The Longevity Diet: The Diet to Living Longer

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Intermittent fasting, vegan diets, and biohacking our bodies- there’s no shortage of advice to being healthier in the hopes of living longer. There is, however, one diet in particular that stands out from the rest and it is known as the “longevity diet”. This diet consists of age-defying foods that promise you more years to your youth but..is it true?

What exactly is “The Longevity Diet”?

The longevity diet was first created and researched by Valter Longo, a professor of gerontology and biology at the University of Southern California. His primary goal was to figure out the link between your diet and your lifespan! The “longevity diet” is a diet used to promote the longest & healthiest life possible. Typical Western diets are normally high in sugars, refined starches, and saturated fats. Because of this, it disrupts your metabolism in a way that there is an excessive amount of insulin released. Longo also drew from various research sources to incorporate healthier eating habits in his plan such as:

  • Including medium to high amounts of carbs from sources that aren’t refined (Ex. Whole grains instead of saltine crackers)
  • Low but sufficient amount of protein from plant-based sources
  • About 30% of calories from plant-based fats. Think olives or avocados.

 

He states that all of your meals should occur within 12 hours and a 5 day strict fasting-mimicking vegan diet should occur 2-3 times per year. The diet can be summarized as a hybrid of foods that are found in the diets of many “blue zone” regions. Blue zones regions are areas around the world where a majority of the population are found to live longer, some well into their 100s. If you’re overweight, Longo recommends considering only 2 meals per day and if you’re normal weight,  3 meals per day and 1 low in sugar snack.

What Foods are Recommended?

The longevity diet is mostly plant-based. It mainly consists of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and the occasional fish and healthy oils. The diet also:

  • Limits dairy consumption to a minimum (Goat/sheep milk or eggs are preferred)
  • Excludes ALL red meats. Including the processed kind, so no hot dogs, pepperoni, etc. White meat like fish, skinless turkey, or chicken is fine. 
  • Encourages plant protein instead of animal protein. (Ex. Chickpeas, beans, and other legumes) 
  • Includes taking a multivitamin every 3 days 

 

Why is Fasting Involved?

The diet also includes a healthy amount of imitated fasting through a strict vegan diet. This should be done in a period of 5 days, at least 2-3 times per year. By doing this, you’re restricting your body to 800-1,100 calories per day and tricking your body into believing it’s fasting. After the 5 day period, it’s recommended to eat within a window of 12 hours per day. For example, you can eat between the hours of 7 am- 7 pm. This is also a style of intermittent fasting. It’s also a safe way to improve metabolic health in people who are considered obese.

Other Benefits

Besides the obvious- which is to promote a longer life expectancy, there are many other benefits this diet promises. Some include: 

  • A healthier heart. According to the International Journal of Epidemiology, five servings of fruits/veggies a day reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. 
  • A reduced risk for cancer. According to the BMC Medicine journal, research in Feb 2022  found that those who ate a low-meat or meat-free diet (in this study, that was defined as meat five times or less per week) had an overall lower risk of cancer than those who consumed more.
  • A lower risk for Type 2 diabetes
  • Stronger vision & lower risk for eye disease 
  • A better maintained and  balanced weight

 

Are there any Limitations? 

Like most things, there are pros and cons. This diet, for instance, may not be an appropriate diet for those with a history of disordered eating. It’s quite restrictive and not recommended for those struggling with anorexia or orthorexia. (Orthorexia is when a person is so concerned about the nutritional quality of their diet that their overall well-being suffers.) The diet may also be too difficult for some to follow. Most people think that their diet is a lot healthier than it really is which makes it harder to change. 

Getting Started

If none of the above applies to you, then great! Here’s how you can begin incorporating this diet into your lifestyle in the hopes of extending your lifespan and reducing your risk for disease:

  1. Take baby steps
  2. Test-drive new foods
  3. Limit & gradually cut back on processed foods to reduce your reliance on them
  4. Form a habit of checking the ingredients list on packaged foods
  5. Talk to your doctor/nutritionist so they can help customize a plan according to your needs, allergies, and goals.
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