Is there such a thing as a longevity diet? Increasingly, studies suggest the answer is yes.
Around the world, certain groups of people enjoy exceptionally long lives. Consider the lucky people of Okinawa. These Pacific Islanders have an average life expectancy of more than 81 years, compared to 78 in the United States and a worldwide average of just 67. Closer to home, members of the Seventh Day Adventists, who typically eat vegetarian diets, outlive their neighbors by four to seven years on average.
Madonna and Michelle Obama seem to have little in common. But together, they have awakened American women of a certain age to the allure of tight, toned arms. They've sent the message that those arms and toned, taut bodies may be within reach for other 40-somethings and older.
That message has been helped along by a legion of other celebrities who have passed their 40th birthday, yet remain virtually flab-free. The list includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Ellen Barkin, and Mary Tyler Moore.
The residents of the San Blas islands off the coast of Panama very rarely suffer from high blood pressure and heart disease. Indeed, research shows that their rate of heart disease is only nine per 100,000 people, compared to 83 per 100,000 among nearby Panamanians on the mainland.
What makes these groups so fortunate? A growing body of evidence suggests that diet is one of the important contributors to longevity and healthy living. Here’s what’s on the menu of people who enjoy long and healthy lives.
Whole grains: Like fruits and vegetables, whole grains pack a lot of nutrition into a low-calorie package. Grains like oats and barley are also rich in a long list of disease-fighting compounds.
In 2009, researchers at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston reported that study participants whose diets included plenty of whole grains and fruit cut their heart disease risk by almost half compared to those whose diets favored meat and fatty foods. Findings from more than 161,000 nurses enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study also show that whole grains protect against type 2 diabetes, a disease that increases the danger of heart disease.