The Rekindle Diet: Eating for Optimal Health and Longevity

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by Nils Osmar. June 11, 2022. Medical disclaimer.

There are many ideas about what makes a healthy diet.  Some are wildly different from each other. If you want to start an argument, a good way is to claim that your diet is best.

So I’ll preface this by saying that this is my idea of an optimally healthy diet. But I understand that opinions may differ.

You’ll find claims online about vegan diets, carnivore diets, ketogenic diets and every other possible variation online. And the proponents of all of those diets make some good points.

  1. Vegan diets tend to be low in protein and be low in leucine, making them great for autophagy.
  2. Carnivore diets can be healing for people dealing with serious health problems because they give people a break from the toxins in some plant foods.
  3. Keto diets can be an excellent choice for people struggling to bring their body fat, blood sugar or insulin levels under control.
  4. Mediterranean diets provide a broad range of nutrients from all three food groups (plants, animals and fungi) are have been associated in some studies with prolonged lifespan.

On the other hand:

  1. In my experience vegan diets may not the best option for building health and immunity (unless we’re extremely careful and watchful about making sure we get enough nutrients while on them)
  2. For me, eating a carnivore diet – only meat, no plants at all – got old fast, and left me feeling like I was missing some key nutrients (like those in berries), and was difficult to maintain. I felt irritated and didn’t sleep well while on one.
  3. Strict keto diets shows evidence of reducing our metabolic flexibility.
  4. Mediterranean diets that are popular in the U.S. actually are pretty different from the ones eaten in the Mediterranean (and there’s not just one diet there). They’re associated with the Blue Zones theory, but it’s a theory that many serious researchers have rejected. For some people, the kind of Mediterranean diet eaten in the U.S. may be too low in protein and too high in carbs to support optimal health.

The Rekindle Diet

The first thing I can say about my current diet is that it’s working well for me. Switching to it helped me move from a state of sarcopenia, in which I was losing muscle, having short-term memory glitches, and having what I thought were aches and pains, to feeling younger, feeling better, gaining muscle, getting over my memory issues, and feeling younger than I have in years.

The photos below show what I looked like before starting my protocol, and what I look like now. I’m not saying I have the greatest physique in the world, but that I was happy with the improvement.

The Specifics

The diet I’m currently following is one part of an overall approach I call the Rekindle Protocol, which I developed through trial and error over a few years’ time with the intention of optimizing both health and longevity.

It’s similar in some respects to the Wahls Diet — which Dr. Terry Wahls maintains reversed her Multiple Sclerosis (though it did not fully cure it), though it includes some eggs and dairy, which the Wahls diet does not.

It has some similarities to a nutritional program that was used in a study called Reversal of Epigenetic Age with Diet and Lifestyle in a Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial –– which (its authors claim) has been found to reverse epigenetic age by several years in people who followed it for a few weeks. But it incorporates regular periods of fasting, in a way that diet did not.

The goal of the Rekindle diet is to optimize nutrition on my feasting days, but then balance them with at least two (sometimes three) full days of water fasting every week.

Three Food Groups: Plants, Animals and Fungi

The Rekindle Diet includes foods from all three food groups: plants, animals and fungi.

It’s mostly plant-based by volume, but also contains some animal-based foods. It’s rich in greens, cruciferous vegetables, root vegetables, mushrooms. The animal include (some) red meat, organ meats, poultry, pastured eggs, lamb, pork, along with raw dairy (assuming you can find a safe/tested source) and “real” home-made kefir and yogurts.

It has food from both the land and the sea. I get most or my protein from fish, but some from the (organic, grass-fed) red meat and organ meats and organically raised poultry I mentioned above.

It has lots of fermented foods. I eat some fermented dairy (kefir and Greek yogurt); fermented vegetables (kimchi and sauerkraut). and fermented soy (natto and miso).

The Rekindle Diet is low in sugar and carbohydrates. I do eat fruit and berries, but I don’t use sucrose or other caloric sweeteners. I try to minimize, and sometimes skip entirely, eating grains.

