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Dietary Guidelines for a Healthy Longevity Diet

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The Foundation of Nutritional Medicine

The food that you eat makes a difference in how you feel everyday and in your long term and short term health and wellness

Nutritional Medicine focuses on a healthy diet of natural, whole foods prepared in a healthy way as one of the primary means of promoting a long and happy life.

Diet plays a major role in determining your health. Dietary practices cause both health and illness. Certain dietary practices can provide immediate and long term therapeutic benefits.

Wellness does not just happen to you. Wellness purposefully proceeds in accordance to some design. The more you can support this design for wellness the better able you are to support ongoing health and healing.

By eating a diet that is whole, vital, and balanced you will generate wellness as a purposeful activity in your body. Nutritional Medicine offers key dietary recommendations for a health and wellness promoting diet.

Eat as if the food you are eating is a source of healing power for you - because it is.

Dietary Guidelines for a Healthy Longevity Diet

Diets, diets everywhere – no carb, low carb, low fat, Zone, Atkins, Beverly Hills, Maker’s Diet, Blood Type Diet.

What’s a health conscious person to do?

Diet plays a major role in determining your level of health. Certain dietary practices prevent - and others cause - a wide range of diseases and illnesses.

Research tells us again and again that the most healthy and effective weight control diets are diets that have worked for centuries. These age old diets (such as The Mediterranean diet and The Okinawa diet) are always high in carbohydrates and rich in healthy fat. These traditional longevity diets are satisfying and can be enjoyed and therefore maintained for the long term. They include lots of plant foods and few processed foods. You can eat more and weigh less Here are some of the top guidelines for promoting a healthy longevity diet.

1. Maintain a balanced and moderate diet

As is the mantra in many successful ventures – balance and moderation in your diet will yield you the most long term health advantages.

Nutritious eating has nothing to do with "fad" diets. Restrictive diets serve little purpose other than to increase the likelihood of nutritional deficiencies and compromised health. Avoiding even one food group can jeopardize your nutritional health by increasing the risk of developing deficiencies of the nutrients supplied by that food group.

The human body is complex and has specific requirements for health. There are at least 45 different vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and other components that we know our bodies need and must be obtained from our diet for us to remain healthy. A deficiency in any one of these components can result in mild poor health or a wide range of serious symptoms and diseases.

A diet characterized by excess or restriction can lead to biochemical chaos in the body and eventually to poor health. Even minor sub-optimal nutrition combined with unhealthy lifestyles and excessive stress can lead to chronic ill-health and degenerative diseases.

The balanced diet will give you the essential 45 nutrients in a variety of foods in a wide variety of combinations and caloric intakes in sufficient quantities and in the proper proportion to each other to assure optimal nutritional health. A balanced diet is simple, comprehensive and easy to follow.

2. Eat a predominately plant based diet. Reduce your consumption of meat.

Humans are omnivores. We are designed to eat and digest both plant and animal foods. However, based on our evolution and our anatomy humans are designed to process a diet that is mostly plant based - with animal foods contributing a smaller portion of our dietary needs.

Our bodies are designed to get most of their nutrients and energy from plant foods. It is believed that humans have evolved to eat approximately 1.5% of their diet as animal foods. Most Americans eat well over 50% of their calories from animal foods.

The higher your consumption of meat and other animal products the greater your risk of degenerative diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Meat does not contain antioxidants and phytochemicals. Meat does contain high amounts of saturated fats and potentially toxic compounds such as heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which form when meat is grilled, fried or broiled. The more well done the meat the higher these harmful compounds.

The meat that our ancestors ate was much different than the supermarket meat of today. Today’s supermarket meat contains 25 to 30% fat (to make it tender) compared to wild meat which has a fat content of less than 4%. The fat composition of domestic meat is primarily saturated fat with almost no omega-3 fatty acids (the good fat). The fat of wild animals contains more than five times the polyunsaturated fat per gram and has about 4% (a substantial amount) of omega-3 fatty acids. Range fed animals also contain ten times as much conjugated linoleic acid (CLA - which has been shown to have anticancer effects).

The meats that have the greatest negative effects are cured or smoked meats such as bacon, ham, and hot dogs which contain sodium nitrate and/or sodium nitrites. These compounds act to retard spoilage but increase the risk of cancer and diabetes.

It is wise to reduce the amount of meat and certain other animal products in your diet. When you do eat meat choose lean varieties. With beef choose extra lean ground beef, sirloin, round steak/roast, rump, strip sirloin stew beef or tenderloin. With pork choose leg or butt roast, tenderloin or center cut loin. With poultry choose white meat (50% less fat than dark meat) and skinless. The Mediterranean Diet limits red meat consumption to a few times a month.

