The complete guide to nutrition for longevity - foods, diets, and more
Ready to unlock the secret of living a longer and healthier life? The answer lies in what you eat. Valter Longo, a professor of gerontology and biological sciences at USC, has developed a groundbreaking longevity nutrition that emphasizes plant-based foods and intermittent fasting.
With longevity nutrition, you can kiss those meat and dairy cravings goodbye and say hello to a quality of life that's fit for a Greek god (or goddess). But that's not it. This diet can potentially give your superhuman powers to fight off aging and disease. Sounds tempting? Let us introduce you to the basis of the longevity food diet.
The concept of longevity
The idea of longevity has recently taken center stage in various industries. We've come to realize that the length of our lives is not the only measure of our well-being. Quality of life is equally crucial. Although technology and medicine have significantly increased our life expectancy, preventing illnesses is where the focus should lie.
You might be wondering whether genetics play a role in our lifespan. The answer is both yes and no. While our genes certainly have an impact, we can still manage mortality risks by making healthy lifestyle choices. Rather than adding years to our lives, we should aim to add life to our years, and this begins with a wholesome, balanced diet.
Longevity nutrition – the key to a better life
The desire to lead a longer, healthier life is shared by many. Yet the question remains – how can we actually achieve it? For centuries, this puzzle has evaded us – until now. Enter Valter Longo, Ph.D. – a renowned professor of gerontology and biological sciences at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and director of the USC Longevity Institute.
With meticulous research, Dr. Longo has uncovered a key factor in our life expectancy – our diets. He has meticulously reviewed numerous studies and scientific papers to create the longevity diet, an innovative and scientifically-proven approach to eating that promises to increase our lifespan.
Dr. Longo's discoveries are so groundbreaking that he has even authored a book on the subject, Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease, and Optimize Weight, which was published in 2018.
Although the longevity diet originally intended for older adults, it has also been recommended for the younger generation. In fact, Dr. Longo himself claims that he will live up to 120 years old by strictly adhering to this diet.
The best diet for longevity – what does it include?
In a longevity nutrition, the main emphasis is on plant-based foods. If you'd like to test it yourself, you'll have to include vegetables, including leafy greens, fruit, nuts, beans, olive oil, and seafood, in your daily meals. These products are low in mercury and generally have more vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and antioxidants. What's important, longevity foods feature less fat and salt, which offers many health benefits.
According to Dr. Longo, it's best to avoid eating too much meat and dairy since these foods have a high level of processed sugar and saturated fats. If saying 'no' to dairy seems too difficult, the longevity diet suggests switching from cow's milk to goat's or sheep's milk. These products have a different nutrient profile, which is friendlier to our health. However, there's little evidence they are actually more beneficial.
The good news is that you can still eat fermented dairy products, which means you don't have to say goodbye to cheese, yogurt, and other delicious foods that provide good bacteria to your body.
What sets the longevity nutrition and foods apart from other meal plans is that it's not something you should take up for a week or two. Dr. Longo sees it as a multi-pillar strategy that should hold up for 20 years.
How does the longevity nutrition diet work
At the basis of the longevity nutrition diet is the idea that healthy eating habits together with fasting lead to a happier life. Here's the strategy you should follow.
Fasting for longevity
To start the longevity nutrition diet, Dr. Longo recommends a strict vegan diet with a calorie restriction between 800 to 1,100 per day. This method tricks the body into thinking it's fasting, known as a fasting-mimicking diet.
However, before beginning, it's best to consult a registered dietitian or physician, which could help you find the best-suited strategy. It's important to remember that creating a fasting-mimicking diet independently can lead to potential health risks, so don't approach it irresponsibly!
After the initial fasting-mimicking diet, you will transition to a 12-hour eating window each day, typically between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (however, you can also choose a different time frame that fits your lifestyle better). This is a style of intermittent fasting. In the scientific community, the benefits of it are still debated. However, it's generally agreed that finishing eating several hours before bedtime is a good practice.
Ideally, you should repeat the process of fasting-mimicking two or three times per year. For individuals, who are overweight or obese, it can be done even more often (but only with a dietician's assistance).
The longevity diet advises overweight individuals to limit their daily meals to just two – breakfast and either a midday or evening meal, accompanied by two low-sugar snacks. This dietary restriction is intended to lower kilojoule consumption and promote weight loss.
In addition, reducing snacking, especially on foods high in saturated fat, salt, or sugar, is crucial. These discretionary or ultra-processed foods offer little nutritional value and have been linked to adverse health outcomes.
To promote optimal health, the longevity diet suggests consuming nutrient-dense foods. This, of course, aligns with most national dietary guidelines. Emphasis is placed on incorporating a variety of plant-based foods into your diet. By including a spectrum of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet, you can benefit from the unique nutrients in each.
Additionally, it's noted that choosing whole grains over refined options is crucial for feeling healthier and more energized.
Avoid too much protein
What we've mentioned before more or less aligns with general recommendations for a healthy diet. Here's, however, where things get interesting. The longevity diet takes a unique approach to protein intake, recommending that individuals restrict their consumption to 0.68-0.80g per kilogram of body weight per day.
