Eating less may help you live longer

A popular eating trend these days is the 5:2 diet, which calls for normal eating five days a week, with consuming only 25 percent of a normal daily caloric intake on two other days.






Physician and British television journalist Michael Mosley popularized the diet with his 2012 documentary titled “Eat, Fast and Live Longer,” which was aired on the BBC.

Mosley interviewed researchers at the USC Davis School of Gerontology in Los Angeles, the Longevity Research Program at Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the National Institute of Aging in Baltimore.

Studies highlighted in the documentary indicate that intermittent calorie restriction affects cells in our bodies, giving them more time to repair damage before dividing into more cells. Less-damaged cells mean less risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Longevity research also shows that calorie restriction can slow down dementia and memory loss. In a study of mice genetically pre-disposed to Alzheimer’s, calorie restriction helped delay the onset of the disease; new cells were created in the brains of the mice.

The 5:2 diet is based on 25 percent of a normal daily caloric intact because research indicates that’s the threshold for receiving full benefits of calorie reduction. Researchers stress the 5:2 diet isn’t for children, those underweight, the elderly or pregnant women. It is wise to consult your physician before starting any diet.

As more research is being done, more 5:2-based cookbooks are appearing. I’ve been testing one by recipe developer Delphine de Montalier and nutritionist Charlotte Debeugny. They claim that following the 5:2 diet for a month will result in an average weight loss of seven pounds.

In that time, I lost almost 5 pounds — less than average, but a thrilling result nonetheless. I’ve stuck with the 5:2 diet for almost 2 months now and continue to lose weight gradually. Mid-afternoon to 6 p.m. is the most difficult time of day for me to get through. That awareness helps me limit snacks on my normal eating days.

Pants I was wearing two months ago are too big for me now. Slowly but surely, I’m going in the right direction.

Here is one of my favorite recipes from “The Essential 5:2 Fast Diet Planner”:


Serves 1

3 ½ ounces fennel (31 calories)

½ zucchini, about 4 ½ ounces (21)

½ eggplant, about 3 ½ ounces (24)

3 ½ ounces mushrooms (22)

3 ½ ounces baby spinach (24)

7 ounces tomatoes (36)

1 teaspoon olive oil (45)

2 pinches cayenne pepper (1)

2 pinches ground cumin (1)

1 cup pasta of your choice (293)

Total calories: 498

Variation for Men

1 ¼ cup pasta (380 instead of 293)

Total calories: 585

Prepare the vegetables: Discard the fennel’s tough outer layer and chop the fennel, zucchini, eggplant and mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. Steam the fennel, zucchini and eggplant for 15 minutes. Process 1 ounce of the baby spinach in a food processor with the tomatoes, olive oil, some salt and pepper, and 2 tablespoons water. Pour this sauce into a frying pan over medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cayenne, cumin, mushrooms and steamed vegetables, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the portion of pasta (half per meal, if dividing into 2 meals) for 1-2 minutes less than the time indicated on the packet. Before draining the pasta, take 1 small ladle full of pasta water and add it to the vegetable sauce. If desired, set aside half of the sauce for a second meal. Drain the pasta and add it to the frying pan. Stir and continue to cook for 1 minute. Serve immediately with half or all the remaining fresh baby spinach mixed in at the last moment. Do the same for the second meal.

Note: If you prefer you can cook all the pasta at once and reheat half of it very gently for a second meal.

Variation: You can use quinoa or buckwheat pasta for a gluten-free recipe.

From the book: “The Essential 5:2 Fast Diet Planner” by Delphine de Montalier & Charlotte Debeugny; 207 pages, $19.99. Published by Weldon Owen, 2016.

What you get: This collection includes 500-calorie recipes for women (with easy modifications for increasing to 600 calories for men); low-calorie, high nutrient a la carte recipes; and a guide for following the 5:2 eating plan.

In their own words: “’Intermittent fasting’ is the latest trend in dieting. Originating in the United Kingdom, it has spread around the world. Based on solid research, it has been scientifically proven effective, unlike many fashionable diets. The basic principle is to eat less, which allows you to lose weight and offers numerous health benefits.”

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