What Is The Longevity Diet?

In This Article

Based on research by biochemist Dr. Valter Longo, the longevity diet plan is meant to help people get healthy and live longer. Although great for older people, the ideas in the longevity diet are appropriate for people of all ages.

The creator of the diet, Dr. Valter Longo, is the director of Longevity Institute at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. The diet (basically a collection of eating guidelines) is based on his research on long-lived populations around the world, including in Greece, Italy, and Japan.

The cornerstone of the longevity diet plan is integrating simple changes that may promote longer living.

Benefits

A relaxed approach to choosing foods for meals, combined with periodic times of a fasting-mimicking diet, has beneficial effects on aging and aging-related diseases. This means people may be able to feel better and live longer.

Dr. Longo's research is often focused on fasting and fasting-mimicking diets (which are similar to intermittent fasting, where people abstain from eating for certain periods of time). Specifically, his research team found that fasting-mimicking diets are associated with improving the levels of some metabolic markers/risk factors that are associated with poor health and aging (like BMI, blood pressure, blood glucose, and more).

According to other research from Dr. Longo, plant-based diets are associated with longer lives (protein heavy diets tended to be associated with more cardiovascular events, like heart attacks).

How It Works

Following the longevity diet means eating more plants, less protein, and doing a fasting-mimicking diet a few times a year. The eating style is similar to veganism, but with occasional meat or seafood.

What to Eat

Compliant Foods

  • Vegetables


  • Fruits

  • Nuts

  • Olive oil

  • Low-mercury seafood

  • Beans

Non-Compliant Foods

  • Meat (in excess)


  • Processed sugar

  • Saturated fats

  • Dairy (in excess)

On this eating plan, meals are focused on plants.

  • Leafy greens (chard, spinach)
  • Fiber-rich veggies (broccoli and cauliflower)
  • Beans (chickpeas and lentils)
  • Nuts (walnuts, cashews)

Low-mercury seafood includes shrimp, salmon and tilapia—tuna and swordfish are examples of seafood that have higher levels of mercury.

Dairy and meat aren't suggested on the longevity diet because they contain high levels of both protein and saturated fat. Some is fine, but don't base meals around meat. Veggies will become the centerpiece of mealtimes, while meat, seafood, and dairy are supplementary foods that people can add for flavor rather than nutritional benefit.

If people do choose to eat dairy, goat milk and cheese are recommended over products from cows. This is because dairy products made from goats are mineral-rich and anti-inflammatory as compared to products from cows.

Cooking Tips

Olive oil is a staple when following the longevity diet. High in omega-3s, it's also a versatile cooking oil that works well as a dressing, marinade, and even in some baked goods.

Considerations

An important aspect of the longevity diet is the periodic fasting-mimicking diet. A few times a year, people will do a 5 day diet that mimics fasting. During this time, they will consume limited amounts of food (mostly vegetables, nuts, and seeds). Calories on these days will range from about 800-1100. They will eat 60% of calories from fats, 10% from protein, and 30% from carbohydrates.

Additional recommendations include eating in a 10-12 hour window per day (e.g. between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.) and refraining from eating for about 3-4 hours before bed.

There are also specific recommendations to eat only two meals a day, plus two low-sugar snacks—breakfast and either lunch or dinner—if someone is overweight or tends to gain weight easily. If someone is at a healthy weight or tends to lose easily, they can eat three meals a day and one low-sugar snack.

If a person is below the age of 65, the recommendation is to keep protein intake low (0.31 to 0.36 grams per pound of body weight). If someone is older than 65, they can eat slightly more protein, but also increase animal products in order to preserve muscle mass.

Dietary Restrictions

Diets that include fasting should not be followed by people with some health conditions, including diabetes. It's also not recommended for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Because the recommended foods during the fasting-mimicking periods include nuts, this may not be an appropriate diet for people who have a nut allergy.

A Word From Verywell

Think of the longevity diet as a framework for lifelong healthy eating habits, rather than a restrictive way of consuming calories. People will eat better, feel better and—while it's not designed as a weight loss plan—may even shed a few pounds.

Unlike most diets, the longevitydiet plan is not focused totally on weight loss. Although the healthy habits may lead to weight loss, the emphasis is on eating healthier. A healthier body may very well make for a longer life, but remember that the best diet is the one that works for a person's body and lifestyle.

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