could be associated with many autoimmune disorders, including Crohn’s disease, colitis, and type 1 diabetes.
'For people trying to lose weight, the best nutritional advice is to eat breakfast daily'
Eat two meals a day plus a snack
Unless your waist circumference and body weight are in the normal or low range, it is best to eat breakfast and one major meal plus a nourishing low-calorie, low-sugar snack daily. If your weight or muscle mass is too low or if it’s dropping against your will, then eat three meals a day plus a snack. One of the major mistakes of guidelines on nutrition is blurring the line between what theoretically could work and what actually does work. We often hear that we should eat small meals five to six times a day. Aside from a lack of evidence supporting the benefit of such a regimen in terms of a long and healthy lifespan, it is extremely difficult for most people to regulate food intake when they are told to eat so often. Even if the meals contain 305 calories each, instead of the recommended 300 calories, that extra 30 calories a day, or more than 900 calories a month, means nearly 3 pounds of extra fat every year. Not surprisingly, over the past twenty years—the period when the six-meal diet was popular—America reached a record 70 percent portion of overweight and obese people. If you eat only two and a half meals a day, with only one major meal, it becomes much harder to overeat, particularly on a mostly plant- based diet. It would take large portions of fish, beans, and vegetables to get to the calorie level that would cause obesity. The high nourishment of the food, plus the volume of the meal, signals to your stomach and brain that you have had enough food. In the elderly, this one major meal system may have to be broken down into two smaller meals to avoid digestion problems. Older people and adults prone to weight loss should stick to eating three meals a day plus one snack. For people trying to lose weight or those who tend to be heavy, the best nutritional advice is to eat breakfast daily; have lunch or dinner, but not both; and substitute for the missed meal one snack containing fewer than 100 calories and no more than 3 to 5 grams of sugar. (Do not skip breakfast, as this has been associated with increased risk for age-related diseases in multiple studies.) Which meal you skip depends on your lifestyle. The advantage to skipping lunch is more free time and more energy. On the other hand, there is the possible disadvantage of restless sleep from having consumed a large dinner, particularly for those who suffer from acid reflux. The disadvantage to skipping dinner is that it eliminates the most social meal of the day.
Eat within a 12-hour window every day
Another common practice adopted by many centenarian groups is time-restricted eating, or confining all meals and snacks to within eleven to twelve hours or less a day. The efficiency of this method has been demonstrated in both animal and human studies.6 Typically you would eat breakfast after 8 a.m. and finish dinner before 8 p.m. A shorter eating window (of ten hours or less) can be even more effective for weight loss, but it is much harder to maintain and may increase the risk of side effects, such as developing gallstones and possibly increasing the risk of cardio-vascular disease. You should also not eat within three to four hours of going to sleep.
Practice my ‘Fasting-Mimicking Diet’ at least twice a year
People under the age of 65 who are neither frail nor malnourished and are free of major diseases should undergo two periods of five days a year in which 800-1,100 calories are consumed per day. The effects of the five-day cycles of the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) on disease risk factors and the optimisation of healthy longevity are remarkable. The FMD is one of the key principles laid out in The Longevity Diet. It is called fasting mimicking because it has the benefits of fasting without having to go to the extreme of eating nothing. It is, however a low-calorie plan. You will consume 800-1,100 calories mostly from nuts and vegetables on each of the five days. The method makes the body think it’s in a completely fasted state when it is not – providing the health benefits of fasting without the deprivation and hunger. I advise that this five-day fast should be undertaken 3 or 4 times a year (more if overweight). Through numerous clinical trials conducted in my own laboratory, my group discovered that by depriving the body of food in this way, its cells begin to regenerate. The FMD acts by breaking down and regenerating the inside of cells (autophagy) and killing off and replacing damaged cells (regeneration). When normal cells are starved, we found that they shift into survival mode and start to repair themselves. This effect can be seen even when you are still consuming 800 calories a day. Furthermore fasting can kill cancer cells, reverse autoimmune disorders and significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Follow the eight points above and you to reach a healthy weight and abdominal circumference
For most people the Longevity Diet can be adopted simply by replacing a limited number of items with foods that are just as enjoyable, if not more so. Virtually all diets fail because they are too extreme to maintain in the long run, or because they require major changes to your habits and lifestyle. The Longevity Diet can be embraced by people all over the world and requires simple changes that can extend your healthy lifespan.
More about the book
AS SEEN IN THE TIMES.
Eat the foods that will help you live longer . . .
THIS is the internationally bestselling, clinically tested, revolutionary AND straightforward diet to help you slow-down ageing, fight disease and lose weight.
'The diet that holds the key to staying young . . . Dr Valter Longo is now considered one of the most influential voices in the 'fasting movement' The Times
'Dr Valter Longo is one of the real scientific pioneers when it comes to researching the impact of food on health' Dr Michael Mosley, bestselling author of The Fast Diet and The Clever Guts Diet
Following 30 years of research Professor Valter Longo - a biochemist and one of the world's leading researchers into ageing - has investigated genetics, nutrition and stem cells to discover that the secret of longevity lies in cellular regeneration triggered by a special diet. He is now able to reveal how, by adhering to his fasting-mimicking diet we heal ourselves through food.
Dr Valter Longo's healthy, lifespan-extending programme is based on an easy-to-adopt lifetime plan, coupled with a fasting-mimicking diet 3-4 times a year, and just 5 days at a time, that gives all the health benefits of fasting without the hunger. Including 30 easy recipes for an everyday diet based on Longo's Five Pillars of Longevity, The Longevity Diet is the key to living a longer, healthier and more fulfilled life.
Try easy, plant-and-fish based recipes that use phenomenal, live-long ingredients . . . Great for the heart and rich in antioxidants: black rice with courgette and shrimp with a mixed green salad, sweet tomatoes and carrots drizzled in balsamic vinegar. For a good source of iron, snack on dark chocolate and yoghurt, and for dessert try tangy dried cranberries and walnuts.
Make simple changes that can extend your healthy lifespan
Prevent age-related muscle and bone loss
Build your resistance to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's and cancer
Maintain your ideal weight and reduce abdominal fat
Why rely on medication to cure illness, when you can help to prevent it altogether with your diet?
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