Calorie restriction for longer life?

My family has long life in the genes.

Both grandparents on my dad’s side died in their old age – Lola in her mid 80s, and Lolo early 90s. Inang, on my mother side, died at mid-90s. My Amang, would you believe, is still well at 90-plus today! He lives to see many of his great grandchildren.

According to studies, genes make up 30% of one’s chance for longevity. So I guess I have that much chance. Other determinants are the obvious: healthy diet, some form of exercise, adequate rest and sleep, eliminating unhealthy habits such as smoking and alcohol drinking.

But beyond these, are there more we can do? Taking care of your skin – slathering on anti-ageing creams and religiously applying an eye wrinkle remover –  will probably make you feel and look younger. But are there specific diets, certain activities that will lengthen one’s life?

My mommy blogger friend Lynn wrote a feature at POC Wellness about longevity. One of the tips for longevity she shared is Calorie Restriction (CR). Calorie restriction, in a nutshell, is eating fewer but higher-quality calories. It seems to be the secret of Japanese centenarians, because their diets were found to be rich in fresh fish, vegetables and grains, and low in meats, eggs and dairies.

CR entails choosing calorie-sparse, nutrient-dense foods over over calorie-dense ones:

Complex carbs/sugars such as brown rice, wheat, bran, potatoes, kamote and fruits, instead of simple sugars such as white rice, white bread, cakes, sweets, refined flour;

Vegetables – both the green-leafy ones and the non-leafies. Vegetables make up the bulk of of a CR diet;

Adequate proteins from good sources – A good alternative to animal proteins are plant sources such as beans, legumes, cauliflower and spinach. Animal proteins, though complete with amino acids the body needs for building and healing, may carry with them high fat content. Plus red meats have also been associated with cancers. So it’s a good idea to balance intake of animal- and plant-based proteins;

Good fats such as monounsaturated and Omega-3 fats, instead of saturated and trans fats. Sources of good fats are olive oil,  nuts, avocados, fish oils, and flax seed oil. Of course fats have high calories, so intake of these are restricted at minimum in the CR diet.

I’ve been considering this kind of diet for some time now (though of course not a strictly restricted diet, haha). Red meat is not a problem for me, since the family diet has been beef-free since around 2000 anyway. Fish may pose a bit of a problem, because of Nate’s allergies. So I’m thinking of going the gradual route – will start with more fruits and vegetables first.

Really, my end-goal is to go vegetarian (or at least semi-vegetarian) –  you know, lessen animal cruelty in my own small ways.

And so, because of this, I’ve been peeking at the Organic Manila website. I’m excited to get my first box of organic produce. But I’ve yet to make up my mind and choose what the box will contain from this catalog.

So there. I suppose I have 30% chance of living past the 80s mark. The question is: will I live past that mark happy and healthy? If I survive life that long, I might as well be healthy and happy, right?  Besides, it’s not much the quantity, but the quality of life that should matter. 🙂

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