The world’s healthiest, longest-living people: what do they eat, drink and do?

There are some truly remarkable pockets of people around the world for whom chronic disease is rare-to-non-existent and where living to your nineties and beyond without suffering so much as a headache passes without comment.

Juana, aged 105, sweeping her yard in Nicoya, Costa Rica

This has nothing to do with drugs or the latest advances in medicine and everything to do with what people are eating, drinking and doing.

I stumbled across these ‘longevity hot spots’, as I call them, around sixteen years ago, whilst working on a television series about ageing. It seemed that, whilst the pharmaceuticals companies hunt for that elusive, lucrative ‘holy grail’ of medicine –  a pill to prevent ageing and death – the hot spot people are avoiding illness, meeting their great-great-grandchildren, and leading long, happy lives.

Barbagia in Sardinia, Italy: where the men have it good 

As I had recently dramatically improved my own health through a change in diet, I knew this made perfect sense. I ended up visiting some of these places (which sometimes meant getting on terrifying old Fokkers), calling people (sometimes from old phone boxes on islands), eating as much as I could, and studying the diets in detail. I also enrolled at the UK College of Nutrition and Health (BCNH) in London.

Maria, aged 91. ‘I am strong, like a blade of grass,’ she told me

I wrote two books about my findings; 50 Secrets of the World’s Longest-Living People (Perseus, US, 2006) and The Live-Longer Diet (Piatkus, UK, 2003). The places I studied and wrote about in my books are Okinawa in Japan, Bama in China, Campodimele in Italy, Symi in Greece, and Hunza in Pakistan; I have also since visited the ‘Blue Zones’ Costa Rica and Sardinia. In these books I have combined my knowledge as a nutritionist with the ancient wisdom in these places – you will find that these two approaches marry perfectly.


My latest book is The Stacking Plan in which I outline the ten basic eating factors we all need and guide you through adding them into your existing diet one at a time, ‘stacking’ them onto each other without having to worry about giving things up.

I have found over the years that this is the best way to empower people with the knowledge they need to be healthy without feeling overwhelmed or confused and to give them eating options to suit them. I have also found with my clients that this is the most effective way to make healthy eating do-able, sustainable and habitualised, as well as to remove guilt and deal with complex relationships with food.

The ten factors are Breakfast, Fruit, Vegetables, Proteins, Carbohydrates, Fats, Digestion, Probiotics, Drinks, and the S.A.D. (or ‘junk’) foods. These all, of course, match closely with what the people in the longevity hot spots do. If you’d like to have a preview, you can see more detail about these on my Mind Body Green article.





The Stacking Plan is also coming soon on the MyNutriCounter app, winners of the 2016 UK Blog Awards for Health and Social Care.

About me

I am a CNHC-registered nutritional therapist, having gained my diploma (with Distinction) from the UK College of Nutrition and Health (BCNH) in London, where I have since returned to lecture on the subject of anti-ageing. I have delivered nutrition workshops in schools and I am also the regular nutrition columnist for Juno natural parenting magazine. Please see Press and Articles for some of my other published articles.

Please get in touch using the form at the bottom of this page if you would like to contact me.


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Since it's so hot, it's a good time to eat as much of this riDICulously delicious raspberry ripple ice cream as possible. I had to eat two bowls full just now as it kept melting whilst I took the photo. It's easy and fun to make - it's best if you have an ice cream maker (you can get a simple one for about £40).

INGREDIENTS: cashews, soya milk, coconut oil or manna, 1 lemon, vanilla, sea salt, maple syrup/agave syrup, 1 tin creamy coconut milk, 1 small tin coconut cream (optional), berries, cornflour.

- soak 1 cup cashews for a minimum of 2 hours (overnight is good)
- bring to a simmer 1/2 cup soya milk + 1 tin coconut milk + 2 tbsp coconut cream (optional - if your coconut milk is really creamy you may not need it) + a squirt or two of agave/maple syrup
- take a little out and mix it with 1 level tbsp corn flour to a paste, add it back, and simmer gently for 5 mins
- put the soaked cashews in a nutribullet or vitamix type blender with the rest of the ingredients + 2 tbsp coconut oil or coconut manna + the juice of 1 lemon + a pinch of salt + 1/2 tsp vanilla and blend until smooth. Cool for an hour.
- put it an ice cream maker and churn for 20-25 minutes
- just before the end add raspberries or any other berries - you can squash them up with a fork and add a squirt of agave or maple syrup if you want it sweeter.

You can get the full recipe (this is a simpler version) from Health Nut Nutrition's blog - it's called 'strawberry cheesecake icecream with a graham cracker crumble'.
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