Best diets for longevity

Looking back through the decades there have been a lot of different diet trends come and go. From the ‘Inuit diet’ of the 1930’s to ‘Macrobiotics’ in the 60’s. Recently it seems that the Paleo diet and Keto diet have attracted the most attention. And as far as diet fads go these two diets seem to have the most value.


The Mediterranean diet on the other hand is based on a traditional way of life based on the traditional eating habits of people from countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Italy, and Spain. While the specifics vary from region to region, generally the diet is based around fresh, seasonal, and local foods and has stood the test of time.

The Mediterranean diet has been praised for promoting brain and physical health and keeping chronic diseases at bay. The health benefits linked to the Mediterranean diet are a lowered risk of the following:

  • Mortality and morbidity (disease occurrence)
  • Cancer, cognitive disease and metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity, and type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease aided by the presence of an antioxidant called hydroxytyrosol, found in foods that are hallmarks of the diet (fruits, nuts, extra-virgin olive oil) which protects against free radical damage

The Mediterranean diet is based on the following food choices:

  • High intake of plant-based foods. Fresh fruit and vegetables such as non starchy veggies, including zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, artichokes, dark greens and avocado.
    Starchy veggies, including sweet potatoes, potatoes, and root vegetables. Legumes such as lentils, dried peas, beans, and chickpeas (like hummus).
    All fruits, including peaches, cherries, apricots, and berries (like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries)
  • Moderate intake of fish, poultry and eggs
  • Low intake of dairy products (mostly yoghurt and cheese), red and processed meats, and sweets.
  • Wine is typically consumed in moderation and, normally, with a meal.
  • Stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full to avoid weight gain.
  • Eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.

An important aspect of the Mediterranean diet is the environment in which the food is eaten. There is a strong cultural focus on the social aspect of mealtimes. They have social circles that reinforce healthy behaviours. Placing an emphasis on sharing with community and family, resting after eating, Regular physical activity is a part of life while also taking time to de-stress.


The Mediterranean diet shares a lot of similarities with the other regions in the world with the healthiest diets. A good way to investigate this topic is to look at a great book called The Blue Zone of Happiness written by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic explorer and author who struck out on a quest in 2000 to find the lifestyle secrets to longevity.

Dan travelled around the world (with a bunch of researchers such as anthropologists, demographers, epidemiologists) to study communities that had been identified as having the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world. Coined ‘The Blue Zones’ the four main Blue Zones were found to be in Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, Calif.; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.

To qualify as a Blue Zone, these communities also have to be largely free of afflictions like heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes. What they found was that these individual cultures shared some important similarities in lifestyle and food choices.

Diet and lifestyle habits for longevity:

  • Eat mostly plant based foods.
  • Eat meat rarely, in small portions of 3 to 4 ounces. Blue Zoners eat portions this size just five times a month, on average. In other words, they save meats for Sunday dinners and special occasions
  • Drink Alcohol in moderation in a social environment i.e. 1-2 glasses a day.
  • Cook with extra-virgin olive oil
  • Reduce sugar intake

Some specific foods found in the diet of centenarians around the world:

Ikaria, Greece

  • Potatoes and root vegetables, legumes (especially garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, and lentils), wild greens, some fruit
  • Goat’s milk and feta cheese, goats meat on special occasions and relatively small amounts of fish
  • Lemons and herbs like sage and marjoram that Ikarians use in their daily tea.
  • Honey

Okinawa, Japan

  • Seaweed and tofu
  • Sweet potato
  • brown rice
  • Turmeric and garlic
  • Shitake mushrooms
  • Bitter melons
  • Green tea

Ogliastra Region, Sardinia,

  • Goat’s milk and Pecorino cheese made from the milk of grass-fed sheep in Sardinia, has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Locally produced wine from Grenache grapes.
  • Sourdough bread and barley.
  • Fennel & milk thistle tea
  • Fava beans, chickpeas, almonds
  • Tomatoes

Loma Linda, Calif.

There’s a Blue Zone community in the U.S. amongst members of the Seventh-day Adventists. They follow a “biblical” diet focused on grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables with small amounts of meat and fish. They drink only water, prohibit smoking, drinking alcohol avoid media and dancing. Sugar intake is frowned upon as well except in natural sources like fruit, dates or figs.

Their main foods include: avocados, salmon, nuts, beans, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and soy milk.

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

  • Rice and beans
  • Eggs and cheese
  • Fruit & Veges such as squash, yams and corn plus papayas,bananas and peach palms (a small Central American oval fruit high in vitamins A and C)
For more photos from the Blue Zones, head to National Geographic.