What’s the SECRET TO LONGEVITY?
A couple of weeks ago my husband and I were enjoying an evening with some friends. We were playing a question and answer game and the question was asked:
“If you could switch places with someone for 1 week, live as they live- who would it be?
Of course we heard answers like: The President of the United States, Bill Gates and even Oprah. My answer came to me pretty quick- I was a little hesitant to share at first because it definitely wasn’t like the others. I eventually told everyone my answer- "If I could, I would switch places with a HUNZA". I received some funny looks, so I did go on to explain exactly who a HUNZA is.
My fascination with the HUNZAS started years ago when I was reading a health book (can’t remember which one) that quickly talked about a group of people who live in the northernmost part of Pakistan, where six mountain ranges converge. They live in an extraordinary fertile valley that for hundreds of years has been in complete isolation from the rest of the world. Until recently, to get to the Hunza Valley was near impossible because the only way in was an extremely dangerous trail winding through the mountains and in some places this trail was only two feet wide (it has been called “The most dangerous road in the world”).
Believe me, the complete isolation and the winding road isn’t what made me want to live there for a week…it is the LONGEVITY of this people that intrigues me.
I read the book “Hunza: Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Oldest Living People” written by Jay Milton Hoffman. In the 1960’s Dr. Jay Hoffman was asked by the U.S. National Geriatric Society to go to Hunza and study the health and longevity of this isolated people. He wrote,
Down through the ages, adventurers and utopia-seeking men have fervently searched the world for the Fountain of Youth but didn’t find it. However unbelievable as it may seem, a Fountain of Youth does exist high in the Himalayan Mountains…Here is a land where people do not have common diseases, such as heart ailments, cancer (cancer is unknown), arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, tuberculosis, hay fever, asthma, liver trouble, gall bladder trouble, constipation, or many other ailments that plague the rest of the world. Moreover, there are no hospitals, not insane asylums, no drug stores, no saloons, no tobacco stores, no police, no jails, no crimes, no murders and no beggars.
Another Doctor visited this people, Dr. Paul Dudley White and tested 25 Hunza men he believed to be 90 and 110 years old…not one of them showed a single sign of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol levels. They had 20-20 vision and no tooth decay…no vascular, muscular, organic, respiratory, or bone disease.
After having read Dr. Hoffman’s book and really enjoying what I learned I came across another spectacular book that documents this amazing people: “Healthy at 100” written by John Robbins (www.healthyat100.com). After reading this book it instantly became one of my favorites. I was able to learn much more about the Hunzas.
The most important question I had about this disease free, long living people was WHAT DO THEY EAT?
- They consume very little meat (they have minimal pastureland) except on rare feast days.
- Meat and dairy products together constitute only 1 percent of their total diet.
- Protein and fat are almost entirely of vegetable origin.
- They depend entirely on natural foods rather than processed and manufactured ones.
- They eat substantial amounts of whole grains: wheat, barley, millet and buckwheat.
- Vegetables also play a prominent role, particularly DARK LEAFY GREENS (mustard greens, spinach and lettuce) and also root vegetables, beans and legumes that can be sprouted.
- They grow Flaxseeds; almost every meal contains freshly ground flaxmeal in one form or another.
- A large part of their diet is eaten uncooked, in the summer, as much as 80 percent of the food is eaten in its natural state.
- Vegetables are picked just prior to consumption and almost always eaten raw.
- In the winter, they soak their lentils and beans and eat them sprouted.
- When vegetables are cooked they are typically lightly steamed using minimal amount of water.
- THEY EAT A LOW CALORIE, WHOLE FOOD PLANT BASED DIET (overall daily calories 1,900)
(All taken from the book- "HEALTHY AT 100")
The Hunzas grow all their food on fertile terraces along the mountain side that is watered by the rich mineral waters that come down from the mountains- which makes their soil the most fertile in the world. They grow a wide variety of fruit and are said to have flavor and nutrient value no where else in the world…”their apricots have been described as the most luscious fruits on earth.”
Of course there is more to their LONGEVITY than the food they eat. Since they live in the middle of many mountains- their form of travel (walking) is mainly straight up or straight down. They are consistently exercising their bodies- every day of their lives.
Unfortunately, the Hunzas aren’t what they were 40 years ago. The western world and its influences have invaded their precious landscape, thus disease is not the unknown anymore.
Science has determined that CALORIE RESTRICTION can prolong a human’s life…but I also like to look at everything else the Hunzas did to allow them to live into their 100’s- disease free. If you read John Robbins “Healthy at 100” you can see all the aspects of their life plus he documents more long-living people. I know that I can’t live exactly like them even if I wanted to- but I can take some of these tips and try my best!
To be honest, do I really want to live entirely as the Hunzas do- not really. But their way of life truly does inspire me…and I would really like to try one of their apricots!