What the World's Oldest People Eat in a Day

There seems to be a running theme.

February 24, 2022

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A close up view of some broken pieces of dark chocolate.


A close up view of some broken pieces of dark chocolate.

Photo by: (C)Andrew Hounslea/Getty

(C)Andrew Hounslea/Getty

Ask any reputable doctor or nutritionist about what you should eat, and they’re likely to come back with similar advice. Consume more vegetables, whole grains and nuts. Cut back on meat — especially if it’s red. Go easy on sugary and processed foods. Or, as journalist Michael Pollan eloquently put it in his book In Defense of Food, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

This is all in theory. In practice, when you look at the world’s oldest people — who manage to stay healthy at well over 100 years old — you discover quite a mix of diets and habits. Kane Tanaka, a 119-year-old woman from Fukuoka, Japan who currently reigns as the oldest living person, eats rice, fish and soup. However, she’s not exactly on a strict routine.

For her, that means savoring hakata ramen, motsu nabe (offal stew), mentaiko (fish roe) and mizutaki (chicken hotpot). She’s also not afraid to indulge in cravings, like coffee, carbonated drinks and chocolate. During the Guinness World Records presentation ceremony in 2019, she was gifted with a box of chocolate which she immediately opened and started eating. Later, when asked how many chocolates she wanted to eat today, Tanaka replied: “100.” (Us, too.)

With more centenarians than any other country, there may be something to the health benefits of the average Japanese citizen’s plant-based, low-glycemic diet. One study in Okinawa found that many centenarians there also practice hara hachi bu — eating until they’re just 80% full.

However there are still plenty of centenarians and supercentenarians to be found around the world. Take, for example, Violet Brown, a Jamaican woman who lived to 117 years old. Her diet consisted of fish, mutton, and locally-grown produce like sweet potatoes, breadfruit, oranges and mangoes. Susannah Mushatt Jones, an Alabama-born 116-year-old woman who resided in Brooklyn, revealed that daily diet consisted of morning bacon and eggs, fruit for lunch, and the classic meat, potatoes, and vegetables for dinner. However, her niece said at the time, “She’ll eat bacon all day long.” The world’s second-oldest verified living person, a 118-year-old French nun named Lucile Randon or Sister André, does her one better and admits to eating chocolate every morning.

In fact, chocolate does seem to be a running theme, with Randon, Tanaka and Jeanne Louise Calment, who holds the all-time record for the oldest living person at 122 years old, all eating it daily. (Calment ate more than two pounds a week in addition to the occasional glass of port). Whether these women were on to something (dark chocolate has been shown to improve heart health) or just won the genetic lottery, one of the best lessons we can learn from them is to not forget to eat what makes us happy. As Tanaka says, the “secret to a long life is doing the things that you like. Eating the things I like, doing the things I like. I’ve been able to enjoy each and every day.”

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