The longevity diet: Here’s what to eat to live longer and keep your brain sharper.
Everyone hopes to live a long and healthy life. Science may have figured out the secret to nutrition for longevity. Award-winning researcher and Director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California, Dr. Valter Longo  has some exciting news for those looking to increase their lifespan. He is also the author of The Longevity Diet book, which is based on 25 years of research. The type and timing of foods you eat could lead you to a physically and mentally fit future in your 90s.
What is the longevity diet?
The longevity diet  is a combination of predominantly plant-based foods combined with elements of fasting. The longevity diet food list consists of foods high in complex carbohydrates, plant based proteins and fats. Limited intake of animal products is allowed. It is recommended to eat all meals within a 12-hour window, followed by 12 hours of fasting. Dr Longo recommends the longevity diet over the long term to reap benefits.
The workings of the longevity diet: Can it preserve brain health?
Best foods for longevity: Food based recommendations for longevity diet can be classified into 3 categories :
- Foods high in complex carbs: Dr Longo recommends a low-sugar approach. He suggests increasing intake of complex carbohydrates, which include whole grain products and vegetables. When harmful compounds accumulate in the body, they cause stress and inflammation. This is a cause of many disorders, including cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. High levels of inflammation are associated with shorter lifespan . Fibre from whole grains and vegetables help by providing protective compounds to fight inflammation , thus promoting a longer life with a well-protected brain.
- Foods high in plant-based fats: The longevity diet promotes high intake of plant-based fats, like olive oil and nuts. Dr Longo recommends at least 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 ounce (28g) of nuts per day. Extra virgin olive oil’s antioxidant (neutralises harmful compounds) is called oleuropein. This is known to help reduce dementia risk by clearing up Alzheimer’s chemicals. It is also protective against different types of stress, which is a cause of inflammation. In animal studies, oleuropein increased the lifespan by over 22% .
- Foods providing plant-based protein: The longevity diet recommends beans, chickpeas, green peas, and other legumes as the main source of protein. Intake of omega 3 (healthy fats) fish and seafood is encouraged in 2-3 meals/ week. A review of 32 studies on the effects of plant protein on brain health reported its benefits in decreasing inflammation and improving good gut bacteria, leading to overall health . One study found that replacing just 3% of animal protein with plant protein can help improve lifespan. Building blocks of brain chemicals like the happy chemical, serotonin (tryptophan) and the reward chemical, dopamine (tyrosine) are found in plant protein rich foods like tofu, dairy and chia seeds. Tyrosine can be taken in supplemental form as well. Read more about the world’s 1st natural 800mg tyrosine capsule from fermented corn here and buy it here for £29.99.
Fasting and longevity: How food timing benefits your brain
Limiting food intake to certain hours a day has shown to promote health benefits. This concept is called intermittent fasting. Multiple clinical trials were conducted to study the effect of time restricted eating among obese and diabetic participants. When all meals are consumed within 8-10 hours/day, beneficial effects such as body fat loss, regulated blood sugar levels and improved heart health were seen within 4-12 weeks . These effects compound to a longer, healthier life in the long run.
Fasting for a longer period, over 12 hours can improve brain health. Your brain requires a constant supply of energy. In absence of food for many hours, your brain starts using stored fat as fuel. This has shown to promote cognitive benefits. Your brain builds up resilience and activates new brain cells production, especially in the learning and memory area of the brain . Read more about this here. Long periods of fasting must be conducted after discussion with your medical professional to ensure it is safe for you.
Eating the right foods at the right time might be the simple secret to a long and healthy life. To increase your chances to make it to a 100, get started on Dr Longo recommendations to fast right, eat complex carbohydrates and get your fats and protein from plants today.
- Valter Longo. (2023). The Longevity Diet. [online]
- Longo, V. D., & Anderson, R. M. (2022). Nutrition, longevity and disease: From molecular mechanisms to interventions. Cell, 185(9), 1455–1470.
- Baik, S.-H. et al. (2020). Intermittent fasting increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Brain and Behavior, [online] 10(1), p.e01444.
- Valter Longo. (2019). Daily Longevity Diet for Adults - Valter Longo. [online]
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- Matt, S.M. et al. (2018). Butyrate and Dietary Soluble Fiber Improve Neuroinflammation Associated With Aging in Mice. Frontiers in Immunology, 9.
- Feng, S. et al. (2021). Oleuropein Enhances Stress Resistance and Extends Lifespan via Insulin/IGF-1 and SKN-1/Nrf2 Signaling Pathway in Caenorhabditis elegans. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 10(11), 1697.
- Medawar, E. et al. (2019). The effects of plant-based diets on the body and the brain: a systematic review. Translational Psychiatry, [online] 9(1).