Do you go for pulpy fiction? Mysteries? Romance? Adventure? We love a good beach read, but inevitably we return to our obsession: health.
Today I’ll share one of our favourite books – one that truly changed how we see the possibilities for health.
We’re talking about Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World’s Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples, by John Robbins.
Do you know of John Robbins? If the name rings a bell, it’s because he’s the scion of a legendary family.
“The only son of the founder of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire, John Robbins was groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps, but chose to walk away from Baskin-Robbins and the immense wealth it represented to “…pursue the deeper American Dream…the dream of a society at peace with its conscience because it respects and lives in harmony with all life forms. A dream of a society that is truly healthy, practicing a wise and compassionate stewardship of a balanced ecosystem.”https://johnrobbins.info/about-john/
John is author of Diet for a New America, The Food Revolution, and more. We’re so excited about his ideas that we reached out to Mr. Robbins to be a part of the documentary we’re creating as part of our Organics 4 Orphans work – but more on that later. This summer, we’ll be interviewing John on the topic of food as medicine.
In Healthy at 100, John goes beyond nutrition to investigate the conditions for longevity, holistically. The findings are fascinating!
Over the years, three unique ethnic groups have been identified as having the longest average lifespan of all human societies in the world. This is based on the percentage of their population that claims to be over 100 years old. These include the Abkhasians of the Caucasus Mountains between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, the Hunzas of Pakistan and the Vilcabambans of Central America.
People in these groups often reach their 90s with no sign of heart disease or any other chronic illness. The question is, how? Robbins identifies several common characteristics.
First, these cultures eat a primarily plant-based diet consisting of whole foods. They only consume, on average, 5% animal-based foods.
Think about what this means. If you eat 2,000 calories per day, 5% is 100 calories. 100 calories of fish, meat, dairy or eggs is miniscule. It’s a small glass of milk, a piece of cheese, 2 oz. of chicken.
Everything they eat, they grow, or source locally. They eat fresh, usually consuming food picked the very same day.
Their food is naturally much more dense in nutrients, because of how it’s grown. The soils are constantly composted with organic waste. In contrast, agriculture as we know it here in North America takes as much out of the soil as possible, putting back as little as possible.
They drink water from sources with high mineral content. Whereas we drink chlorine-bleached, fluoride treated water, they drink from mountain streams, rich in minerals from the rock itself.
30 Minutes a Day is Not Enough
Exercise is part of daily life. People in centenarian cultures work to grow and prepare food until the day they die. They have very few vehicles and are known to walk for miles. They would probably think it was quite funny for people to drive a car to the gym to get some exercise. Robbins tells many stories of just how active these people are right up to their last breath.
One of the more interesting contrasts is in how these groups perceive aging. Because chronic illness is rare and the cultures are traditional, older people are highly valued. According to Healthy at 100, in one culture, siblings even fight over who has the privilege of caring for the grandparents. Grandparents are valued for their wisdom, and their storytelling.
Long-term, close relationships play an important role in health.
In centenarian societies, community members rarely move away. They have created autonomous societies where they either produce everything or barter for things they need. The family may have more than three generations on hand at any time, and many practical activities in a village are performed communally (think working bees).
Robbins cites research suggesting that isolation, fragmented relationships, and loneliness can be even more detrimental to health than smoking.
Our Take-aways: How to Put these Findings into Action
What we love about this book is the holistic approach. In today’s low-attention-span society, it’s often the simplest concepts that get the most attention. We want ‘quick tips’, ‘secrets’ to ‘instant results’ and ‘the one thing’ that will solve it all.
Of course, there is no ‘one thing’ – not even magnesium:) Health is symphony.
We struggle in our own lives to bring the pieces into balance. We’re on the road a lot; we’re online too often. In the summer, though, we are reminded more than ever of the importance of balance.
So, say ‘yes’ to every BBQ invite, visit your grandparents (or your parents), ditch the car, grow a garden. And if you’re really ambitious, find a source of spring fed water!
We’ll be back with more book tips. In the meantime, let us know your favourite health reads. What or who has inspired you? Drop us a line here, or on our Facebook page.