When I was in Barcelona, Spain a few years ago, I was sitting at a restaurant overlooking La Rambla. It was amazing to see so many people of all ages walking by who were slim and trim. The Spanish appear to remain young and active even at advanced ages. By contrast, if you walk into a typical U.S. Walmart it’s not uncommon to dodge a fairly young person in a scooter or see someone walking with a cane. I didn’t see a single Spaniard on a scooter, other than a motorcycle and the only canes I saw were in the hands of tourists.
How the Spanish stay young has a lot to do with the food they eat
If you meander through the La Boqueria market in Barcelona, over 900 vendors are displaying the freshest and most appetizing food you’ve ever seen.
La Boqueria Food Market in Barcelona
Are you hungry yet?
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What we consider “normal eating hours” do not seem to matter
I noticed that Spaniards eat and drink wine all day long in cafes, parks and in their homes. We were walking around the lake near the Prado Museum in Madrid on a weekday afternoon and the cafes were packed. They spend a long time eating lunch and some go home and take a siesta.
Dinner time is insanely late. Restaurants in Spain are empty until 9 or 10 pm when the crowds show up to eat. In fact, they look at you funny if you show up early. After dinner, they party all night long. We saw many walking around at 7 in the morning as we were heading to get on a train. Americans are always being told to stop eating after 6 pm or risk getting fat. I guess that myth is debunked!
Good food and lifestyle choices make all the difference
A major factor of good health in the Spanish is that they eat a Mediterranean Diet, touted as one of the healthiest diets in the world. It’s also one of the most pleasurable. I love it because it isn’t about deprivation. You don’t hear people in Mediterranean regions warning, “Don’t eat wheat.” “Stay away from alcohol,” “No dairy” “No meat.”
Bread in Spain is served with olive oil rather than butter. You don’t see bottled salad dressings, soft drinks, or fast food restaurants, except for a few catering to American and English tourists.
Spaniards almost exclusively drink mineral water, coffee, and, of course, wine.
When you can enjoy an amazing café au lait at a train station, why hang out at Starbucks?
Their diet is low in sugar but one of their special treats is a warm cup of thick liquid chocolate. Yum!
Changes you can make to stay young like the Spanish:
- Eat fresh, flavorful whole food.
- Enjoy fruits and vegetables ripened on the vine.
- Eat portions served in small plates. The Spanish eat small meals called Tapas
- Savor your food in a slow relaxed manner with friends.
- Don’t sit idle. In Spain, you don’t see gyms on every street corner where people sweat and feel the burn. Instead, Spaniards walk everywhere, make love, dance and socialize.
- Drink red wine in moderation. 1-2 glasses per day
In other destinations in the world where people live the longest, you will find they follow similar rules. Most eat small portions of animal/fish protein (about 8-10% of the meal) with the main portions being fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
The Spanish stay young because they eat well, walk everywhere and take the time to relax. Eat and live like a Spaniard and you’ll stay young at any age.
What lifestyle changes do you need to make to stay young like the Spanish? Please leave a comment below.