I drink water, vegetable juices, organic coffee, Pau D’Arco tea and white tea (opting for loose leaf tea instead of teabags so that I can avoid some microplastic contamination associated with teabags). I also drink a high quality Aloe Vera gel.

The details of what I eat actually depend on whether I’m exercising that day or not.

  • On my workout days, I do resistance training in the morning, then eat a meal based around animal protein to activate an enzymatic process called mTOR which supports immune health and muscle growth.
  • But I eat lower protein, more plant-based meals later in the day, and on my non-workout days, to keep another key biological process, AMPK, activated most of the time.

Plant-Based Foods

I’m not vegan anymore, but when I was,. I learned to appreciate the rich variety of foods in the plant kingdom. My current diet includes lots of:

  • Organic leafy greens, salads, cruciferous vegetables and root vegetables.
  • Fermented vegetables including kimchi and radish kimchi.
  • Fermented (organic) soy such as natto and miso.
  • Plants high in spermidine and other polyamines such as lentils, natto, green peas, and miso.
  • Fruit and berries, including apples, grapefruit, pomegranates, satsumas, dark cherries, blueberries, blackberries and other berries. To keep my blood glucose low, I try to keep portions small and eat them along with some protein, fiber and fat.
  • Onions and garlic (both are high in sulfur, which attaches to metals like lead and helps remove them from the body.
  • I eat small amounts of grains. I can’t eat wheat due to an allergy, but I eat this bread made from organic quinoa, millet, sorghum, buckwheat, and amaranth.
  • I sometimes eat rice and potatoes, but I chill them overnight first to turn them into a resistant starch (which is less likely to raise blood glucose).

Fungus-Based Foods

The Rekindle Diet includes lots of:

  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Oyster mushrooms
  • Button mushrooms
  • Mushrooms are naturally high in spermidine and other polyamines which support a form of deep-cleaning of our cells called autophagy, and are associated with a significant increase in lifespan.
  • Note that fungi are not plants. They are life forms built from chitin, which plants don’t use. In that sense, mushrooms and other fungi are actually closer to insects than to foods from the plant kingdom.

Animal-Based Foods

I eat more animal-based foods than the (typical American version of the) Mediterranean diet.

  • I eat eggs from organic, free-range chickens and other poultry.
  • I drink raw milk from cows or goats (assuming that a tested, healthy source is available) and eat raw milk cheese.
  • I don’t buy meat from factory farms, but from small family farms where the animals were treated with care all of their lives, protected from predators, and had access to fresh air, sunshine and pasture, and are slaughtered as painlessly as possible.
  • I eat organ meats such as beef heart; chicken hearts; beef liver; and chicken liver three times a week. (On my workout days, when I’m trying to activate mTOR, I work out fasted in the mornings then break my fast with some Argentinian liver powder in water.)
  • I also eat some fermented dairy such as yogurt and kefir, and cheeses high in spermine and spermidine such as aged brie and aged cheddar.

Food From the Sea

Seafood has high quality protein and is rich in RNA (ribonucleic acid), EPA and DHA. I eat sardines, anchovies, Atlantic Mackerel, and wild Pacific sockeye salmon (and salmon roe). They’re among the key staples of my diet. I try to have some fish or other seafood (high in EPA, DHA and RNA) every day.

  • One small village in Italy has 150 times the number of centenarians found anywhere else in the world; sardines and anchovies are two of their primary staples. (A third staple is rosemary.) This is one of the reasons I include those foods in my diet.
  • I also eat seaweed such as wakame, which is rich in fucoidan, a sirtuin 6 activator associated with longer lifespans in the communities eating it.

The Vegan Question

One question I often get when describing my diet online is, “Yeah, but, we all know vegan diets are the healthiest.” Having been vegan, I would no longer agree with this assumption.

