By Art Martens
Mary grew up in a small village in China. She and her husband continue to make healthy food choices reflective of her village upbringing. Mary came to Canada in July 2013 and now resides in Hedley. She became a Canadian citizen in August, 2018.
Comedian Woody Allen’s thoughts on length of life likely reflect the thinking of many Canadians. He said, “I don’t want to attain immortality through my work. I want to attain it through not dying.” Medical science has made impressive strides in granting us additional years, but this progress has often not been accompanied by quality of life. The people of Longevity Village, a remote community in South West China, have gained considerable insight into both length of life and good health.
In The Longevity Plan, Dr. John Day, an American cardiologist, tells of visiting this village in the hope of discovering the secret of their robust health and long lives. He found in a population of 500 there were 7 centenarians, a record unmatched anywhere in the world.
“Before going to China, I had a hectic schedule of consultations, surgeries, lectures in universities and hospitals. There was little time for healthy dining. At the beginning of each day I grabbed a diet coke and a bagel in the hospital cafeteria. I was too busy to give sufficient attention to the fact I was over weight and had nagging health issues. It was my hope that by going to this village, I could find help for myself and my patients.”
In Longevity Village he met Washen, age 114, the most senior of the villagers. “He moved with agility and still worked in the field regularly,” Dr. Day notes. “ After observing the centenarians and asking them many questions, I concluded that diet was a key factor contributing to their longevity.”
“They eat no refined sugar,” Dr. Day writes, “and no processed foods. They do eat nuts, seeds, corn, grains (never refined), legumes, fruits, vegetables, and a little meat, including fish. Another staple is longevity soup, made with hemp seeds, pumpkin vines and leaves, and water.”
I thought of the food my Mennonite mother placed on the table when I was a kid. Pyrogies, fried farmer’s sausage, mashed potatoes with gravy, home made white buns and noodle soup, plus desserts. All from her kitchen. From that menu I graduated to McDonalds and Big Macs, fries and chocolate milk shakes. Add to this list Linda’s cookies, against which I have little resistance. Since childhood I’ve been programmed to enjoy food Dr. Day asserts is detrimental to my health.
He explains why he believes the Standard American Diet (SAD) doesn’t work for anyone. “Processed foods and fast foods are high in sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, chemicals and preservatives. They have been manipulated by food scientists to activate the reward centres in our brains.”
He explains further that “because seemingly innocent foods like bread, pastas and cereals are highly processed, the body very quickly turns them into sugar, causing an almost instantaneous spike in blood sugar. This signals the pancreas to produce insulin. Our liver then makes fat. For anyone wanting to shed some pounds, Dr. Day notes that by eating more fruits and vegetables, it is likely we will lose weight over time.
According to Dr. Day, supplements will not fill the nutritional gap. “Studies were done to assess the contents of supplements on the shelves of 5 major chains. They contained only 20 per cent of what is claimed on the labels.”
Adopting the Longevity Village diet does seem daunting, but the increase of conditions ike dementia, diabetes and heart disease is alarming. “In Western medicine,” Dr. Day says, “we tend to think of them as age related. We treat them with surgery and medications. In Longevity Village they are virtually unheard of.”
Linda and I are eating more fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains. Avoiding processed and packaged foods is almost impossible but we buy them less often. I still eat Linda’s cookies and when our friends Terry and Lis showed up recently with donuts from the Princeton Dollar Store, we did partake with considerable enthusiasm. Samosas, available at Keremeos fruit stands, also continue to tempt. It’s tough contending with human frailties.
We don’t share Woody Allen’s seeming preoccupation with immortality, but we are becoming increasingly aware we need to take concrete measures to preserve and improve our health. We want to continue chiseling away at our too numerous questionable food choices. If you observe us running at break neck speed up Hospital Hill in Hedley when we are centenarians, you’ll know we’ve fully bought into the Longevity Village diet.
Source:: Living Significantly