Peter Diamandis: You very literally are what you eat.The nutrients (or non-nutrients) you consume become your body, your mind, your spirit. Do you overindulge in good-tasting (sugar-rich) but destructive foods? Or do you craft a sensible diet and practice intermittent fasting to maximize your energy and longevity?
There are actions you can take right now to increase your potential healthspan, and ensuring that you have a healthy diet that works for you is one of them.
In today’s blog, I’ll discuss a few simple steps you can take to improve your diet based on my recent conversation with Dr. Mark Hyman, and I’ll also share details on what I eat (and don’t eat) to increase my longevity.
Let’s dive in…
3 Steps You Can Take TODAY to Improve Your Diet
I recently had a discussion with Mark Hyman, MD, a physician and author of the bestselling book Young Forever, about practical steps all of us can take to improve our diets and increase our healthspan:
1. Avoid Sugar
The most obvious nutrition rule for me is that sugar equals poison.
Sugar causes inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and fuels cancer. Reduced blood sugar levels have been linked to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and have been shown to lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart-related death.
Dr. Hyman notes that “when you eat sugar, it slows your metabolism down, and it increases hunger hormones. So you’re hungrier, you’re gaining weight, and you can’t burn the fat.”
For males, as well as for females, sugar intake results in significant hormonal problems—and perhaps most shockingly, new evidence proves that sugar shrinks your hippocampus, which is your memory center.
So the next time you have a sugar craving, think about how it may literally shrink your brain cells!
As Dr. Hyman remarks, “93% of Americans are metabolically unhealthy… they have high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or they’re overweight, or they have had a heart attack or a stroke.”
This means, in effect, that a mere 6% of us are in good metabolic health. And, Dr. Hyman goes on, “that’s driven by our diet primarily.”
2. Eat Enough Protein
Protein is an essential building block of life.
You need it for building and repairing tissues like muscles, bones, and skin, as well as for producing hormones and enzymes; transporting nutrients and oxygen; supporting immune function; and providing energy to each of your cells.
Dr. Hyman notes that “some believe we should limit protein (especially animal protein) and amino acids to silence mTOR and activate autophagy.” But, he adds, the data isn’t so clear: when we abstain from animal proteins altogether, and the longevity pathway mTOR becomes “silenced for long periods, we can’t create new proteins or build muscle.”
So it’s necessary to oscillate between “periods of fasting or caloric restriction (which silences mTOR) with periods of adequate high-quality protein (which activates mTOR) to maintain and build new muscle.”
The average adult needs around 50 grams of protein a day. And if you’re trying to add muscle mass to your frame, you may need to double or triple that intake (personally, I weigh 145 pounds and I target consuming 150 grams of protein per day).
It is, as Dr. Hyman notes, “a Goldilocks problem. You want mTOR so you can build muscle, [but] you also want to give it a break so you can do cleanup and repair.”
3. Try Fasting
Harvard geneticist and Lifespan author David Sinclair, PhD who has spent 25 years studying aging, says that if there’s one piece of advice he would offer, it’s to eat less often.
One approach is to skip breakfast and have a late lunch. Another is to eat 75% fewer calories two days each week.
A 2019 study published in the journal Cell Metabolism found that fasting can improve metabolic function and protect you against the diseases of aging—like cancers, heart diseases, and diabetes—by promoting the production of certain proteins in the body.
In animal models, intermittent fasting is shown to aid in weight loss, reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, improve metabolic function, and quite substantially increase longevity.
During fasting, the body shifts from using glucose to using stored fat as its primary energy source, entering the process of autophagy—or “self-cannibalism,” as Dr. Hyman calls it.
I personally do my best to fast between 7pm and 12 noon the next day, providing me a 17-hour fast. On some days, I eat one meal per day, typically a lunch, and on other days, I fast between 7pm the night before and 3pm the next day (a 20-hour fast).
Dr. Hyman, for example, sticks to a 14-hour minimum fast. (When he breaks his fast, he generally opts for protein shakes, or large vegetable portions paired with lean meats!)
My Longevity Diet
What you eat and drink, how much you eat, and when you eat are critically important.
The problem is that there is no “one-diet” that serves everyone. In fact, thousands of different diet books have been published over time, and over 5 million are sold in the U.S. alone every year, so the field is diverse and complicated at best.
The following is what I personally do. I do believe that some of the details below are somewhat fundamental for everyone. But ultimately, what is best for you will depend upon your genetics, age, microbiome, health objectives and your physician’s advice. (Please note: Additional details and backup information for many of these practices can be found in my book LIFE FORCE.)
Below is a summary related to the diet practices that I personally follow:
What I Do NOT Eat:
No Sugar or High Glycemic Foods: As I mentioned above I think of sugar as a poison. I do my best to stay away from sugar, carbohydrates, and starches. The human body never evolved to consume the levels of sugar in most diets today. Human physiology evolved on a diet containing very little sugar and virtually no refined carbohydrates. In fact, sugar probably entered into our diets by accident. It is likely that sugarcane was primarily a “fodder” crop, used to fatten pigs, though humans may have chewed on the stalks from time to time.
