My own general philosophy for how to live a healthy life (and hopefully a long one!) comes from my biology background (which I studied at university, I then went on to work for New Scientist as a journalist for 10 years), and in particular from looking at our evolutionary history. If we choose a life as close to the one we have adapted to live in, then surely our health should be the best it can be. In the last couple of hundred years, mainly to due to advances in technology, including electricity and transport, the lives that humans have lead for over 300,000 years has been dramatically changed, and in evolutionary time, might as well have been over night. I'm not saying that technology is a bad thing, in many ways it is amazing, and the medical advances that have been made are incredible and have saved so many lives. But, if we want to be healthier, then I personally believe we need live more like we did for hundreds of thousands of years, and not like the one we have only lived like for 200 or so since the arrival of technology. I'm not sure yet that we know of all the consequences that 'modern living' is having on our health and longevity.
FOOD: eat like our ancestors did. This means a diet of lots of fruit and veg, with a bit of meat and fish thrown in a couple of times a week. We have not evolved to consume meat and fish numerous times every day, but just when we were lucky enough to catch a fish or spear a buffalo on the plains of Africa. Nor have we evolved to eat very high levels of sugary foods. The sweetest thing our ancestors would have feasted on is honey (but only when lucky and brave enough to stumble across it in a bees nest) or a banana or other piece of fruit. Eating lots of highly processed sugary foods such as cakes and biscuits is going totally against our biology and how our digestive system has evolved, so have a diet as low as possible in sugars, and that includes complex carbohydrates such as pasta too.
COOKING: the slower the better in my opinion. Our ancestors did not have microwaves, these have only been around for 50 years! I try to avoid microwave wherever possible, believing it to be both unnatural and to diminish the nutritional value of food. I just use the hob or the oven, and where possible my slow cooker (see my blog on slow cooking).
TECHNOLOGY: where possible try to keep devices such as phones and computers etc to a minimum. Easier said than done I know! Again these have only been around a few decades, it is not natural! Try communicating by talking face to face with people as much as possible. Not only do you get your message across more clearly, but human contact is good for our mind health!
CHEMICALS: try to avoid them as much as possible. Ideally buy organic food that hasn't been sprayed or injected with them. And try to use natural cleaning products such as lemon juice and vinegar (see here for more details) -- I use the Method range who use plant based chemicals in their products (they happen to look and smell fab too!).
TRANSPORT: try to use your limbs where at all possible! All modes of transport produce lots of pollution that is neither good for the environment, or your lungs! Keep flying to a minimum, we have not evolved to be 35,000 feet up in the air and be exposed to lots of cosmic rays!
EXCERISE: we have evolved to be up and about most of the day on our feet, gathering fruit and veg, and hunting for animals, and not sat at a desk all day, staring at a screen. Try to do at least 30 mins of walking or running every day, as a minimum.
SLEEP: our ancestors did not have electricity and in Africa where humans spent most of their evolutionary history, it gets dark around 6/7pm and light around 5/6am.. there was not much to do when it was dark, unlike now, where we can be up watching tv etc all night! So our ancestors probably slept for a good 11 hours most nights! So get more sleep!
STRESS: modern day living is so much faster these days and because our population is so much higher, the competition for resources (nowadays jobs and money rather than potatoes!) is higher than ever before, which means more stress for everyone generally! Try to SLOW YOUR LIFE DOWN, and take time out every day, whether it be for some exercise, meditation, or just some deep breathing. Just try to stop every now again!
The above is not based on scientific hard evidence or facts, it is just I what sense to be the healthiest way to live our lives, based on our evolutionary history and the way we lived for 300,000 odd years before technology arrived! Obviously all of the above is not always possible, but I bear it in the back of my mind and try wherever possible to adhere to it if I can.
I would love to know your thoughts! : - )