There are very few populations in the world that naturally exceed 100 years of age, making them the focus of attention and observation. In this regard, the Hunza diet could be the key to living longer and better. Let's explore what it is and how to adopt it.
The inhabitants of the Hunza Valley effortlessly reach the ages of 110-120 years and experience very little illness. This prompted an English doctor to study this population of around 30,000 people, located in the northern region of Pakistan, surrounded by the Himalayan mountains and sharing borders with India, China, and Afghanistan.
What does the Hunza diet consist of?
After living among the Hunza people, the English doctor was amazed by both their absence of disease and their longevity, with many individuals surpassing 100 years of age.
The long lifespan of the inhabitants of the Hunza Valley can be attributed to their diet, which is abundant in carbohydrates and low in protein.
Fruits and vegetables take center stage, with a preference for seasonal produce, and a focus on consuming leafy greens such as lettuce.
In addition to high fruit, vegetable, and plant-based consumption, the Hunza diet is predominantly vegetarian and includes sheep cheese, sprouted grains, whole grains, and water from glaciers.
Meat consumption is minimal and limited to special events or celebrations. As a result, this diet has a low protein intake due to limited dairy consumption and is primarily rich in quality carbohydrates provided by fresh vegetables, which are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals needed by the body.
Furthermore, the consumption of ultra-processed foods is almost non-existent among the Hunza people, as these types of industrially processed foods with low nutritional quality are scarce in their diets, unlike Western diets.
The benefits of the Hunza diet
The Hunza diet is characterized by a high intake of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that the body requires, and a minimal amount of saturated fats derived from animal-based foods such as meat and eggs. It is also abundant in antioxidants and beneficial phytochemicals obtained from the diverse intake of fruits, vegetables, and plants by the inhabitants of the Hunza Valley.
Scientific research supports the fact that this type of diet can add years to life expectancy. Studies have shown that a high consumption of fruits and vegetables (around 10 servings) can reduce the risk of premature death by up to 42%.
Likewise, the consumption of these foods can protect health by helping to prevent cardiovascular and degenerative diseases, among others.
Moreover, the intake of fiber (abundant in the Hunza diet) has been associated with successful aging and a lower risk of death from any cause.
Considering these factors, along with the significant presence of antioxidants and substances with anti-inflammatory effects in the body, adopting the Hunza diet could be a valuable resource for improving quality of life and life expectancy.
How to follow the Hunza diet
To incorporate certain aspects of the Hunza diet and improve our own nutrition for the sake of our health and life expectancy, the following recommendations are advised:
- Prioritize the consumption of fresh and seasonal foods while minimizing the intake of processed and ultra-processed foods, which are readily available and commonly consumed in modern diets.
- Reduce meat consumption and instead opt for plant-based protein sources such as whole grains, sprouts, or legumes. Although legumes are not abundant in the Hunza diet, they are highly beneficial for obtaining satiating nutrients for the body.
- Including fruits and vegetables in our meals is always advisable, with an emphasis on consuming them raw or with minimal cooking to preserve their nutrients and antioxidants.
Here are a few examples of dishes inspired by the Hunza diet:
- Hunza Vegetable Stir-Fry: Sauté a variety of seasonal vegetables such as bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and snow peas in a small amount of olive oil. Season with herbs and spices like turmeric, cumin, and garlic for added flavor. Serve over a bed of whole grains like quinoa or brown rice.
- Hunza Lentil Soup: Cook red lentils with a mix of chopped onions, garlic, ginger, and spices like cumin and coriander. Add diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, and a generous amount of mixed vegetables such as spinach, carrots, and zucchini. Simmer until the lentils and vegetables are tender. Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Hunza Buckwheat Pancakes: Prepare pancakes using buckwheat flour, mashed bananas, almond milk, and a touch of cinnamon. Cook them on a non-stick pan until golden brown. Serve topped with fresh berries, sliced bananas, and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.
- Hunza Vegetable Curry: In a pan, sauté onions, garlic, and ginger until fragrant. Add a blend of curry powder, turmeric, and paprika. Stir in diced potatoes, cauliflower florets, peas, and chopped tomatoes. Cook until the vegetables are tender and the flavors are well combined. Serve the curry with whole grain bread or steamed basmati rice.
Remember, these dishes are inspired by the Hunza diet and can be adapted to personal preferences while keeping the emphasis on fresh, seasonal vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based ingredients.
By following these guidelines, we can emulate the eating habits of the Hunza population, which largely contribute to their long life expectancy and excellent health.