The life expectancy in the United States is currently 77 years of age. Yet the quality of life for senior citizens in this country is one of the poorest in the world.
There are a host of different reasons why this is so, but I believe there is something to be learned from the example of people in other countries and cultures who are consistently living much longer lives with a much higher quality of life to boot.
Longest Living Cultures
People with the longest life expectancies and concurrent high quality of life are from:
- Andorra—the mountainous region between France and Spain
- Vilcamba Valley—the Andes mountains in Ecuador
- Himalayas—the Hunzas in Pakistan are the 3rd longest-living group of people
- Abkhasians and Georgians live in a mountainous region near the Black Sea in Russia
- Macau in Southern China
- San Marino, a nation state in Italy
- Hong Kong
These groups have some general commonalities concerning their diet.
80,000 different edible species of plant foods have been identified. 3,000 have been commonly used throughout human history. 150 plant species are widely cultivated and yet just 3—corn, soy and wheat–account for 60% of the world’s food supply.
These subsidized crops are usually highly processed and refined and are contributing to the development of food allergies worldwide. We were never meant to rely on such a small range of foods and doing so puts us at severe risk both health-wise and environmentally.
Long-lived peoples eat a wide variety of foods and eat seasonally.
Japan’s recommended dietary intake is to eat 30 different varieties of food every day. Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore are some of the world’s largest seaports containing richly diverse cuisines from all over the world.
Fish is a very common staple in diets of the long-living. Whether they live in the mountains or by the sea, trade for fermented fish paste or eat brook trout, these cultures value fish in their diets. What is important to remember here is that the fish these cultures eat is, for the most part, wild-caught, not farmed.
Many of these people live in isolated regions that are as yet unaffected by the expansion of the Western diet and its processed and refined grain products. Buckwheat noodles are a staple in Japan, grasses are part of the Abkhasian and Hunza diets, the Swiss eat dark breads. Pulsed, sprouted and fermented grains are part of these traditional diets.
Vegetables, fruits, nuts and berries are found in abundance in these cultures’ diets. Long-living people eat natural and organic plant foods regularly that are free of pesticides and herbicides.
Contrary to popular belief, longevity doesn’t belong in the vegetarian domain. These people do eat a large quantity of herbs, fruits and vegetables, but animal products play a large role in their diets. Meats, cheeses, butters, yogurts and lard are staple components in these diets. These animals are grass-fed, free-range and respected.
Cultured dairy products are also another commonality with these groups. But the dairy products consumed are cultured by the people themselves in many cases, so they don’t consume the pasteurized and compromised products we do in the West.
Traditional diets all contain fermented products of some kind. Pulsed grains, fermented drinks, fish sauces, yogurt, pickled vegetables or cured meat—necessary methods of preservation–have made natural probiotics a common part of these diets.
Tea is another universal part of traditional diets. Herbal tonics and other brewed plant drinks are common to all long-lived cultures.
These cultures are also characterized by communal values and social interaction, meditative practices and moderate daily physical activity. Their nutritional choices are based on traditional wisdom—not TV. They eat what their ancestors have eaten for generations—not what commercial messages advertise as cheap and convenient.