When including meat in your diet follow these guidelines:

  • Limit red meat to once or twice a month
  • Limit your serving size of meat to 3-4 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards)
  • Choose the leanest cuts of meat (see above)
  • Avoid eating well-done or charbroiled meat.
  • Don’t eat meat with nitrates or nitrites
  • Buy organic, free range meat and poultry or wild game

3. Include more vegetables in your diet.

The Latin root of vegetables means "to enliven or animate". Vegetables give you life and vitality and are the main focus of any health promoting diet. Vegetables are full of nutrients and low in calories. Even those "high carbohydrate" vegetables are good for you. The healthy diet recommendation for vegetables in your diet is to include 8-10 servings of cooked vegetables every day. Yes, that is 4-5 cups of vegetables a day (if you require increased dietary calories the recommended servings can increase to 13.)

A serving of vegetables equals 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables.

We are not a nation of vegetable eaters.

Only one in five children eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and nearly 25 percent of all the vegetables they consumed are French fries (which of course are not really vegetables). On any four consecutive days, only 14 percent of women eat even one dark green vegetable.

Vegetables provide the broadest nutrient range of any food group. They are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and protein.

Eating more vegetables and salads will create a stronger immune system, help you fight fatigue, and maintain a healthy weight. Fresh vegetables and salads contain essential minerals and vitamins. They also supply powerful phytochemicals that are protective against cancers and other degenerative diseases.

Numerous population studies have demonstrated that a high intake of carotene rich and flavonoid rich fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, and strokes. Eating more vegetables also decreases your risk of high blood pressure and obesity.

Eating vegetables keeps you looking younger, acting younger and thinking younger.

There are many dietary substances in vegetables that promote health. Vegetables are a major source of antioxidants such as vitamin C and folic acid that protect us against free radicals. Vegetables provide phytochemicals such as carotenes, chlorophyll, and flavonoids. Vegetables are a good source of dietary fiber and enzymes.

Generally, more nutrients are absorbed from cooked vegetables. Vegetables should be lightly cooked by steaming, baking and quick stir-frying in olive oil. It is important not to overcook vegetables as this will result in nutrient loss as well as loss of flavor. Avoid boiling vegetables unless you are making soup. Fresh vegetables are the first choice with frozen vegetables preferred over canned.

It is a good rule to include at least 2 servings of raw vegetables a day. But avoid more than four servings of week of raw vegetables from members of the cabbage family. These vegetables are high in goitrogens and can interfere with proper thyroid function when eaten raw. Cooking deactivates the goitrogens.

There are many systems for eating vegetables that ensure you eat a balanced variety of vegetables. Below are two. Choose one that works for you. If it gets too complicated just eat more vegetables every day and every day eat different vegetables.

1. By Type

Green leafy and cruciferous vegetables – 4 or more servings a day

  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Beet greens
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Chard
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Cilantro
  • Collard greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Endive
  • Escarole
  • Kale
  • Lettuce (the darker the better)
  • Lamb's quarters
  • Leeks
  • Mustard greens
  • Parsley
  • Plantain greens
  • Scallions
  • Spinach
  • Turnip greens
  • Watercress

Low Glycemic Load Vegetables – 3 or more servings a day

  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Bean sprouts
  • Bell peppers
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Fennel
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb
  • Snow peas,
  • String beans
  • Summer squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

Starchy vegetables – 1-2 servings a day

  • Beets
  • Burdock,
  • Daikon root,
  • Parsnips
  • Pumpkin
  • Rhubarb
  • Rutabaga
  • Yams
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turnip
  • Winter, acorn or butternut squash

2. By color. Eat a rainbow of colors. Choose at least one vegetable/fruit a day from each color group.


  • Red apples
  • Red bell peppers
  • Red hot peppers
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Red grapes
  • Radishes
  • Red plums
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon

Dark and light green

  • Green apples
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Green bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Chard
  • Collard greens
  • Cucumbers
  • Green grapes
  • Honeydew melons
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard greens
  • Swiss chard
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Spinach
  • Turnip greens
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Watercress
  • Avocado
  • Bok choy
  • Limes
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Zucchini
  • Scallions


  • Yellow apples
  • Banana
  • Yellow bell peppers
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Yellow squash


  • Bok choy
  • Leeks
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Cauliflower
  • Fennel
  • Scallions
  • Garlic


  • Apricots
  • Orange bell peppers
  • Butternut squash
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Mangoes
  • Oranges
  • Pumpkin
  • Papaya
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams
  • Tangerines
  • Tangelos


  • Beets
  • Blueberries
  • Currants
  • Blackberries
  • Purple cabbage
  • Cherries
  • Eggplant
  • Red onions
  • Purple grapes
  • Red pears
  • Purple plums

4. Eat food high in antioxidants.

More antioxidants mean less cell damage. Less damage equals younger looking skin (fewer wrinkles) and organs that wear out more slowly (younger functioning organs). Free radicals (those pesky unstable molecules) are all around us and taken together they can result in a few billion damaging hits a day to our cellular integrity. Free radical damage is thought to be the major cause of aging and disease.

The foods we eat provide a major source of either adding fuel to the free radical fire or quenching their fire.

