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Reaching Your Triple Digit Birthday--Diet Secrets of Centenarians | April 15, 2009

What is the secret to reaching 100? Well it’s usually a combination of genetics, lifestyle choices, (especially diet) and just plain luck. While we can’t control our genes and have to live with the hand we’re dealt, how we live our lives and the choices that we make can have a huge influence.

The connection between mind, body and spirit is crucial. And eating a healthy diet is a key part of the equation. One of the largest groups of centenarians live in Okinawa, Japan. Many studies have been conducted with this group, including one recently published in the American Journal of Cardiology that looked at the role of their diets in relation to cardiovascular health and disease. The Okinawan diets are loaded with antioxidants--heavy on grains, vegetables and fish, a lot of fish! In particular, cold-water varieties such as tuna, mackerel and salmon were the most common. These types of fish contain high concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease and breast cancer. Once again fish gets a gold star for being a super food!

Vegetables-in particular the yellow-green varieties (spinach, kale, broccoli, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, melon) also contain high amounts of antioxidants. On average, they consume at least seven ½ cup servings of vegetables daily, and an equal number of grains (mostly whole grains). They also eat small amounts of food throughout the course of a day. In short, the average Okinawan's diet is far richer in complex carbohydrates and plant-based foods, and lower in fat, than the average American's.

If you want to look forward to a triple digit birthday, consider the other traits of centenarians. These include daily exercise, a positive outlook on life and the love of learning new things (many centenarians have cell phones, Ipods and know how to Google). They surround themselves with friends and celebrate aging! And last but definitely not least, centenarians have one more thing in common. Most live in environments that exhibit clean air, good water, low stress and unspoiled nature. Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth may be in our own Idaho back yard!