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6 Simple Eating Habits of People Who Live to 100

Centenarians in the Blue Zones—locations around the globe known for longevity and good health—follow daily rituals around food and meals. Practicing these powerful food practices is one of the keys to longevity and happiness.

Eat Breakfast Like a King

There’s an old saying: “Breakfast like a king; lunch like a prince; dinner like a pauper.” Make the first meal of your day your biggest, and only eat three meals a day. The routine is the same in almost all of the Blue Zones. Nicoyans often eat two breakfasts and a light dinner. Lunch tends to be the big meal for Ikarians and Sardinians. Okinawans like to skip dinner altogether. People may occasionally grab a mid-morning piece of fruit or a mid-afternoon handful of nuts, but most don’t make a habit of snacking. The average meal contains 650 calories, so with just three meals a day and a small snack, most people get all the calories a day they need.

Recent research supports front-loading calories. An Israeli study found that dieting women who ate half their daily calories at breakfast, about a third at lunch, and a seventh at dinner lost an average of 19 pounds in 12 weeks. They also saw drops in triglycerides, glucose, insulin, and hormones that trigger hunger.

Practice Hara Hachi Bu

In translation: Plan before you start eating to stop eating when you’re 80 percent full. If you’re ever lucky enough to share a meal with older Okinawans, as I have, you’ll often see them murmuring this 2,500-year-old Confucian adage before they eat. Dietary expert Leslie Lytle has estimated that if the average American would follow the practice of hara hachi bu, he or she could lose 17 pounds in just the first year! Rituals like this and other forms of saying grace also provide a pause in everyday living, forcing people to slow down and pay attention to their food. Ikarians, Saridinians, Costa Ricans, and Adventists all begin meals by saying a prayer.

Try a Fast Fast

Fasting need not mean going for days without food and drink. You can experience the benefits of a small fast every 24 hours, by scheduling the time that you eat during only 8 hours of the day. It takes between 6 and 12 hours for our bodies to digest and absorb a meal. After this time, the body enters a fasting state, when it calls on reserves for energy—like stored fat—so establishing this schedule of eating 8 hours and fasting 16 can contribute to weight loss.

Recent scientific evidence shows that fasting, even for a day, can recalibrate insulin release, giving the pancreas a break. It can temporarily lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Moderate fasting for longer periods can create a form of calorie restriction and may slow aging.


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