Lessons from ‘The Longevity Plan’

This book was the one which started my note-taking habit. There was just so much interesting and useful information that I wanted to be able to remember it. I read it, then I read it again and took notes.

The main author is Dr John D. Day, who is a cardiologist and speaker of Mandarin, along with his wife Jane Ann Day and Matthew LaPlante.

He went to study a village in China where a disproportionate amount of people live to one hundred or more.

General message: if we apply the principles they live by/their way of life to our lives we will be healthier and happier.

Seven principles:

  1. Eat Good Food
  2. Master Your Mindset
  3. Build Your Place in a Positive Community
  4. Be in Motion
  5. Find Your Rhythm
  6. Make the Most of Your Environment
  7. Proceed with Purpose

So here’s the first one:

Eat Good Food

Surround yourself with food that is good for you

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As you are reading this I would guess that you have more than likely surrounded yourself with food that is not good for you. We all do it, those bars of chocolate and packets of crisps and biscuits stashed in the cupboard ready for the post-lunch dip. Unless you have a great level of willpower then at some point you will eat them. In order to surround yourself with food that is good for you then you need to clear your cupboards of junk food. Maybe it feels wasteful to throw food out. You could give it to a food bank instead. Then, fill the cupboards with healthy food. When you are peckish and bored at three o’clock in the afternoon you won’t be able to munch through that packet of biscuits as they won’t be there anymore.  You just have a handful of nuts or an apple with some peanut butter to eat.

Eat unrefined grains

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We all know this – brown rice, bread, pasta, etc. The low carb movement has increased in popularity recently and many people try to reduce the amount of grains they are consuming as a route to weight loss. On the BBC Food Programme in 2018 the issue of fibre was discussed and the view that without these carbohydrates we wouldn’t consume enough fibre. Apparently, there are many types of fibre and just eating vegetables does not provide the full range. If you do choose to each grains, and Dr Day says that we should, they should be whole grains.  An alternative is the recent ‘pasta’ products that have appeared on the shelf in some supermarkets which are made of red lentils or green split peas.

Eat one portion of fruit and two portions of vegetables at every meal

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In the UK we are advised to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but Dr Day recommends two portions of vegetables and one portion of fruit with every meal. If, like many people, you’re struggling with this it may be because for most people breakfast rarely features vegetables. That’s where everyone goes wrong. We have moved away from the unhealthy fry up to ‘healthier’ cereals, but in fact we are eating dessert for breakfast. Muesli, followed by toast with jam, washed down with a glass of juice is just sugar, then sugar with sugar on top, accompanied by liquid sugar. What we should be eating and what would make getting those veggies in before midday easier is having some eggs to start the day. My accompanying veggies of choice are mushrooms, avocado and sweet potato. You may be thinking that you don’t have time to made a cooked breakfast, but how long does it really take to scramble some eggs? Cooking the mushrooms may take a little longer and I would suggest steaming the sweet potato on a day when you have plenty of time and then reheating the leftovers on subsequent days. You should be able to cook and eat your breakfast within 20-30 minutes.

Eat nuts and pumpkin seeds                           

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According to Dr Day nuts help to maintain a healthy weight, prevent cardiovascular disease and fight back premature death – lofty claims!  Pumpkin seeds are even better – a superfood no less! Historically nuts were avoided, and still are by some, due to being high in fat. Their promotion now is because is it recognised that we need fat and apparently nuts are full of ‘good fats’ – not sure exactly what this means, but eating a handful a day is considered good for us. The fat also keeps you full, as opposed to a biscuit which lasts a couple of seconds and makes you feel hungrier in the long run rather than satiated. Buying five cute plastic containers and filling them with a daily portion of pumpkin seeds and nuts on a Sunday will make sticking to this easy. You won’t have to think about it each morning, just put the pot in your bag before you go out of the door and you’re all set.