  • For some people, being vegan may be a good choice. I did not find this was true for me. I was vegan several years ago, for about three years. My health seemed better for the first few months but then went downhill.
  • I was choosing my foods carefully and trying hard to eat a high nutrient vegan diet, but developed vision problems, pain in my teeth, back problems, aches in my joints, mood and memory problems, muscle wasting, blood sugar problems and obesity.
  • My short term memory got so bad it was almost funny. I got tired easily and when I tried exercising, felt exhausted and was unable to build muscle. 
  • I tried many variations (while still staying vegan), but concluded that, for me anyway, eating a vegan diet was not a path to ideal health. It may be that some people have genetics that allow them to thrive on a plant-only diet, but for me this was not the case.
  • Adding animal foods back into my diet solved my health problems literally overnight. I became, and have stayed, much healthier when I switched to my current diet.
  • Re: thoughts the ethics of eating animals and whether we can do so in a way that’s good for the Earth, that’s an important question, but not everyone agrees that an all-plant-agriculture model is best for the Earth. For an alternative point of view, see this article.
  • I realize that others may disagree with my assessment of both vegan and carnivore diets, and may choose to eat diets that are very different from mine.
  • I don’t have any any problems with people disagreeing. There are omnivores, vegans and carnivores in the anti-aging community, so there’s a lot of room for different approaches.
  • You could eat a diet that’s very different from mine (as long as it’s rich in nutrients) and still follow other elements of the Rekindle Protocol if you want to. The important thing would be making sure to get enough nutrients, whatever diet you follow.

The mTOR Question

As I mentioned above, on my workout days I aim to deliberately activate mTOR. When I mention this in anti-aging groups, I often get pushback, i.e. — isn’t mTOR bad? Isn’t activating it pro-aging?

Again, I would say, opinions differ.

It’s true that protein (or proteins that are high in leucine) activate mTOR. But (in my opinion) both mTOR and AMPK (its opposite number) are important. It’s true that AMPK drives longevity; mTOR drives growth (sometimes at the expense of longevity). So like most longevity diets, mine is based around keeping AMPK activated most of the time. Yet meat, dairy, fish, nuts, seeds and soy are all rich in leucine.

Am I in danger of having mTOR activated too much, because I eat more animal foods than some in the anti-aging community? Anything’s possible. But I don’t think so, because:

  1. I do a lot of fasting (which turns off mTOR and switches on AMPK).
  2. I work out a lot. This increases my protein requirements because I’m trying to build, not reduce, muscle.
  3. I work out fasted in the mornings (three times a week). then eat a high protein meal (such as Greek yogurt with added whey powder) right after my workout. Research suggests that if we do this, the mTOR activation is driven into our muscles, where it supports muscle growth without doing harm in the rest of the body. (Dr. Rhonda Patrick discussed this phenomen in a recent Found My Fitness episode.)
  4. I also sometimes do vegan days in which I eat no animal-sourced food at all, and do occasional five-day fasts or fasting-mimicking diets in which I eat only plant-based foods, and keep protein to less than 15 grams a day. These fasts and diets turn on AMPK, turn off mTOR, and crank up both autophagy (deep cleaning of our cells) and apoptosis (cannibalizing of senescent cells) (if done for several days).
  5. Switching between mTOR and AMPK activation is a better approach, in my experience, than trying to keep either process activated full time. Too much mTOR activation drives growth, and may shorten our lives, Too much AMPK activation undermines our immune response.
  6. The right balance is, or appears to be, having AMPK activated most of the time but activating mTOR occasionally too.
  7. The bigger danger with mTOR is if you eat a diet like the Standard American diet which is high in sugar and carbs that spike insulin (which also turns on mTOR); and/or eat or nibble constantly (keeping insulin high and mTOR activated); and/or eat heavily processed meat from factory farms (which is high in herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic hormones).
  8. The studies suggesting that eating some meat shortens the lifespan were conducted on people eating diets like that which do make people sick, not people eating naturally grown meat from the animals on small organic family farms. I don’t think we need to eat huge amounts of meat, but I also don’t think small or moderate amounts will hurt us.

So How’s It Going?

