January 23, 2024
January 23, 2024

The Longevity Diet: How to Enjoy a Healthier, Longer Life

Reviewed By:
The Longevity Diet: How to Enjoy a Healthier, Longer Life

You already know that diet plays a key role in determining how long you stay healthy, active, and able to enjoy what you love doing. But it's not only about what you eat — it’s also about when and how often you eat. 

Longevity diets are based on cutting-edge research and decades of testing combined with the wisdom of centenarians. Their stories drive researchers to understand how diet, lifestyle choices, eating patterns, and cultural practices intersect for a long healthy life. 

Here, we’ll profile three types of longevity diet: The fasting-mimicking diet, the time-honored Okinawan diet, and the ever-popular Mediterranean diet. Each diet offers unique insights backed by research, showing how proactive health care through diet, lifestyle choices, and technology may help you live better, longer.

Please note: This is not to be considered advice from Ezra.com. Before embarking on any new diet plan, talk to your doctor about potential risks and benefits.

What Is the Longevity Diet? Eating in the Blue Zones

Longevity diet: map of the blue zones

The term "longevity diet" can encompass various diets promoting healthy aging and a longer lifespan. However, Dr. Valter Longo's diet — specifically the Fasting-Mimicking Diet (FMD) — is often called the longevity diet. Other diets associated with longer lifespans, like the Okinawa diet and the Mediterranean diet, also focus on promoting longevity through nutritional habits. All are derived from tradition.

Historical proof of the benefits of certain diets can be found in the traditional diets and cultures of Blue Zones, which are areas known for having extraordinary life expectancy, vitality, and the highest proportions of centenarians. There are five recognized Blue Zones in the world: Okinawa in Japan; Sardinia in Italy; Nicoya in Costa Rica; Ikaria in Greece; and Loma Linda in California, USA.

While we can’t know for sure, the Blue Zones phenomenon seems tied to factors like regular exercise, a temperate climate, a strong community that cares for one another, and access to resources like clean water and fresh foods. Another factor — referred to as "Ikigai" in Okinawa or "Plan de Vida" in Nicoya — is common in Blue Zone cultures. It means having a sense of purpose or reason for living.

The Fasting-Mimicking Diet (FMD): All the Benefits Without Hunger

Fasting has been practiced for millennia. Many cultures today still use fasting for religious and spiritual customs and for healing the mind and body. The fasting-mimicking diet, also called the longevity diet, is a scientifically developed eating plan that offers the health benefits of fasting while still allowing you to eat. It's designed to trick your body into entering a fasting state, even though you're consuming a limited amount of food.

FMD is a less extreme, more manageable approach than intermittent fasting, providing many of the same health benefits without complete fasting. The cycle includes five days of periodic fasting, consuming low-sugar carbohydrates, moderate protein intake, and reducing calories to promote better health and longevity.

Research suggests that FMD offers several health benefits, including reduced inflammation, weight loss, improved metabolic health, and decreased risk factors for Alzheimer's, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. After completing the longevity diet cycle, Dr. Longo suggests doing the FMD twice yearly for a total of 10 days and advises his patients to return to a pescatarian, plant-based, or vegan diet.

Pros to consider:

  • Designed to achieve the benefits of prolonged fasting, such as cellular regeneration and longevity
  • May help with chronic diseases, including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and glucose regulation
  • Can promote weight loss and reduce body fat, particularly in the abdominal area
  • May boost cognitive function and delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases

Potential cons:

  • Requires careful planning and monitoring to ensure essential nutrient needs are met
  • Not suitable for everyone, including pregnant women, individuals with certain health conditions, or those who are underweight
  • Should only be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional to monitor responses and ensure safety

The Okinawa Diet: Generations of Good Health

Longevity diet: mother and daughter smiling at each other

Okinawa is one of the five regions of the world recognized as a Blue Zone. Okinawans live longer, healthier lives and enjoy a greater quality of life compared to older adults in many parts of the world. They tend to have lower body fat and cholesterol with fewer chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and dementia.

What Can You Eat on the Okinawan Diet?

The traditional Okinawan diet consists of whole foods and complex carbs. Notably, animal proteins are consumed sparingly and primarily consist of white fish and seafood with no red meat, pork, or processed foods.

Jasmine tea is consumed generously in the traditional Okinawan diet. It serves as a hydrating and antioxidant-rich beverage. The diet also incorporates antioxidant-rich spices like turmeric, known for its potential health benefits.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the Okinawan diet:

  • Vegetables: 58–60%
  • Whole grains: 33%
  • Soy protein: 5%
  • Meat and seafood: 1–2%
  • Other: 1% includes small amounts of alcohol, tea, spices, and dashi (broth)

Pros to consider:

  • Longevity: The Okinawan diet is associated with increased longevity and reduced risk of chronic diseases due to its high content of vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins
  • Weight management: Low in calories and high in fiber, it aids in maintaining a healthy weight
  • Heart health: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids from fish consumption, it contributes to heart health

Potential cons:

  • Limited variety: The diet mainly focuses on specific food groups, which may lead to monotony and nutrient deficiency if not properly managed
  • Availability: Some of the diet's key components like bitter melons, purple sweet potatoes, or certain types of fish may not be easily available
  • Cultural differences: Adapting to this diet might be challenging for some due to cultural and taste differences

The Mediterranean Diet: 5,000 Years of Proof

The Mediterranean diet includes vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and olive oil with moderate consumption of fish, poultry, and red wine. The diet is widely recognized for its benefits in promoting healthy aging and longevity.

