What to Eat to Live to One Hundred
How to improve what foods you eat for longevity and reduce your risk of chronic preventable disease.
By Samantha Pillay
Before you buy supplements and superfoods or start binging on beans, I’d recommend you go for the low hanging fruit!
With a plethora of promises and a world of information overload, think how hard it would be to conduct a study to prove that adding turmeric to your daily diet will add years to your life. I am not suggesting that turmeric might not be good for you; I am pointing out the difficulty in conducting robust scientific studies to demonstrate the effect of measuring living over 100 years as the endpoint. Even if the participants make it to one hundred years, the researchers will have retired if they are still alive.
So before you get excited over the latest promise of longevity, remember if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Based on what we know with sound scientific research, optimising your health and quality of life as you age takes time, motivation, and effort. There is no quick fix; instead, you’re in for the long haul. Of course, that is the end game.
I suggest that adding healthy foods and supplements won’t undo years of dietary sugar and fat, expanding waistlines, and lacking physical activity without changing the latter.
Chronic diseases will impact your quality of life as you age, restricting your lifestyle and increasing your health care costs.
What are some things you should eat to live a healthy life to one hundred?
- A lower salt diet.
- A lower sugar diet.
- A lower fat diet.
- A lower calorie diet.
- A lower alcohol intake.
How much salt is too much?
The World Health Organisation recommends less than a teaspoon a day. The Average American and Australian consume more than double that. Most of this comes not from salt added at the table or during cooking at home but from meals bought at restaurants and supermarkets and packaged and processed foods. Some restaurant meals may contain more salt than fast-food meals.
Why is too much salt bad for you?
High salt increases blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease (the leading cause of death in the US) and stroke (the third leading cause). Reducing salt to recommended levels is predicted to save tens of thousands of lives annually.
Is sugar bad for you?
When you exceed recommended intake, it can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and tooth decay.
Most people consume too much sugar because they don’t realise the amounts hidden in food or drinks. For example, ten teaspoons of sugar in one can of sugar-sweetened soft drink or one slice of carrot cake.
How much sugar is recommended per day?
Free sugars should be less than 10% of your recommended energy intake, or approximately 12 teaspoons per day if you are not trying to reduce your daily energy intake to lose weight. The WHO recommends a further reduction to 5% (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional benefits.
The American Heart Foundation recommends no more than 9 tsp per day for men and 6 tsp for women.
What does too much fat do in your diet?
Like sugar and salt, our body needs some fat. Still, excess fat intake causes high cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and death. High-fat diets also contribute to excess energy intake leading to weight gain and obesity.
How much fat should we eat?
The WHO recommends that less than 30% of your daily energy consumption be from fats.
What type of fat is good for you?
Try to have unsaturated fats mainly, reduce saturated fats and avoid trans fats. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, avocados and some nuts.
How many calories should I eat a day?
This will depend on your age, gender, height, level of daily activity and other health conditions so it is best to seek advice from your doctor, a dietician or health professional.
The NHS recommends as a guideline 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 for men.
If you are overweight, you have likely exceeded your recommended intake in the past. If you want to reduce your weight, you will need to reduce your recommended intake for a period of time.
Is being overweight unhealthy?
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, cancer, mental illness, osteoarthritis and reduced mobility and death.
Am I overweight?
Overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more.
Your waist circumference is a better indicator of your internal fat deposits and risk of weight-related disease. It may be more important than your BMI.
Your risk of heart disease, stroke and death is increased if your waist is more than 80 cm (31.5 inches) for a non-pregnant woman and 94cm (37 inches) for a man.
Is alcohol really bad for you?
Alcohol, over time, can lead to numerous cancers, heart disease, stroke, mental illness, and death. Binge drinking is associated with accidents, injury, violence, crime and suicide.
Is some alcohol good for you?
Unfortunately, there is little evidence that the antioxidants in wine have any health benefit, and no amount of alcohol can be considered safe.
Combine these five dietary tips with good sleep, regular physical activity, and tobacco-free air. Based on what we know, your chances of living a healthy life to one hundred are greater than if you don’t.
Disclaimer. This is not individual medical advice. Dr Pillay can not provide individual medical advice and cannot respond to enquiries regarding your health. Consult with your doctor before making any dietary or lifestyle changes.
REFERENCES AND RESOURCES
Center for Disease Control US - Healthy weight recommendations
American Heart Foundation - Sugar intake recommendations
British Heart Foundation
World Health Organisation - Sugar intake recommendations
Health Direct Australia - BMI and waist circumference
Australian Heart Foundation
The Lancet - Safe alcohol levels