The healthiest diet from the Hunza Valley

Throughout the world there are areas called Blue Zones that have been studied over many years due to the longevity of the people living there (where people live 100+ years). They all have very similar diets consisting of minimally processed raw and sometimes lightly steamed – fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.

The Hunza people lifespan ranged between 100 and 130 years. They continued to be physically active when older without being burdened with the many degenerative diseases that plague most people today. They did not suffer from arteriosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and dementia.

They lived in a chemical free environment, they had a limited caloric intake and continuous physical activity.

The real reason to their longevity and health is their fiber and mineral rich whole food diet. This consists of glacier water, dried apricots, nuts and whole grains, the Hunza diet has the highest mineral and potassium content. They lived in the Hunza Valley, Pakistan near the Himalayas they enjoyed long hot summers and short very cold winters.

They averaged around 1,760 calories per day with 50 grams protein, 36 grams fat and 354 grams carbohydrates.

The Core of the Hunza Diet

The two main staple foods are dried apricots and chapatis a mixed grain flat bread made from freshly ground buckwheat, barley, rye and millet. These two foods are

  • High in trace minerals, including selenium, zinc and copper
  • High in potassium and magnesium, low in sodium
  • High in cartotenoids
  • High in fiber
  • High in Vitamin E
  • High is essential fatty acids including linoleic omega 3 and alpha linolenic omega 6

The main staple food in Hunzaland is the apricot. This particular fruit is richer in vitamins and minerals than any other fruit known.

Dr. Jay Hoffman

Apricots are one of the richest sources of carotenoids a class of phytochemicals that includes beta carotene (provitamin A). A 2 oz portion of apricots has over 4,000 IU. They are also high in potassium 760 mg triple the amount found in bananas.

Many studies understand Vitamin A reduces tumor growth, neurological degeneration and impaired immune response. It also reduces the risk of cancer. A deficiency of carotene increases the incidence of cancer almost 8 times. This relates to whole foods rich in not only beta carotene but also in other compounds known as carotenoids via food and not via supplements. These carotenoids include alpha carotene, beta carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein and lycopene which has twice the antioxdants as Vitamin E (Klebanov et al. 1998).

Apricots are especially rich in Rutin, a potent antioxidant bioflavonoid. Rutin strenghtens blood vessels, promotes cell regeneration, protects against hypertension. It helps to make blood vessel walls more flexible. Rutin has a unique ability to slow down damage caused by arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) that can lead to heart attack, stroke and early death (Afanas’ev et al 1998)

Food preparation – Focus on Fresh

The Hunza people eat most foods raw – vegetables and fruits are not peeled and are either consumed fresh or lightly steamed when in season. Dried fruits and vegetables are used the remainder of the year. The grains are not refined, they are stone ground immediately prior to being made into breads.

Fresh foods are rich in enzymes and essential fatty acids and protective phyto-chemicals that are destroyed or neutralized in cooking. Their reliance on minimally heated whole foods clearly has long term health benefits.

High-Potassium, Low-Sodium Diet

The amazing longevity to the Hunza people may rest in their high potassium, low sodium diet. The mixed grains and dried fruits: Barley has 37:1 potassium to sodium ratio, apricots have 137:1 and buckwheat has 460:1. Western diets are very high in sodium

Three of the cornerstones of health are to maintain optimum blood pressure, cellular fluid balance and pH balance. Potassium is involved in protein synthesis, converting blood sugar to glycogen and activating numerous enzymes. A lack of potassium can disturb this delicate balance, triggering hypertension, cellular mutation and death.

Declining potassium levels have been linked to increased signs of aging. A multi year study on aging measured the potassium levels in 659 people over two decades. Between the ages of 40 to 60 potassium levels in the body dropped by over 13 percent (Flynn et al 1989). The high potassium diet of the Hunza may help counteract potassium loss with age and promote a longer life span.

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