But the Mediterranean diet isn't a creation of health experts in a lab. Instead, it's a culinary tradition that has grown naturally over 5,000 years and emerged from people using what was locally available. They crafted meals from simple ingredients, influenced by the local environment, cultural practices, and religious beliefs.

Research indicates that adhering to the Mediterranean diet can lead to multiple benefits, including lower blood pressure and a decreased risk of heart disease, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, and cognitive decline. New research shows it's also associated with a longer lifespan.

Pros to consider:

  • Rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, promoting overall health
  • High in fiber, which aids in digestion and keeps you feeling full
  • Associated with a lower risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes
  • Encourages consumption of healthy fats, such as olive oil and fish, which are good for heart health

Potential cons:

  • May be expensive due to the high quantity of fresh produce and seafood
  • The diet does not specify portion sizes, which might lead to overeating
  • Some people may find it difficult to maintain if their palate is not accustomed to Mediterranean flavors
  • The diet is low in calcium, which might be a concern for people at risk for osteoporosis

Beyond Dieting: 6 Ways to Live Longer, Better

Longevity diets are a proactive approach toward healthy aging, but it’s important to consider other factors to help you lead a long and healthy life. You can keep illness at bay by taking proactive measures early to prevent heart disease and chronic health. 

For example, preserving muscle mass can begin in your 20s. Strength and cardiorespiratory fitness are instrumental in improving your health span and achieving longevity. Let’s look at six steps you can take.

1. Regular Exercise

Staying physically active is crucial for maintaining good health as you age. Walking, swimming, yoga, or resistance training can help keep your muscles, bones, and heart healthy while boosting mental health.

2. Stress Management

Stress is a normal response to challenges or demands. In short bursts, stress can help you avoid danger, adapt to changes, and motivate you. Stress also impacts your metabolism– the process your body uses to convert food into energy. When you experience stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone temporarily slows down your metabolism. 

Chronic stress can lead to a decreased metabolic rate over time causing weight gain, and systemic inflammation. Numerous studies have found a link between chronic stress and metabolic syndrome: a group of five conditions that lead to chronic illnesses like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Experts don't fully understand what causes metabolic syndrome, but several factors including stress seem to be interconnected. 

When not managed, stress also takes a toll on your mental health leading to anxiety and depression. According to a 2022 Ipsos poll, 56% of adults in the US and 62% globally have experienced stress in their daily lives at least once in the past year. Almost one-third say stress affects them several times each day. Techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies can help manage and reduce stress levels.

3. Adequate Sleep

Quality sleep is critical for your health and well-being. It aids in the repair of your body and supports cognitive functions. Try to get around 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night.

4. Regular Health Checkups

Regular visits to healthcare professionals for checkups can help in the early detection and management of health issues, which is key in preventive health care.

5. Dental Care

Don’t forget the importance of dental checkups, regular cleanings, and practicing proper oral hygiene. Poor oral health can affect your heart, lungs, sleep quality, susceptibility to dementia, and systemic inflammation. 

6. Health Screenings

Keeping up with regular health screenings — such as blood work, blood pressure checks, colonoscopies, mammograms, and vaccinations — is crucial for well-being. Moreover, an MRI scan is a type of health screening test that uses imaging technology to offer information about your overall health and help detect signs of potential early cancer or disease. With the Ezra Full Body Scan, you can screen up to 13 body areas for various cancers and health issues in just one hour.

Nurturing a Longevity Mindset Through Proactive Care

Longevity diet: girl and her grandparents smiling at the camera

Your diet may impact your longevity and ability to remain active. The food you eat — and when and how often — significantly contributes to your overall health and well-being.

Longevity diets such as the Okinawan and Mediterranean diets concentrate on whole foods, primarily plant-based diets, with appropriate amounts of quality protein and healthy fats; the fasting-mimicking diet is a two-week-a-year plan for calorie restriction and strategic meal timing to mimic fasting.

Longevity dieting is not the fountain of youth. Still, it can be part of a more extensive proactive lifestyle that includes other healthy habits and practices such as getting exercise, managing stress, practicing good oral hygiene, and staying current on screening exams.

The Ezra Full-Body scan is a innovative medical imaging technique that allows you to screen for various health conditions such as cancer, some vascular conditions, and other anatomical abnormalities. The scan is non-invasive, painless, and can take as little as 30 minutes. Be proactive with your health by detecting potential health issues early. You can get started today by booking your scan online.