E is for Eat

A carnivore, a vegan, a 100-year-old from Sardinia walk into a bar … just kidding. They would never walk into the same bar because none of them would ever be able to agree on what to drink (or eat)!

When it comes to longevity, there are A LOT of opinions out there about the best way to eat.  

The E in the HOP “BEAMSSSS” is for Eat.  

Food is fuel.  But it does much more than fill up your gas tank.  Food communicates with your cells and tells them exactly what to do and how to do it.  Food is one of the strongest signals you give your body telling it how to age.  And yet, there’s a good chance you are unclear exactly WHAT to eat and WHAT NOT to eat because everyone is telling you something different.  Let’s make it simple by focusing on just a few key principles: 

Choose whole foods with lots of plants, grains, and healthy fats: 

One of the most studied diets associated with improved longevity is the Mediterranean diet.  The Mediterranean diet is characterized by high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats such as olive oil. This diet is also rich in fish and seafood and low in red meat and processed foods. 

The Mediterranean diet has been associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Additionally, it has been linked to increased longevity. Studies have shown that people who follow a Mediterranean diet are less likely to die from any cause. This is likely due to the diet’s anti-inflammatory properties, which reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Additionally, the Mediterranean diet is rich in antioxidants, which help to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Overall, the Mediterranean diet provides a balanced and healthy way of eating that benefits both short-term and long-term health and can contribute to aging gracefully.

Data from the Blue Zones, where people live particularly long and healthy lives, have also shown that a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods is a key factor in promoting longevity. 

One example of a Blue Zone is Sardinia, Italy, where people have one of the highest concentrations of centenarians globally. They eat a diet that is mainly plant-based and consume moderate amounts of sheep’s milk and cheese and occasional pork.

Fiber is fabulous! 

A large-scale analysis of nearly 250 studies has revealed that consuming a diet high in fiber from sources such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can significantly reduce the risk of death from heart disease and cancer. The study found that individuals who consumed the most fiber had a 16-24% lower risk of dying from cardiac disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer than those who consumed little to no fiber. The study also found that the more fiber a person consumes, the more significant the risk reduction. For every 8 grams of dietary fiber consumed daily, the risk for each disease fell by an additional 5-27%. The greatest risk reduction was observed when daily fiber intake was 25-29 grams.

Two observational studies also showed that a diet high in fiber was associated with a decreased risk of death from any cause. The individuals who consumed the highest amounts of fiber had a 23% lower risk of dying than those who consumed the least. These studies found that the associations were stronger for fiber from cereals and vegetables than for fruit.

Another benefit of high-fiber diets is weight control. Foods high in fiber, such as whole grains, tend to make you feel full for a longer period, which can help you eat less. A large study found that adults who consumed several servings of whole grains daily were less likely to gain weight or gain less weight than those who rarely ate whole grains.

Protein – How much is enough? 

Have you ever attended a dinner party and witnessed what happens when a protein-loving carnivore butts heads with a plant-loving vegetarian?  It’s not a pretty sight!  In fact, how much protein and what type of protein are two of the most controversial questions when it comes to longevity.  

On the one hand, studies have shown that people who reach a very old age do not consume a lot of animal protein. Most studies have found that a more plant-based diet is much healthier than a diet high in animal protein. A high-animal-protein diet can accelerate the accumulation of proteins, a hallmark of aging, and plays a role in several chronic diseases. Additionally, studies have shown that restricting protein, macronutrients, or essential amino acids can extend lifespan and that too many carbs accelerate aging by stimulating the insulin and IGF-1 pathways. Animal protein also activates important aging pathways like mTOR, insulin, and the IGF-1 pathway, accelerating aging.

But we also know that protein is necessary to prevent age-related muscle weakness (sarcopenia) and that preventing sarcopenia is a BIG deal.  Research tells us that the loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with aging is associated with an increased risk of falls, fractures, disability, and death.  Just as importantly, losing muscle strength means you can’t do what you want to do – hiking with your partner, skiing with your kids, or even lifting your bag into the overhead bin during that around-the-world trip you can’t wait to take.  

At HOP, we believe erring on the side of getting a little MORE protein than necessary is better than getting too little. Depending on your age and activity level, we recommend a minimum of 0.5 – 1 g/protein per pound of body weight.   Of course, those muscles will not build themselves without a fair amount of time at the gym, lifting heavy things and often flexing in the mirrors!

To start your longevity-loving diet, adopt the below “Action Steps” today!  And, if you’re feeling extra spicy, dive into our “Lightning Strikes,” which require a bit more creativity and time but will be well worth it.  

Action Steps:

  1. Choose a diet rich in plants, including many colorful fruits and vegetables, which are chock full of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Aim for 25-30 grams of fiber daily. 
  2. Add in high-quality protein.  Depending on your body type and activity level, you’ll want at least 0.5 – 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.   
  3. Avoid trans fats – The FDA banned artificial trans fats in 2018, but sometimes these sneaky fats are still found in things like fast food, vegetable oils, and baked goods. 

Lightning Strikes:

  1. When eating simple carbohydrates or sugars, add some protein and healthy fat to reduce the blood sugar spike and keep you fuller for longer.
  2. Start a dinner club with friends where you alternate cooking. Focus on preparing healthy, delicious meals with fresh, minimally processed ingredients. 
  3. Wear a glucose monitor for a few weeks to see what foods spike your blood sugar.  High sugar levels over time can increase insulin and lead to diabetes.  Levels and Signos are two brands that offer CGMs.  Examples of CGM’s include Levels, NutriSense, and Signos.

Changing how you eat may be hard at first, but commitment is not feelings; it’s a choice. With time and effort, you can create comfort in change. Your life choices stick to you, and your choices about your diet will directly impact your overall health and longevity.

To get more information and support on achieving these goals go to Hopbox.life and join the community and follow us on Discord, IG, Tik Tok, FB and Youtube. 

By Amy Killen, MD


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