Instead of munching down those empty calories that only add to your free radical attack - switch to increasing your consumption of antioxidant rich foods. The antioxidant concentration in your blood stream at any one time is the basis of your free radical protection system. If you eat a predominately plant based diet you will be exposing yourself to an abundance of healthy antioxidants

The most antioxidant rich foods are legumes, vegetables then grains and fruits. The majority of plant foods contain high levels of antioxidants . Some plant foods contribute pharmacological levels of antioxidants

Some power antioxidant foods

  • Green tea
  • Shitake mushrooms
  • Extra firm tofu
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Miso
  • Carrots and carrots tops
  • Jasmine tea
  • Bitter melon
  • Zucchini
  • Dried kelp
  • Seaweed sheets
  • Onions
  • Bean sprouts
  • Soybeans
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Purple potatoes
  • Green peppers
  • Sweet peppers

5. Eat foods high in calcium

(2-4 servings). Calcium foods are good for you. Foods high in calcium strengthen your bones, prevents osteoporosis, helps prevent colon cancer, high blood pressure and premenstrual syndrome.

You can get your calcium from vegetarian sources such as green leafy vegetables, seaweed, and soy products.

You can also get your calcium from dairy products. However, dairy products are not necessary for strong bones. In traditional societies where they eat few or no dairy products osteoporosis rates are low. (This may have more to do with their high rate of physical activity rather than with their diet.) As you get older there is an increased tendency to become lactose intolerant. It is estimated that 70% of the world’s population cannot digest dairy products.

If you do eat dairy it should be organic and mostly nonfat or low fat varieties for adults. Stick to 2 servings a day for adults

For every gram of protein that you eat you can lose 1-2 mg of calcium. It used to be thought that high protein diets meant greater risk of osteoporosis. That relationship is not so clear cut anymore. However, if you maintain a high protein diet for an extended amount of time with a marginal calcium intake this may increase your risk of an osteoporitic fracture.

You can include many calcium rich foods in your diet. Women need approximately 1200 –1500 mg of calcium a day (2000 mg if you are at risk for osteoporosis).

Here are some of the top calcium foods.

  • Yogurt – 291 mg
  • 1 cup of fortified orange juice - 300 mg
  • 1 cup of fortified rice milk - 240 mg (although rice milk products may be too high in sugar to be the best choice)
  • 1 cup of fortified soymilk - 160 mg
  • Fish and shell fish
  • Soy products: tofu, tempeh, soy nuts, soy milk, miso(very good), tamari. Do not go over board with using soy. The fermented types of soy such as miso and tamari are the most healthy. Just include soy as a part of your diet in moderation 30 - 60 grams a day. Watch for allergic reactions, though, as soy is a more allergenic food than dairy.
  • Beans and legumes - excellent sources and excellent dietary addition (1 cup of black beans = 135 mg; 1 cup of black-eyed peas = 210 mg)
  • Dark green leafy vegetables especially sea vegetables (1/4 cup a week is plenty of sea vegetables to include in your diet) - vegetables are great and no real downsides ( 1 cup of collard greens = 350 mg; 1 cup of broccoli = 160 mg)
  • Nuts and seeds - if you are not allergic these are great additions to your diet ( 1/2 cup of almonds - 190 mg; 1/4 cup of tahini -sesame seed paste = 135 mg - calcium is better absorbed in tahani than from whole sesame seeds)

6. Increase the variety in your diet.

Eating a variety of foods will improve the likelihood of getting an adequate intake of all the nutrients needed for health, well-being and growth.

Try the easy rainbow rule for each of your meals. In each meal include red, yellow, white, brown, blue, green, purple, and orange foods. By including a rainbow of colors in your diet you help assure that you are getting the full spectrum of antioxidants and nutrients that are needed for optimal functioning and protection against disease.

The longevity standard for variety is 18 different foods a day. Including more variety in your diet will help you rotate your foods better. Food rotation is based on a 4 day rotation. When you eat a food on Day 1 you want to wait until Day 4 to include it in your diet again. So the old trick of having the same thing every day for breakfast or lunch does not really serve you – no matter how healthy the food is.

Proper food rotation actually rotates food families and not just a particular food. However, for increasing variety rotating particular foods will go a long way in providing a more healthy diet. Food rotation is an important factor in avoiding food that you may have developed a sensitivity to and will also to help you prevent the development of food sensitivities or intolerances.


© Copyright 1997 - 2008 by Mary Ann Copson and Evenstar. All rights reserved.

About the Author:
Mary Ann Copson is the founder of the Evenstar Mood & Energy Wellness Center for Women. With Master's Degrees in Human Development and Psychology and Counseling, Mary Ann is a Certified Licensed Nutritionist; Certified Holistic Health Practitioner; Brain Chemistry Profile Clinician; and a Health, Wellness and Lifestyle Coach. Reconnect to your physical, emotional, mental, psychological and spiritual natural rhythms at

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