The Longevity Diet: Macros
Here at Nutrition for Longevity, we strive to provide you with meal plans that are well-balanced, nutritious, and, of course, delicious! But what makes us so special and why is the Longevity Diet so beneficial to our health? Let’s talk about this diet and the components that distinguish it from others.
What are the macronutrients?
Before we dive into the Longevity Diet, let’s break down some nutrition basics! What are macronutrients? A macronutrient is defined as a substance (a protein, carbohydrate, or fat) required in relatively large quantities for growth, energy, and health.1 Each of these three major components are equally important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Protein is sometimes called the body's building block — it is made up of about 20 different amino acids that each contribute to a number of important processes in the body.2,3 Some of these proteins are made in the body but others, nine to be exact, are deemed essential proteins meaning they are not made in the body and must be consumed through food. The current DRI for protein as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is 0.8 grams of healthy protein for every kilogram of body weight per day.4 Protein should fulfill about 10% to 35% of your daily calorie intake.4,5 The quality of protein we eat, however, is especially important when looking at protein consumption, health, and overall health span.3
A variety of research has shown that a protein intake from mainly red meat and other animal proteins can increase your risk for cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, kidney, liver, and respiratory diseases as well as mortality.4 In a study, it was reported that replacing protein from animal sources with plant-based protein sources was related to a reduced instance of disease and mortality.4 In addition, plant based protein from foods like beans, soy, nuts, and seeds are low in saturated fat, and contain no trans-fat or cholesterol.4,5 Here at Nutrition for Longevity, we base our meals on the research done by Dr. Valter Longo and the Longevity Diet which follows a mainly plant based protein (with some fish) diet model. According to his research, it is recommended to consume about 0.31 to 0.36 grams of protein per pound. Our meals contain about 10% to 20% of calories from protein which fits into the guidelines set by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.2,4
Carbohydrates are another essential macronutrient that contribute to a healthy and balanced diet, even though they sometimes get a bad rap! In fact, they are the body's main source of fuel and energy. Subdivided into three categories: starches, sugar, and fiber. Each one plays a specific role in bodily functions and nutrition.6 Starches are typically found in plant-based food items like certain vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Sugars are found naturally in fruits and vegetables. Sugar and starch provide glucose, which is the body's main source of energy, to the brain and central nervous system.6 The third type of carbohydrate is fiber which is the indigestible part of plant foods. Fiber includes both functional and dietary fiber which each have different health benefits. These are broken down more slowly than other starches and sugar and are linked to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.6,7
Carbohydrates can also be divided into simple and complex carbohydrate categories. Simple carbohydrates, found in foods like white rice, white bread, and fruit juices, are broken down quickly and are converted into sugar by the time they reach the intestine.2 However, complex carbohydrates, found in whole grain bread, legumes, and vegetables contain fiber and are broken down more slowly.
At Nutrition for Longevity, we pride ourselves on providing meal plans that are rich in these complex carbohydrates with little to no added sugars.2 When we do use some simple carbohydrates that are in our signature dishes seen in traditional longevity regions. When these items are featured, we like to ensure they are complimented by other ingredients that are high in fiber. We aim to incorporate at least 25 grams of fiber a day sometimes even reaching 40 grams! According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should consume about 45% to 65% of their calories from carbohydrates which is in line with our standards here at Nutrition for Longevity — 55% to 65% of calories from carbohydrates.2,8
The final macronutrient is fat. Like protein and carbohydrates, fats should be included as part of a balanced diet. Fats are a major source of energy and is an essential part of cell health. They are used to build cell membranes and the fatty tissue that protects our bodies' nerves. There are also certain vitamins and minerals that cannot be absorbed without fat. They are crucial for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation.9
Fats are divided into four subcategories — saturated fats, trans-fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats — which each have a different composition. These differences are what make some of these (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) healthier than other fats (trans and saturated fats).9 Trans fats come in two forms, naturally occurring (found in milk and meat products) and artificial (chemical process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid). These trans and saturated fats raise LDL cholesterol (bad) and lower HDL cholesterol (good) and can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.9,10 To promote a healthy lifestyle, these should be limited to less than 10% of energy.11,12 The healthier fats, known as unsaturated which include both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are typically found in foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and certain types of fish. At Nutrition for Longevity, we base our meals on the idea that following a diet rich in these unsaturated fats and as low as possible in saturated and trans fats is essential to living a healthy, long life. Our meals contain less than 30% of calories from these healthy fats in vegetables, nuts, legumes, and fish.2 According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should get about 20% to 35% of calories.8
Why is the Longevity Diet something I should follow and is it healthy for everyone?
Yes! The Longevity Diet is a healthy and balanced way to live a healthy lifestyle through food! It consists of eating a plant and fish-based diet that provide all the necessary macro and micronutrients. Out of your daily calorie needs, 30 percent of calories should come from healthy, unsaturated fats, 10 to 20 percent of calories from plant and fish-based proteins, and finally, 55 to 65 percent of calories from whole grain and complex carbohydrates.2 The guidelines we follow to produce balanced and delicious meals are all in line with recommendations outlined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, The American Diabetes Association (of 55–65% carbohydrate, ≤30% fat, and 10–20% protein), and the American Heart Association (55-65% carbohydrate, 10- 35% protein, limit trans and saturated fats to less than 5%). 8,12,13
Overall, following this diet that is lower in protein and sugars but high in the beneficial healthy fats and lower in plant-based proteins which can reduce instances of cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, cancer, and while promoting a healthy and longer lifestyle!2
- Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/macronutrient. April 1, 2021.
- Longo, Valter. The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease, and Optimize Weight. New York: Penguin Books; 2018.
- Watford M, Wu G. Protein. Adv Nutr. 2018;9(5):651-653. doi:10.1093/advances/nmy027
- Vatanparast H, Islam N, Shafiee M, Ramdath DD. Increasing Plant-Based Meat Alternatives and Decreasing Red and Processed Meat in the Diet Differentially Affect the Diet Quality and Nutrient Intakes of Canadians. Nutrients. 2020;12(7):2034. Published 2020 Jul 9. doi:10.3390/nu12072034
- Protein. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/. April 2, 2021.
- Joanne Slavin, Justin Carlson, Carbohydrates, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 5, Issue 6, November 2014, Pages 760–761, https://doi.org/10.3945/an.114.006163
- Carbohydrates Part of a Healthful Diabetes Diet. Eatright.org. https://www.eatright.org/health/diseases-and-conditions/diabetes/carbohydrates-part-of-a-healthful-diabetes-diet. Published 2021. March 31, 2021.
- Dietary Guidelines For Americans 2020. USDA; 2010:15. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2020-01/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf. April 2, 2021.
- Publishing H. The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between - Harvard Health. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good. Published 2021. April 2, 2021.
- Trans Fats. www.heart.org. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/trans-fat. April 2, 2021.
- Liu AG, Ford NA, Hu FB, Zelman KM, Mozaffarian D, Kris-Etherton PM. A healthy approach to dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion. Nutr J. 2017;16(1):53. Published 2017 Aug 30. doi:10.1186/s12937-017-0271-4
- Wheeler M, Dunbar S, Jaacks L et al. Macronutrients, Food Groups, and Eating Patterns in the Management of Diabetes: A systematic review of the literature, 2010. Diabetes Care. 2012;35(2):434-445. doi:10.2337/dc11-2216
- Nutrition Basics. www.heart.org. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics. Published 2021. April 2, 2021.