Low-carb diets are all the rage these days.
Keto, Paleo, Primal, Atkins, LCHF, or anything else you want to call it. They are all close low-carb cousins.
But here’s the thing: the longest-lived people in the world don’t eat a low-carb diet.
In the Blue Zones — the places around the world where people live the longest — they actually eat a HIGH-carb diet.
That’s right, carbs are the predominant macronutrient among the world’s centenarians. To be exact, about 65% of their food intake comes from carbs, 20% from fat, and only 15% from protein.
But we’re not talking about simple refined carbs.
The bulk of their diet is made up of complex carbs in the form of beans, greens, sweet potatoes, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Beans are their superfood, which serves as a microcosm for their diet overall — after all, beans are made up of 77% complex carbohydrates (along with 21% protein and only a small percentage of fat).
This certainly isn’t an excuse to binge on pizza and donuts in the name of longevity.
People in the Blue Zones consume no more than 7 teaspoons of added sugar per day (which is about a fifth as much added sugar as North Americans eat). They reserve sweets, cookies, and cakes for special occasions, usually eaten as part of a meal.
And the bread they eat is either 100% whole grain (made from whole wheat, rye, or barley) or sourdough. The sourdough bread in the Blue Zones contains naturally-occurring bacteria which digest the starches and results in much lower levels of gluten, while also lowering the glycemic load of meals.
Processed carbs are not eaten in the Blue Zones. They consume real, whole foods — eaten raw, cooked, ground, or fermented. A full recipe for a main dish usually contains only a half dozen or so ingredients, simply blended together.
Devotees of low-carb eating often dial up their protein intake. But high-protein diets actually accelerate aging, whereas low protein intake is associated with a major reduction in cancer and overall mortality.
Therefore, it should not be surprising that the longest-lived people eat the least amount of protein. In particular, people in the Blue Zones eat only small amounts of meat (about 2 ounces or less of meat about 5 times per month), fish (3 ounces or less up to 3 times per week), and eggs (usually just one egg as a side dish, 2–4 times per week).
In fact, 90–100% of the Blue Zones diet is plant-based — when you eat that way, you’ll naturally be reducing your protein intake.
Healthy fats come in the form of olive oil and nuts (the most common snack in the Blue Zones).
If you want to live to 100, it would be smart to eat like the people who’ve lived to 100.
The reality is there are not any extremely long-lived populations who eat a low-carb, high-protein diet.
The five places around the world where they live the longest ALL eat a high-carb, low-protein diet.
Be careful what you read in the headlines, trendy books, or latest ‘lose weight fast’ promises. Maybe you’ll drop a few pounds in the short term, but there is a good chance you’ll harm your health in the long run.
If you want to live long and healthy, don’t fear carbs. Eat lots of them. Just make sure they’re the healthy ‘whole food’ kind.
If lots of people eating a ketogenic diet start living to 100 and beyond, then maybe I’ll change my stance.
But until then, I’m sticking with the Blue Zones way of eating.