1. Incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet
There is no doubt you’ve heard some pitch about the best diet to eat many times already this year. Chances are you’re even one of the 45 million of Americans who have already tried to tackle a new diet (or two) this year. Well, it’s time to ditch the fad and incorporate real lifestyle and science-backed nutrition into your life. Here are 10 simple steps you can take to incorporate lifelong changes into your routine.
While high fat and high protein fad diets have cycled in and out of popularity for decades, tens of thousands of scientific studies continue to have the same findings for optimal health. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, healthy grains, nuts and legumes, moderate protein, and low in refined carbs and sweeteners is best for optimal health and longevity. Long-term studies do not support high protein and high fat diets but instead, are based on balanced macronutrients.
New studies continue to further highlight what foods we should limit or avoid consuming, like red meat and heavily processed sweets One recent meta study analyzed the data from hundreds of studies on animals and humans to get a clear picture of the optimal foods a human should consume, and even when they should be consumed, if we want to increase our chances of living a longer, healthier life.
One of these recent studies co-published by Nutrition for Longevity’s Dr. Valter Longo reviewed many eating patterns popular today including a low-calorie diet, a high-fat and low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet, the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, and vegan and vegetarian diets. Based on this consolidated research, Dr. Longo and his team of scientists have developed a “Longevity Diet” that may shine light on helping people live the longest, healthiest life possible.
Dr. Longo highlighted longevity eating as including: “Lots of legumes, whole grains, and vegetables; some fish; no red meat or processed meat, and very low white meat; low sugar and refined grains; good levels of nuts and olive oil, and some dark chocolate.” What is very important is that the study revealed to live a long healthy life, people should not cut back on healthy carbohydrates from their diet. On the contrary, they should consume healthy carbs daily; carbs that come from whole food plant-forward sources.2. Ensure you are getting healthy fiber into your diet
One of the benefits of eating a diet high in legumes, whole grains, and vegetables is that they are loaded with fiber. While we can’t digest much of this fiber, our gut microbiome can. In fact, it thrives off of healthy fibers and high phytonutrient foods. A benefit of consuming consistent healthy amounts of fiber can help with regular bowel movements, reduced risk of constipation, and helping you feel full longer to avoid unnecessary snacking. Soluble fiber found in foods like beans, oats, flaxseed, and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad," cholesterol levels. Studies also have shown that high-fiber foods may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
3. Eat the rainbow
When we incorporate more vegetables and some fruit into our diet it’s also important to get a broad spectrum of color on our plates. The reason color is so important is it represents phytonutrient / antioxidant combinations. Phytonutrients are a key part of a plant’s immune system and defense mechanism against disease. Studies show they play a similar role in the human system with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help protect and regenerate our cells. Think of this as a challenge to eat 5 colors of fruits and vegetables throughout your day.
4. Include healthy fats
Another reason a diet like the “Longevity Diet” outlined in Dr. Longo’s research is beneficial is that it incorporates healthy fats from sources such as nuts, seeds, fish, olives, and olive oil. Like fiber, fats can create a feeling of satiety, meaning you feel full longer, helping you avoid mindless noshing on processed carbs and sugary foods you may otherwise crave. Healthy fats also help your body absorb vitamins such as A, D, E and K. Healthy fats may actually help you lose weight if you incorporate them in a balanced way into your diet. Fat is also important as it provides an important back-up fuel source when we allow our body to fast for intermittent amounts of time.5. Take on intermittent fasting
In addition to looking at what the optimal foods were to consume, Dr. Longo’s study explored how the timing of food intake affects health and longevity. Scientists focused on the different types of eating and fasting, including routine intermittent fasting that restricts food consumption to a limited number of hours every day, and prolonged fasting or fasting-mimicking diets done only one or two days a month for longer periods of time. This research showed that many forms of fasting have a high benefit for most people and that snacking around the clock should be avoided. The Longevity Diet would also include a 12–13 hour daily fasting period that has been shown to be safe, feasible, and effective in many studies. It would also include a periodic Fasting Mimicking Diet 3-4 times per year.
6. Consider Keto Cycling in the morning
While some studies show a benefit of a ketogenic diet in the short-term, there are concerns with side effects and long-term impacts on cardiometabolic health. More research is needed to assess the benefits of following a strict long-term ketogenetic diet, but studies show that healthy high fat foods can be used cyclically to extend an intermittent fasting window to allow the body burn fat as fuel rather than glycogen(carbs). It may even be beneficial to extend the fasting window with a nut-based bar that fits a keto level of fats and carbs. This may keep you in a state of ketosis while reducing discomfort and side effects from fasting daily keto cycling follows a schedule where you:
- Fast for 12-13 hours with no food
- Extending the fast for a few hours with healthy low processed high fat foods like nut and seed bars, healthy oils and hemp seeds
- Break the fast late morning with a plant-forward meal
Following this type of eating plan may help reduce the side effects of long-term keto that many people experience like keto flu, brain fog, and constipation.
7. Get Active and get outside when you can
While studies show huge promise for The Longevity Diet that doesn’t mean food is the only thing you need to think about. Regular exercise, active moment and other lifestyle habits also make a big difference, Longo said. As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Some people like to break this goal up across a week rather than daily to fit the needs of their daily schedule. So, target 150-300 min of moderate aerobic exercise per week, and 75min of vigorous aerobic exercise per week. If you want to lose weight, maintain weight loss or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to exercise more. Outside of exercise reducing sitting time is important, too. This may be something as simple as a walk on your lunch break with a colleague, taking your dog for a walk or even gardening in your backyard. Even small things like parking at the far end of a grocery store parking lot can have huge benefits and add up quickly.8. Find time for Mindfulness & Meditation
In our busy hustle and bustle lives it may seem hard to carve out any time to slow down and practice mindfulness or meditation, but it’s worth the effort. Studies show that having regular meditation practice has a number of health benefits including, reducing stress, and blood pressure and increasing mental focus. Mindfulness can also be incorporated throughout our day.9. Build a Sleep Ritual
In addition to daily mindfulness exercises its important to build in daily behaviors to support optimal sleep. This is especially important as sleep has been tied to chronic illness and cognitive behavior. We recommend a few simple sleep tips that almost anyone can incorporate:
- Refrain from eating 3-4 hours prior to going to sleep
- Reduce consumption of caffeine after 2pm
- Find something that soothes you like a warm neck compress or essential oil, that your body can begin to associate with sleeping
- Try guided sleep meditation or sleep music to calm your body down to unwind. Some sleep music is designed to be at an exact frequency to slow the body down for deep sleep.
The “Longevity Diet” is not a dietary restriction intended to only cause weight loss, but a lifestyle focused on slowing aging, which can complement standard healthcare and taken as a preventative measure, will aid in avoiding morbidity and sustaining health into advanced age,” Longo said.
Adopting this kind of diet — plentiful whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and nuts, with minimal red or processed meats — could increase life expectancy by nearly 11 years in women and 13 years in men if started at age 20, and about 8 years if started by age 60, according to other research, published in PLOS Medicine in February this year.
While this is incredibly important, one thing Dr. Longo’s research has also shown is that a multi-pillar approach to longevity is needed. And one area that is common in all Longevity Regions is community and community health. This means surrounding yourself with others who live and seek to live a healthier lifestyle. This means a community that lifts us up in our health journey. Looking to join a healthy longevity community? Consider joining one of our programs to meet other like-minded people!