One portion of lentils/beans, every day

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In Britain we have the famous ‘baked beans’ which most people eat and I think are regarded as a good source of fibre, but unfortunately also contain a lot of sugar. A couple of years ago I saw a display in a chemist shop’s window which showed the amount of sugar in several products. One of them was a tin of baked beans and there were five sugar cubes sitting in front of it. Instead we need to eat the beans without all of that sugary sauce. It’s as easy as emptying a tin of kidney beans or a handful of dried red lentils into your stew or curry. Red lentils cook really quickly. They’re particularly good if you’ve added a bit too much stock. Dried lentils and tinned beans keep in the cupboard for years.

Fish – particularly mackerel, salmon and sardines

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I have recently discovered how easy it is to make your own fishcakes. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a great recipe using tinned mackerel. You coat the fish cakes in polenta which gives them a crisp coating when fried. As he aptly says this is a good store cupboard recipe which can use up some old potatoes. Polenta is not something that everyone will have, but once you buy a bag it lasts for ages, like other grains.

Drinking water

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Drinking two litres of water a day can burn as many as 96 calories. He advises drinking when you’re feeling thirsty, when you’re feeling hungry and 30 minutes before every meal. Please don’t buy bottled water. Hopefully the focus on plastic recently will make you reluctant to increase the rubbish we create which ends up in landfill or our oceans. It is also a complete waste of money – just buy a pretty reusable bottle that you enjoy using and fill it from the tap. It’s free and it’s good for you. If you don’t like the taste of plain water just add a slice of lemon or a few crushed mint leaves to the bottle. Please don’t add squash as that is just sugar.

Eat sweet potatoes several times a week

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Apparently these are one of the best sources in the world for beta-carotene, which helps maintain healthy skin. Sweet potato fries have become trendy recently.  I often choose these as an alternative to regular fries, but apparently they can be covered in unhealthy oils, sugar and salt and therefore should be avoided if this is the case. You might want to try making your own sweet potato wedges at home, but if you can get them crispy in the oven I’d be interested to know how you do it.

No snacking before bed – twelve hour fasting window

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Once you’ve eaten your dinner, that’s it, no more food until breakfast. Satchin Panda, who writes about circadian rhythms, says that your body needs time to repair and if you are still digesting food during the night it is like trying to patch tarmac on the motorway with cars still driving up and down the road. A great analogy I thought.

So that’s it for the moment. I am sure that you are familiar with some of these suggestions, but maybe not all of them. A few things to try maybe before next time when I will be looking at ‘Master Your Mindset’.

7 Replies to “Lessons from ‘The Longevity Plan’”

  1. I thought this was going to be the same old list I’ve seen doing the rounds but no, there was stuff here I hadn’t seen before, so thanks for posting! Particularly the thing about people eating ‘dessert’ for breakfast! I don’t have 20-30 minutes in the morning (not planning to wake up 20-30 mins earlier!) so would only cook an egg breakfast at weekends. Normally, I have ‘dessert’ (a breakfast bar) too, but I also have fruit or a portion of nuts.

    For Halloween, I roasted (and enjoyed) the pumpkin seeds I scooped out of the pumpkin. Didn’t know they were a superfood, so will pick some up to snack on.

    And lentils – never something I’d consider buying but I do make casseroles a lot so could chuck some in to add some fibre.

    Same with sweet potatoes, I often have the fries when I go out but never think to buy them myself at home.

    Looks like I’ve got a couple of new items to add to my shopping trolley this weekend!

  2. I agree with Weenie above that this isn’t the same old list of ways to eat healthier! You’ve given me lots of great, easy changes I can make right now. Drinking water is a big one. My dad cured his gout by massively increasing his water intake. He used to have to take medication to keep it at bay, but now, just drinking more water allows him to be off the meds AND eat pretty much whatever he wants!

    1. Chrissy, that is amazing. It is scary how much medication we take nowadays when simple dietary changes can have the same effect.

  3. Great article, love it! And I’m very happy that a few of my favorite foods are on the list; fish, sweet potatoes, beans & I also love veggies. Keep it up!

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