Do supercentenarians secretly go to Harvard?!

Written by Sara Rocci Denis
February 15, 2022

Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate – What the food scientists are learning from Grandma.

Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate – What the food scientists are learning from Grandma.

When the world’s oldest man, Chitetsu Watanabe, turned 113 the local news reporters were on location to find out the secrets to his success. For most of his life, he had lived in the little town of Niigata, Japan. Then, after active service in the army, as he aged, he worked happily in his vegetable garden every day, eating mainly from the foods he grew. 

I was fascinated to learn that, like him, the world’s oldest supercentenarian, Mrs. Emma Morano, from Italy, credited quality food among other things to her longevity – 3 fresh eggs a day and some grappa. She lived to 117 years old.

Ok, activity and fresh foods,  with a touch of booze.  I dug a bit deeper.

Did you know that Italy has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world? The Italian community of Gorreto in Liguria has the oldest population the world over. And on the island of Sardinia alone you will find one of the highest percentages of people living to 100 years old or older. 

What could the lives of these supercentenarians teach us?

Over and over I was seeing that the people living the longest had lifestyles marked by daily exercise and consumption of seasonal foods eaten in moderation. These people had either won the genetic jackpot or had unwittingly cracked the genetic code!

I came to see another pattern – these individuals were following lifestyles that underpin the core teachings of the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate and the Mediterranean Diet.

It’s not about counting calories, weighing foods, or even eating a select number of servings per day. These food philosophies tout eating quality foods in a balanced proportion. In fact, nutrition experts at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have found this magical mix to bear the best health results:

A protein, a wholegrain, and a rich dose of veggies and fruit, in a proportion of 25%, 25%, 50%, respectively. For maximum impact, supplement meals with delicious herbs and spices, healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, a handful of nuts and dried fruits, and, for those of us who enjoy the occasional drink, up to 4 glasses of red wine per week.

What is not to love about this? 

Check out the study published in the BMJ journal ‘Gut’ showing that following the Mediterranean diet for just one year altered the microbiome of elderly people – improving their brain function and boosting their longevity.

Our chef, Stefano, builds meals around the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate and the Mediterranean Diet. At EAT freedom we are obsessed with food’s impact on the body’s performance and our adventure meals are rooted in age-old human instinct and nutritional science.

I won’t spend too much time telling you that junk food leads to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other costly health concerns.  I’ll just say this – scientists and supercentenarians love the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate and the Mediterranean Diet, and we do too!

There is still so much to discover about the Mediterranean Diet and Harvard Healthy Eating Plate and this is just the beginning of a beautiful story about our well-being.

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