It’s something we’ve been told time and time again: If you want to live a long life, make sure that you eat a healthy diet. But judging by the diets of some very, very old people, eating a conventionally healthy diet may not necessarily be the secret to longevity. We tracked down the self-reported favorite foods and daily diets of the oldest people who ever lived, and they range from reasonable to bizarre to downright hilarious.
It’s pretty clear that the foods that we eat play a relatively small role in determining the length of our lifespans. Exercise, happiness, overall lifestyle, smoking and drinking habits, and just plain old luck (genetic and otherwise) also come into play.
For whatever reason, these people just kept on living, some well past 110. Most supercentenarians, as they’re called, are regularly asked if they have any secrets; several of the world’s oldest women have claimed that not getting involved with men had something to do with it, while other supercentenarians swear by specific foods. And as for what they ate and drank (or for those still living, eat and drink), it’s as diverse as the people themselves.
Adele Dunlap was the oldest American at the time she passed away at age 114 in February 2017. She stuck to a diet of mostly oatmeal, according to USA Today, but historically ate basically whatever she wanted, and didn’t shy away from enjoying her martinis.
Agnes Fenton, who passed away in August 2017 at 112, certainly seemed like one sassy lady based on her diet. She told NJ.com that up until recently, she had three Miller High Lifes and a glass of Johnnie Walker daily. She also enjoyed grits, buttered toast, orange juice, bacon, and sausage for breakfast. As for her absolute favorite foods? Those included green beans, chicken wings, and sweet potatoes.
Dharam Pal Singh, who controversially claims to be the world’s oldest marathon runner, swears he’s 120 years old. However, though his passport, voter ID card, and PAN Card (a tax identification in India) all confirm his claimed age, those who have seen or met him are extremely skeptical. Nevertheless, he is in incredibly good shape for whatever age he is. He credits his longevity to chutney he makes himself, lemon juice, and mineral water. In addition to being hydrated, he’s also sober — he quit drinking entirely and also omits fatty foods from his strict diet. The New York Times reported that he also eats sun-ripened fruit and cow’s milk and avoids sugar, tea, and even coffee.
Emma Morano was famously the last living person who saw the 1800s, and was the world’s oldest person when she passed away at 117 in April 2017. She ate two raw eggs every day as a way to fend off anemia — advice she got from her doctor back in 1919 — as well as bananas and ladyfinger cookies. However, she told the Independent, “I do not eat much because I have no teeth.” She also swore off meat because she’d heard that it causes cancer — though her medical advice might be outdated.
Filomena Taipe Mendoza, who passed away at 117 in 2005, spent her entire life in a small Peruvian village in the Andes, and according to the Daily Mail, she told a government official, “My secret to longevity is a natural diet: I always ate potatoes, goat meat, sheep milk, goat cheese, and beans.” Everything she cooked came from her garden, and she never drank soda. That probably helped a whole lot — these 18 scary health effects of diet soda might just scare you into quitting.
On record as the oldest person who ever lived, Jeanne Calment lived to the ripe old age of 122, passing away in 1997. The French woman “used to eat more than two pounds of chocolate per week,” according to her obituary. The chocolate actually could have really benefitted her health. She also smoked and enjoyed a Sunday glass of port until age 120 — those choices probably didn’t.
Gallan, who lived to be 109 before passing away in 2015, credited her long life to eating a warm bowl of porridge every morning. The Scot also told the Daily Mail, “My secret to a long life has been staying away from men. They’re just more trouble than they’re worth.”
Pennsylvania-born Mariano “Pops” Rotelli, who died in 2016 at 107 years old, told The Newnan Times-Herald that he drank a hot cup of coffee every morning — spiked with a shot of Jim Beam Black. “I’ve had a shot of whiskey in my coffee every morning for 100 years,” he allegedly said at an event. That would mean he began drinking at age 7 — but it apparently didn’t do much harm!
Born in 1898, Misao Okawa was the world’s oldest person when she died in 2015. She credited her long life to getting eight hours of sleep per night and eating plenty of sushi, especially her favorite, mackerel. According to The Japan Times, she also loved ramen noodles and beef stew, as well as hashed beef and rice.
The last American to have been born before 1900, Susannah Mushatt Jones passed away in May 2016 at age 116. According to her obituary, she enjoyed a daily breakfast of bacon, eggs, and grits until just a few weeks before her death.
Täo Porchon-Lynch is “only” 98, but she’s also a yoga master, and still teaches yoga to this day. “I love vegetables and fruit,” the former model and MGM actress told HuffPo. “I’m a vegetarian, but I do like to eat lobster and shrimp occasionally. I also like a glass of wine with my food. I don’t like to drink alone. Wine is good for the blood. I don’t eat for the sake of eating. No one should eat huge quantities of food. Be in touch with nature and the fruits of life. That will keep us healthy.”
Violet Mosses Brown was born in Jamaica in March 1900 and passed away in September 2017 at 117 years old. She told the Jamaica Observer that she enjoyed fish, mutton, cow feet, and locally grown produce like mangoes, oranges, sweet potatoes, and breadfruit. She also didn’t drink, telling another Jamaican paper that she avoided “rum and dem tings.”
Polish-born Yisrael Kristal used to be the oldest living man on earth as well as the oldest living Holocaust survivor before his death in 2016 at age 113. His daughter told The New York Times during his life that he ate to live instead of living to eat, and that “he enjoys daily helpings of pickled herring and, as a younger man in his 80s, had a taste for wine and beer.”
Lessie Brown, 113, is currently the oldest person in the United States. Her secret? According to her 88-year-old daughter Bernie Wilson, it’s sweet potatoes. Brown ate a sweet potato (often referred to as a yam) every single day until she was 110 years old, only changing her diet in her extreme old age.
When San Francisco resident Matilda Curcia celebrated her 100th birthday this past March, she divulged her surprising secret to longevity. After she exercises, she drinks beer and eats potato chips every night. She walks and bikes regularly with her friend and neighbor Mickey — maybe it’s the companionship that’s keeping her healthy.
The Donnelly family, an Irish clan with the combined age of 1,075 years, was just inducted in the Guinness Book of World Records for the title of the oldest kin in the world. The oldest of the group is 93; their mother lived to 94. The family credits their long lives not to genetics, but to oatmeal. They eat oats “of the finest quality” from a local farm and avoid processed foods entirely.
Marie-Lou Wirth is a 100-year-old barmaid who credits her long life to eliminating dairy and fruit from her diet. She’s not a big drinker, but enjoys alcohol in moderation. She has been serving wine and spirits since she was 14 years old.
Eunice Modlin, who celebrated her 102nd birthday in January, attributes her long life to chocolate and naps. “She has two pieces of dark chocolate a day and takes a nap,” granddaughter Tammy Modlin Gentry told The Daily Meal. Eunice exercises regularly and grew most of her own food. Fresh fish is among her favorite selections for dinner.
Francisco Nunez Oliviera died in January at age 113. His family credits his longevity to his diet, which mainly consisted of vegetables that he grew on his own land, a nightly glass of wine, and the same breakfast every single day: a slice of sponge cake made with olive oil and a glass of milk.
Theresa Rowley, 104, has an unlikely explanation for her long and happy life: Diet Coke. Rowley claims to have drunk a Diet Coke every day since it was launched in 1982 when she was 68 years old. She says she can’t possibly think of another reason she’s lived this long — though there’s reason to be skeptical. Diet soda isn’t exactly good for you.
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