The effects of added sugar intake can be devastating including higher blood pressure, inflammation (cardiac and neuro), weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease. Increased sugar is directly linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
Sugar is addictive and hard to quit. Every year as part of Abundance360, I join nutritionist Dr. Guillermo Rodriguez Navarrete to take Members through a “21 day No-Sugar Challenge.” We do this as a group on WhatsApp. The communal nature of “doing it together” is incredibly useful. It takes about three weeks for your brain and body to eliminate cravings for sweets and begin craving healthier foods that satisfy more of your actual nutritional needs.
I don’t eat dessert. When it’s offered, I have conditioned myself to say “no” immediately so I’m not tempted to even have it on the table. When I’m feeling a craving (and everyone does), on occasion I will satisfy it with a bit of dark chocolate (>75% dark cacao).
What Else I DON’T Eat: Beyond avoiding sugar, carbohydrates, and starches, I don’t eat dairy products. And I don’t eat beef.
What I DO Eat:
A Whole-Plant Diet, as much as I can. There’s no question that consuming whole plants is a major plus. As such, I’m focused on spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, avocado, asparagus (and most other unprocessed veggies) with a heavy helping of extra virgin olive oil. I’ll typically have a Greek salad with added avocado and protein for lunch.
Nuts, Beans & Legumes for Protein: I try and take in as much plant protein as possible from nuts (typically macadamias and almonds), as well as beans and legumes which are high in protein (soybeans, lentils, white beans, cranberry beans, split peas, pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, and lima beans).
Protein (see more below): Typically fish (salmon) three times per week, eggs, and chicken. I personally stay away from beef.
Protein Intake Goals: This year, I am endeavoring to add 10 pounds of additional muscle mass to my frame and to accomplish this I need to take in a lot of extra protein. Typical advice suggests 0.70 grams of protein per pound of body weight (1.6 grams per kg). But what I’ve read suggests that is too low, so my personal goal is now 1.0 gram per pound of body weight. I take in a whopping 150 grams of protein (I weigh about 145 pounds). During my days when I’m doing a heavy weight workout and trying to consume maximum protein, here’s an example of what I’ll consume on a typical workout day:
Note: I’ve recently discovered a great “hot” protein drink that I have used to replace my coffee in the morning called Nutri11 produced by nutritionist Dr. Guillermo Rodriguez Navarrete. Nutri11 has zero sugar and 11 grams of protein, and I LOVE the way it tastes.
What I Do NOT Drink:
Sodas: I’ve eliminated 100% of sodas from my diet.
Fruit Juice: I’ve eliminated 100% of high-fructose fruit juices, which can spike my blood sugar.
Alcohol: I’ve eliminated almost all alcohol, save for an occasional glass of red wine. Alcohol truly has very little medicinal benefits and can play havoc with sleep.
What I DO Drink:
Water + Athletic Greens: I aim to drink 2+ liters of water per day, prioritizing a fresh spring water like Fiji. In the morning I mix a package of Athletic Greens (AG1). AG1 is low-calories (50 calories in total) nutrient-dense, comprehensive daily drink packed with 75 vitamins, minerals, and whole food-sourced ingredients. It supports key areas of health, including energy, immunity, gut health, and hormonal balance. Its all-in-one formulation is designed to boost overall wellness, making it a healthy addition to your daily routine.
Morning Hot Drink Routine: I will typically have a morning cup of decaf coffee. I recently learned from my genetics that too much caffeine isn’t the best thing for me. As an alternative to coffee, I will typically have a hot mug of MUD\WTR or a hot mug of Nutri11 (high in protein with no sugar or carbs). On the tea side, I personally love Moroccan mint tea.
Fasting / Timing of Meals / Calories:
Fasting / Timing of Meals: Over the years, I have experimented with various time-restricted or “intermittent fasting” diet programs. I have recently given these up for two reasons: first, because there seems to be no real benefits. A 2020 clinical trial of 116 volunteers on a 16 hour (off), 8 hour (on) eating regiment found no weight loss and no cardiometabolic benefits. The second reason for giving up on intermittent fasting is because of my desire to consume 150 grams of protein over the course of the day on a distributed basis.
ProLon Fast Mimicking Diet: There does appear to be good evidence that longer fasting periods are pro-longevity supporting autophagy. One of the best ways to get the benefit of longer fasts without the pain is something called the “ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet,” which supports healthy weight loss & cellular rejuvenation. It’s a 5-day program that is relatively painless and something I do twice per year. More information available here www.prolonfast.com.
Measuring My Blood Glucose: High blood glucose levels are a challenge to the body. It is a neuro-inflammatory, and a contributor to heart disease and dementia. I use a “Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)” such as LEVELs and FreeStyle LibreLink. My goal is to measure which foods spike my blood glucose. It also keeps me aware of my eating habits in the same way that my OURA ring helps me monitor my sleeping habits.