Monday 20 January 2020

We can live longer with better food choices

Handful of cherries
Handful of cherries

Every now and then, the media reports on the oldest living humans on the planet. Perhaps Jiroemon Kimura, who lives in Japan, should take a bow. Astonishingly, this man who still eats three square meals a day was born 17 years before the start of World War One (yes, you did read that correctly). He is 116 years old.

One of the things that has always intrigued me is a question these people who live such incredibly long lives are always asked. It usually relates to their diet.

Here we get an opportunity to tune in to significant learning. Every day, Jiroemon eats at regular intervals and consumes a daily diet that includes porridge and sweet potatoes.

I have never met Jiroemon, but I am a firm believer that what we eat every day is more important that what we eat once in a while.

I don't profess to be a food angel. Generally, though, I try to eat really well 80pc of the time. Do I always maintain this high number? If I am to be honest, no, but I always try to hover as close as possible.

I recall a few years ago reading an article in which an experienced marathon runner was asked a question by a first-timer who was days away from making his debut at the distance.

"What should I be eating now," he asked.

"What you were eating two, three and four months ago," came the reply.

Of course, the experienced runner did offer some sound, last-minute advice, but he was also sharing a philosophy of embracing a broad-based diet of eating quality foods on a regular basis.

Of course, specific foods and measurements need to be considered in the days leading up to big sporting ambitions. But perhaps we could all pay attention to the clues that centenarians such as Jiroemon are giving us.

Every day, our cars take us from A to B. I have never willingly or knowingly put poor-quality diesel into mine. Likewise, our bodies are paying attention every day to the quality of fuel we put into them.

Last week, I had a really busy schedule which involved quite a lot of travel. My car carried me through it without a hitch.

I did make some poor food choices, though, because I kept making excuses about not having access to quality foods.

It is a very poor excuse, I know. I also know that by the end of the week my body was feeling very lethargic. I am certain that this was because of the poor food choices I made. My body was paying attention at every meal and in every shop.

As summer progresses, we might only be months away from our big ambitions for 2013. Even this far in advance, our bodies are already getting ready for race day. Here, we have a fantastic opportunity to give ourselves a head start.

Perhaps we might never consciously notice it. It might only be a 1pc or 2pc improvement, but if we are reversing a trend, that percentage automatically doubles. Good maths in anyone's language.

Gerry Duffy is a motivational speaker and endurance athlete.

Irish Independent

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