What Is The Longevity Diet?

In This Article

Hoping to hack your diet so you can live longer and feel healthier? The Longevity Diet Plan may be a useful approach for you. Based on research by biochemist Dr. Valter Longo, this plan is meant to help you get healthy now and live longer. Although great for older people, the ideas in the Longevity Diet will work no matter what your age.

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 trick to health and a long life is integrating simple changes that will become part of your everyday life. This is the cornerstone of the Longevity Diet Plan.


The combination of an everyday approach to food, combined with periodic times of a fasting-mimicking diet, has beneficial effects on aging and aging-related diseases. This means you 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 you 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 worse 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. You can think of yourself as a vegan who occasionally eats 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, you'll focus your meals 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 your meals around meat. Veggies will become the centerpiece of your mealtimes, while meat, seafood, and dairy are supplementary foods that you'll add for flavor rather than nutritional benefit.

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

Cooking Tips

Olive oil is your friend 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.


An important aspect of the Longevity Diet is the periodic fasting-mimicking diet. A few times a year, you will do a 5 day diet that mimicks fasting. During this time, you'll consume limited amounts of food (mostly vegetables, nuts, and seeds). Calories on these days will range from about 800-1100. You'll eat 60% of your 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 you go to 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 you are overweight or tend to gain weight easily. If you are at a healthy weight or tend to lose easily, eat three meals a day and one low-sugar snack.

If you are below the age of 65, the recommendation is to keep your protein intake low (0.31 to 0.36 grams per pound of body weight). If you're older than 65, you can eat slightly more protein, but also increase animal products in order to preserve your 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 more of a framework for lifelong healthy eating habits, rather than a restrictive way of consuming calories. You’ll 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 Longevity 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 you, your body, and your lifestyle.

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Article Sources

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  • Felicita Jirillo and Thea Magrone, “Anti-inflammatory and Anti-Allergic Properties of Donkey's and Goat's Milk”, Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders - Drug Targets (2014) 14: 27. https://doi.org/10.2174/1871530314666140121143747

  • Longo, Valter. The Longevity Diet: discover the new science behind stem cell activation and regeneration to slow aging, fight disease, and optimize weight. New York: Penguin Books; 2018.

  • Song M, Fung TT, Hu FB, et al. Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality [published correction appears in JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Nov 1;176(11):1728]. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(10):1453–1463. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.4182

  • Wei M, Brandhorst S, Shelehchi M, et al. Fasting-mimicking diet and markers/risk factors for aging, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Sci Transl Med. 2017;9(377):eaai8700. doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.aai8700