Immortality is impossible but living a long life isn’t. Some cultures like the Vilcabambans of the Ecuadorian Andes, the Hunza of Pakistan and the centenarians of the Okinawa island in Japan are known for their long lives and may help scientists dealing with life expectancy.
Okinawa, for instance, is home to the world’s healthiest elderly with the longest recorded life expectancies. Scientific studies and research have shown that besides genetic factors, longevity is strongly linked to food and exercise habits.
Low-calorie healthy diets and high physical activity in these extraordinarily healthy societies are the secrets for their extended lifespans with virtually no reported incidence of diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other degenerative diseases such as rheumatism, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and vision problems.
So what are the dietary secrets to longevity? Eating less has been found to be critical and seems to be the centrepiece of longevity. In animal experiments, researchers have demonstrated that calorie restriction has now been clearly proven to be effective and up to 30 per cent calorie restriction leads to extended years in a manner believed to be similar to genetic modification. Additionally, high intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, soy, fish and eating less fat along with healthy lifestyle seems to explain protection from diseases and increased lifespan.
A study reported that healthy older Okinawans eat an average of seven servings of vegetables, seven servings of whole grains, two servings of soy products; fish twice or thrice a week and very little sugar and added fats. Their diets include little meat and no margarines, hydrogenated fats or trans fat.
Although the impact of good nutrition on health and disease begins very early in life, it’s never too late to make changes. According to researchers, at age 65 men and women in high- income countries still have a life expectancy of a further 15 and 19 years respectively. The older one becomes, the longer one is likely to live, and thus, by the time men and women reach age 75, life expectancy is still 9 and 11 years, respectively. This dispels the common assumption that changes in lifestyle to improve health are no longer worthwhile in old age. In fact, the prevalence of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and arthritis is highest in the older population. Studies demonstrate that it is still worthwhile for older people to make lifestyle changes like diet modification, weight reduction, sodium restriction, saturated fat restriction smoking cessation — and that these changes make life in later years healthier, more active and less dependent.
Clearly, living long is not a coincidence. It is a result of many factors and when it comes to health and longevity, the sum of the dietary components is greater than its individual elements. The important thing to be remembered is that these scientifically proven secrets of the world’s healthiest and long-lived people are simple to say the least. Adopting them with common sense can certainly extend your later years with vibrancy and vitality.
* Eat less and eat well- low calories and nutrient dense foods.
*Choose a diet particularly rich in phyto-chemicals (antioxidants), vitamin B6, B12, folic acid, zinc, calcium, iron, chromium, vitamin D & E and omega-3 fats.
* Eat good carbohydrates, good fat, high-quality proteins and fibre.
* Include plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables into your dietary plans.
*Include protein-rich foods such as fish, soy, legumes — peas and beans, seeds, nuts, fermented milk products, buttermilk & fermented foods.