Discover how three simple dietary rules used by a secluded population living high in the Himalayas can help you live well past age 100
If you’re like most Americans, you believe that living to see your 90th birthday is quite an achievement—and the fact is, most Americans won’t see that birthday, because the average lifespan in the United States is only 78 years. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Indeed, in several other parts of the world, people routinely live much, much longer than 78 years.
The Long-Lived Hunza People of India
At the extreme northern point of India is a place called Hunza (population 30,000) where people often live to reach the age of 130 or even 145! And while this may come as a shock to most Westerners, British medical researcher General Sir Robert McCarrison has a good idea of why the Hunzas live so long. That’s because as a member of the Indian Medical Service, one of McCarrison’s duties was to supervise the Hunzas.
The inhabitants of Hunza not only live extraordinarily long lives, but also enjoy near perfect mental and physical health. Cancer…heart disease…heart attacks…high and low blood pressure…and other common ailments throughout the rest of the world are practically unheard of.
The overall health and wellbeing Dr. McCarrison observed in Hunza inspired him to conduct a historic series of experiments. Beginning in 1927, McCarrison observed the impact of diet on over 2,243 rats and found that: “conditions of ill health had a common causation: faulty nutrition.”
Apricot Seeds for Long Life
Thanks in part to Dr. McCarrison’s documentation, we know many of the special dietary components of the Hunza. One especially unique element is dried apricot seeds. These seeds make up a large part of their daily caloric intake and contain so much vitamin B17 that the Hunza diet is approximately 200 times higher in this nutrient than that of the average American.
Aside from apricot seeds, the basic components of the Hunza diet are as follows:
- Fruits and vegetables: preferred options include potatoes, string beans, peas, carrots, turnip, squash, spinach, lettuce, apples, pears, peaches, apricots, cherries and blackberries, most of which are consumed raw.
- Nuts: walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, beechnuts and plenty of almonds which are consumed whole or processed into an oil using a technique that’s been passed down from generation to generation.
- Very little animal protein: Hunzas are not strictly vegetarian, but animal protein is only a minimal part of their diet, and comes primarily from milk, cheese, and chicken, and from yogurt, which supports the health of intestinal flora.
- Grains: barley, millet, buckwheat, and wheat.
Perhaps the most common way the Hunza eat these grains is as a bread called chapatti. It’s eaten at every meal and made from whole flour, i.e., the grains are not refined and have not had the germ removed, as is unfortunately common in the West. The germ has amazing nutritive properties. For one thing, it contains all of a grain’s vitamin E, which plays an important role in maintaining sexual function.
A Little Goes a Long Way
The Hunza diet can be summed up in one word: frugality. Hunzas eat only two meals a day, though their lifestyle necessitates large amounts of demanding physical labor. The energy and endurance of the Hunzas can probably be credited as much to what they don’t eat as what they do eat.
The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that the average daily food intake for Americans of all ages amounts to 3,300 calories, with 100 grams of protein, 157 grams of fat and 380 grams of carbohydrates. According to a National Geographic article from 1973, the average Hunza adult consumes about 1,900 calories daily, with only 50 grams of protein, 36 grams of fat, and 354 grams of carbohydrates.
Most Americans eat a high percentage of simple carbohydrates, primarily in the form of white sugar and refined flour. The bulk of the carbohydrates the Hunzas consume are complex carbohydrates — the kind that comes from fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
If you’re not interested in making dried apricot seeds a major dietary component, never fear! You can still benefit from the health secrets of the Hunzas. Here are three top tips on how to live more like the Hunza:
- Fasting: the Hunza fast every spring for a number of days. This is an excellent way to regenerate your organisms and give your digestive system a rest. Start out by drinking only juice for a day and work your way up to a true fast.
- Fresh food: eat most of your vegetables raw (or very lightly steamed). Cut down your meat intake, and replace white flour with whole grain.
- Fitness: try adding regular walks, like the Hunza, who consider 15-20 kilometer walks quite normal. Walking is the simplest, least costly, and most accessible form of exercise out there. Most people can manage to walk for an hour each day. Give it a try!