Though there were no birth records in England until the 19th century to prove his old age, Thomas Parr is said to have lived to the incredible age of 152! His simple diet consisted of potatoes, fruit and oatmeal. A couple of weeks after being invited to the court of King Charles I and eating the king’s delicacies, he died on November 13, 1635.
Sometimes, people think that we have to eat elaborate meals in order to be healthy, gain longevity and attain an excellent quality of life. In his book, The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner writes about several unique groups of people around the world whose simple diet has produced a notable number of centenarians.
What is the secret to their long life? Mostly, consuming plant-based foods. You may ask yourself, “Where’s the beef?” Or say, “It’s not dinner without some meat.” Or, “We need more protein for muscle-building. Leave out the carbs because they make us fat.”
Believe it or not, all foods do have some protein. Some excellent sources of plant protein are legumes, beans, chickpeas and lentils. Unprocessed seeds and nuts are good sources of protein, but high in calories from natural-occurring fat. Some fair sources of protein are vegetables, whole grains and cereals, with the least amount of protein found in fruits. Whole plant foods contain fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals and are ideal for a person of any age. A plant-based diet provides adequate nutrition, though some people may need vitamin B-12 supplementation.
It is never too late to improve the way you eat!
It is true that protein is essential for growth, tissue-building and repair. Human bodies are in a perpetual need for macronutrients like carbohydrates, protein and fat. The body will break them down to their simplest and most usable sources of energy – glucose.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) MyPlate nutrition guidelines, adults should eat up to, but not more than, five to six ounces of meat per day. The USDA also states that in 2018, Americans were expected to have a meat intake of approximately ten ounces per day. Animal fat and protein foods take longer to digest. As the body ages, it requires simpler, whole, plant-based foods to avoid overtaxing the digestive system.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is low in fiber and laden with animal protein, fat, cholesterol, salt and sugar – undeniable culprits of “lifestyle disease.” Minimizing one’s protein intake from meat and animal byproducts will lower inflammation in the body, which in turn, will lessen risk of chronic diet-related disease, as well as that of cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, cerebrovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, osteopenia, osteoporosis, arthritis and an array of autoimmune diseases.
A simple diet consisting mainly of whole plant foods is the key to maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. You may not want to be a centenarian, but you definitely want to have a good quality life in your older days. Eating less – or even avoiding – meats, animal food byproducts, and empty-calorie foods and beverages, will not be the end of the world! Taste preferences can change and proper, consistent training will shape your appetite for the better. With a good attitude, your life is in your hands, or should I say, your life is in your mouth and stomach. It is never too late to improve the way you eat!
NOTE: This article does not touch on other very important components of great health. Consult your healthcare provider before adopting any dietary/lifestyle changes.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, US Department of Health and Human Services. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th ed. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office; 2015.
American Institute for Cancer Research. Recommendations for cancer prevention. Tantamango-Bartley Y, Knutsen SF, Knutsen R, et al. Are strict vegetarians protected against prostate cancer? Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;103(1):153-160.
World Cancer Research Fund. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective. Washington, DC: American Institute for Cancer Research; 2007.
Bingham SA, Day NE, Luben R, et al. Dietary fibre in food and protection against colorectal cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC): An observational study. Lancet. 203;361(9368):1496-1501.
Position Paper. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116:1970-1980.