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5 Anti-aging Diets

The Origin Diet

The Origin Diet: How Eating Like Our Stone Age Ancestors Will Maximize Your Health is based on the idea that we can live longer and healthier lives by more closely approximating the diet and activity level of our Stone Age ancestors.

Quick Take

  • Based on what are believed to be the dietary habits of our Stone Age ancestors
  • Focuses on unprocessed, whole-grain foods
  • Recommends lots of physical activity

This Diet Is Best For

Anyone who is ready and willing to make some major changes in their diet and lifestyle. This diet is one that could benefit all.

Who Should Not Try This Diet

There's no one that the diet is unsafe for, but it can be expensive, so make sure you're willing and able to absorb the additional cost of the food required to stick to the plan. If you can't live without the occasional splurge, then this may not be the diet plan for you.

The Premise

The author, dietitian Elizabeth Somer, says that eating too much food and not exercising enough are responsible for 70 percent of all cancers and at least 50 percent of heart disease.

Middle-age spread, she assures us, is not related to age but to a lack of activity. Moreover, she believes it's possible to stave off the frailties of old age by following the Origin Diet. Specifically, Somer's diet promises to help prevent heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, cataracts, memory loss, and depression while boosting your energy and helping you to lose weight and live longer.

Weight loss is not the focus of the Origin Diet, but it is a side benefit and integral to the life-extending premise of the plan.

The Rationale

There is a valid scientific basis for most of Somer's claims about the Origin Diet. Her diet encourages the consumption of whole, unprocessed foods, which research shows are rich in compounds called phytonutrients that are believed to help fight disease, and foods that are high in fiber, which can help control blood sugar and lower cholesterol.

There's more to her plan than dietary recommendations, however. Somer offers "Five Stone Age Secrets" that will allow us to approximate the healthy lifestyle of our ancestors, one that she says is more genetically appropriate for us. The Origin Diet details how to alter your diet and lifestyle in order to adhere to these five principles. Physical activity is an integral part of the plan.

Eating on the Origin Diet

Though the diet emphasizes what Somer calls "wild," or natural, foods you'll still find healthful canned, frozen, and even some highly processed foods such as fat-free bottled salad dressing on the menus. She offers several sample breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus that can be mixed and matched at the appropriate meals over several days, as well as recipes.

There are no strict food exchanges or diet plans to follow, but she does give some dietary guidelines. These include eating slowly and regularly and each day having six servings of whole grains, two to three servings of calcium-rich foods, three servings of starchy vegetables, and two servings of protein sources that are low in saturated fat.

A typical breakfast might include soy milk, wheat germ, raisins, and chopped walnuts. Lunch might be a chicken breast sandwich on whole-wheat bread, a green salad with fat-free dressing, and nonfat milk. Dinner could include poached salmon with vegetables, a baked potato, broccoli, and nonfat milk.

To cut back on unhealthy fats, she recommends eating only skinless poultry breast, fish, shellfish, and wild game as your meat sources. Somer also advocates grazing -- eating five to six mini-meals throughout the day -- rather than eating three large ones.

What the Experts Say

Though no experts contend that the Origin Diet is unhealthy, some believe that asking people to stick almost completely to unprocessed food and to increase their intake of wild game as a protein source is carrying it a bit too far. However, if it's a plan you think you can stick with (and afford -- game meat can be quite expensive) then it can't do anything but benefit your health and longevity.

Somer's emphasis on physical activity and stress reduction gets her high marks from experts. She offers specific suggestions on how to incorporate regular activity into your daily life and ways to relax and relieve stress.

The diet is generally quite healthy, including lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and soy foods. The only nutrients in which the diet might be deficient are calcium and vitamin D. While the basic guidelines of the diet recommend two to three servings of dairy a day, more than many diet plans, that's not enough to meet the recommended intake of 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams for people 50 and older. The same is true of vitamin D.

Your need for vitamin D increases with age, and again, fortified milk and yogurts are your best sources. If you switch to soy milk from cow's milk, be sure it's fortified with calcium and vitamin D; not all soy milks are. Though this diet doesn't call for calorie counting or food exchanges, chances are you won't eat too much.

The foods included in the diet are mostly unprocessed and high in fiber, so you'll likely feel full faster and be less likely to overeat. Physical activity is as much a part of the Origin Diet as the diet itself.

Calorie quota: The calorie content of food is not emphasized in the Origin Diet. Rather, learning how to choose a wide variety of high-fiber, nutrient-packed foods is the point. Eating more of these foods should make you eat less and ultimately cut calories.

Yes: Whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, wild game meats, olive oil, canola oil

No: Processed, refined foods; saturated fats in meats and whole-fat dairy products; fast food; inactivity

Other similar diets: Eat More, Weight Less; Turn Off the Fat Genes

On the next page, get the scoop on the popular Real Age Diet and determine if this anti-aging diet is right for you.