Maybe the Vegetarians Have Something Right.
Anyone who knows me has heard me profess the benefits and needs for animal protein in ones diet. So while I can and will continue to debate the necessity of animal sources at another time, this discussion deals solely with LONGEVITY and the study of those cultures that have shown an ability to outlive most others.
So while I attempt to type with my right hand, while my left hand desperately clutches my delicious NY Strip, here is what we have learned from the Sardinians, Nicoyans and Okinawans, three of the “Blue Zone” cultures with very long life expectancies.
LESSON #3: MINIMIZE OR EVEN AVOID MEAT (I know, it hurts me to say this, but read my asterisk at the end.)
These cultures largely avoided meat-more accurately, they simply don’t have access to it, except on very rare or special occasions. Instead the supplemented their diets with:
1. Durum wheat (Sardinia).
2. Sweet Potato (Okinawa)
3. Maize (Nicoya)
It is important to remember that our bodies can’t store protein. So while we need protein for a variety of reasons, our bodies will turn unused protein into fat. For most people over the age of 19, we only need .8 grams of protein for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of our body weight, which for most people would amount to 50-80 grams (1.8 to 2.8 ounces) of protein daily. (Remember to read my asterisk at the end.)
The common thread amonst the long living cultures is the use of Beans, whole grains, garden vegetables as cornerstones of their longevity diets. And to be clear, ALL health experts agree on the need for most of us to focus on including more legumes and vegetables into our diets. (The need for grains is highly debatable.)
So here are the 6 Lessons to take from this Strategy
1. Eat 4 to 6 vegetable servings daily. If you cannot do this, strongly consider supplementing with any number of the good products available like Juice Plus.
2. Limit intake of meat. But I will add, if you are going to eat meat, make the choices, lean and well proportioned.
3. Showcase Fruits and Vegetables. Keep a bowl readily available around the house.
4. Lead with Beans.
5. Eat nuts EVERY DAY. Just remember that nuts are typically high in calories 1 ounce serving ranges from 165-200 calories.
6. Stock up. Keep small 2 ounce packets of nuts readily available as a snack.
Good luck…Now My Asterisk.
***REMEMBER I SAID THAT WE NEED .8 GRAMS OF PROTEIN FOR EVERY 2.2 POUNDS OF OUR WEIGHT?***
The important thing to remember is that the more active your are, and the more lean muscle you have, the more protein you will require. So my advocacy is for all of us to be more active and continue to maintain and even increase lean muscle. Your protein demands will be higher and there have been several good studies on how animal protein is very useful in promoting good health in active, lean people. But it is important to remember to choose lean, well proportioned meats. And even with all that being said, if the Okinawans and Sardinians continue to outlive the meat eating, health conscious, active populations, then maybe they win in the end.