For example, a 70kg person would aim to consume only 47-56g of protein daily. To put that into perspective, two small eggs or 60g of nuts each contain about 10g of protein. This is particularly important for the elderly, who may struggle to meet their protein requirements.
To meet their recommended daily intake, the longevity diet suggests that individuals source their protein from plant-based or fish-based sources. While this may require some extra planning, it can ensure all the necessary nutrients are consumed, even without including red meat.
Beginner tips for starting the longevity nutrition diet
Switching up your diet is no walk in the park. It requires motivation and determination, which is easy to lose if the process gets too difficult. That's why it's important to start with baby steps. Instead of changing your whole diet, start by simply eating more fruits and vegetables. Once you feel more comfortable, try eating in a 12-hour window. Don't skip breakfast!
Let your taste buds adapt
Tasting new foods can be scary. If you're ready to try the longevity diet, it's a great idea to sample new veggies and meals first at restaurants are cafes and only then attempt to make them at home. Don't rush your taste buds – let them adapt to new flavors.
Learning to longevity foods can take some time. Be patient!
Check ingredient lists
When was the last time you checked the ingredient list on your favorite processed food? We challenge you – do it today! Chances are, you'll be quite surprised by what you'll see. Unfortunately, most packaged foods are nowadays filled with additives that aren't friendly to your body. Once you see the list of all the unnecessary ingredients, you'll be more motivated to cook on your own.
Consider your food sensitivities
Although the rules for the longevity diet can seem harsh at first, remember there's no one-size-fits-all approach. There's still plenty of customization you can do. Before jumping into the diet, have an appointment with your doctor. If you have a food allergy or intolerance, you should develop a framework that suits your health.
Longevity food list to get you started
Longevity Foods to Eat
- Non-starchy Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, zucchini, eggplant, peppers
- Berries: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries
- Nuts and Seeds: almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds
- Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans
- Whole Grains: quinoa, brown rice, oats, barley
- Fish and Seafood: salmon, tuna, shrimp, mussels
- Poultry: chicken, turkey
- Eggs: preferably organic and free-range
- Healthy Fats: olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds
- Herbs and Spices: garlic, turmeric, ginger, oregano, basil, thyme
Foods to Limit
- Refined Grains: white bread, white rice, pasta
- High-Fat Dairy: cheese, butter, cream
- Red Meat: beef, pork, lamb
Food to Avoid
- Processed Foods: packaged snacks, fast food, frozen meals
- Sugary Drinks: soda, energy drinks, sweetened teas
- Trans Fats: partially hydrogenated oils, fried foods
- Added Sugars: candy, cookies, cakes
- Artificial Sweeteners: aspartame, saccharin, sucralose
- Processed Meats: hot dogs, bacon, sausage
- Excess Salt: canned foods, salted snacks
Sugar and aging - dispelling the myths. Read the blog
Complete 7-day meal plan for the Longevity nutrition diet
Breakfast: Oatmeal with banana and walnuts
Lunch: Lentil Soup with a side of grilled vegetables
Dinner: Grilled Salmon, brown rice, and a side salad.
Snacks: Fruit smoothie or yogurt parfait.
Breakfast: Eggs with spinach and tomatoes
Lunch: Salad with quinoa, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber and feta cheese
Dinner: Vegetable stir-fry with edamame beans served over soba noodles.
Snacks: Hummus and carrots or an apple with almond butter.
Breakfast: Greek yogurt with fresh berries and chia seeds
Lunch: Lentil tacos with a side of roasted potatoes
Dinner: Grilled chicken breast served over quinoa
Snacks: Celery sticks with almond butter or a fruit salad.
Breakfast: Avocado toast with grilled tomatoes
Lunch: Beetroot soup served over brown rice
Dinner: Baked codfish with steamed broccoli and a side salad .
Snacks: Yogurt smoothie or banana oat muffin.
Breakfast: Scrambled egg whites with mushrooms, spinach, peppers and tomatoes
Lunch: Chickpea and quinoa bowl with a side of roasted vegetables
Dinner: Stuffed bell peppers with lentils, grilled asparagus and a side salad
Snacks: Berries and nuts or Greek yogurt.
Breakfast: Overnight oats with chia seeds, almonds and blueberries
Lunch: Salad made with spinach, feta cheese, beets, walnuts and quinoa
Dinner: Baked Salmon served over sweet potato mash
Snacks: Hummus dip with celery or a smoothie.
Breakfast: Coconut yogurt parfait with fresh fruit Lunch: Lentil veggie burger accompanied by roasted Brussels sprouts
Lunch: Zucchini noodles served with grilled shrimp
Dinner: Grilled turkey breast served over quinoa and sautéed mushrooms
Snacks: Apple slices with almond butter or Greek yogurt.
End notes on longevity nutrition
Scientists have long argued that nutrition plays a great role in our daily life. A good meal plan doesn't just improve our health – it also boosts our happiness hormones. The longevity diet utilizes already existing aspects of evidence-based healthy eating patterns and, consequently, promotes a longer, better life.
Of course, if you want to live like a health god, you'll need to stick to the plan. And that means saying no to temptation and embracing the power of perseverance. But trust us, it'll all be worth it when you're 110 years old and still running marathons.
Curious to learn more about the best longevity diets? Check out our blog on the blue zone diet.