  • So far it’s going great.
  • I’m healthier and feel better on my current diet than I have on any other diet in the past.
  • I’m told I look younger than other 69 year olds. I have no health problems or aches or pains. My mind and memory are sharp and clear.
  • I’m not suggesting my diet is the only good one, but it’s working well these days for me.
  • Feel free to post your ideas about what makes an ideal diet below.

Other Possible Diets

You’ll find advocates in the life extension community for eating:

  • high-nutrient diets similar to the one I eat (advocated by Dr. Rhonda Patrick)
  • low-carb, high-protein diets (the “modified Atkins diet”) (advocated by Dr. Dom D’Agostino)
  • low-carb moderate protein diets (ket0)
  • high-carb, low-protein, mostly-vegetarian Mediterranean diets (Dr. Valter Longo’s s0-called “longevity diet”)
  • eating mostly plant-based, but only one meal a day (advocated by Dr. David Sinclair)
  • Primal/paleo/ancestral diets (“eat what your ancestors ate”) (advocated by Dr. Mark Sisson)
  • vegan diets (totally plant based; no animals) (advocated by Dr. Greger)
  • vegetarian diets (plant based plus some eggs and dairy)
  • all-carnivore diets (totally animal based; no plants)
  • carnivore/fruitarian diets (but no plant leaves or stems) (advocated by Dr. Paul Saladino)
  • diets high in fat
  • diets low in calories
  • and many others.
  • So, needless to say, opinions differ. Whatever diet you follow, I would advise you to pay attention to your body’s response to it. Remember that it’s not your job to “keep trying to make a diet work for you”. If it doesn’t work — throw that dietary approach away and move on.

Learning from the Acciarolins

I should also talk a little more about the Acciarolin diet (eaten in Acciaroli, Italy).

Like others in the Mediterranean, the Acciarolins eat lots of nutrient-dense home-grown vegetables, and use olive oil liberally. But they also raise and eat their own rabbits and chickens and eat large amounts of anchovies. They grow their own rosemary and use it to season almost all of their foods.

The Acciarolins have almost no Alzheimer’s or dementia or heart disease. They have the highest rate of centenarians in the world (Acciaroli has 75 times as many centenarians as people elsewhere in the world, and 30 times the number of centenarians as people in the so-called “blue zones”).

What I’ve taken from their diet is to eat sardines and anchovies, sources of oleic acid like olives and avocados, and season my meals with rosemary every day.

Summing Up

In summary, the Rekindle Diet is very high in bioavailable nutrients. It has foods from three kingdoms (plants, animals and fungi). It includes:

  • Foods from the ocean (such as sardines, anchovies, wild Pacific sockeye salmon, mackerel, oysters, shrimp and seaweed)
  • Foods from land animals (such as grass fed/organic beef, organ meats, chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, eggs, and some dairy products)
  • Leafy greens (such as kale, spinach, parsley, and romaine lettuce)
  • Root vegetables (such as beets, carrots, parsnips, yams and turnips)
  • Cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower)
  • Legumes (such as beans and lentils)
  • Foods high in sulfur (such as egg yolks, garlic and onions).
  • Fermented foods (such as sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, yogurt and kefir).
  • Fruit and berries (including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, pomegranates, apples and grapefruit).
  • Foods high in spermidine (such as aged cheese, mushrooms, lentils, corn and peas)
  • Herbs and spices (including rosemary, parsley, and other plant compounds with anti-aging properties)
  • Fungus-based foods (such as a wide variety of mushrooms)
  • Foods high in healthy fats (such as avocados and olives, which are rich in oleic acid, and egg yolks, which are rich in lutein and zeathanthin)
  • Raw and cooked foods (I eat about 75% raw)
  • I try to avoid eating sugar; heavily processed foods; unfermented soy; non-organic produce; meat from animals given hormones and antibiotics; and chemical non-caloric sweeteners.

The Rekindle Protocol

My diet is just one component of my current regimen. To learn about the entire regimen, click here.

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  1. What you have done in a years time to your body is nothing short of amazing. Ive searched your site and I was wondering if you posted somewhere every meal you ate and what day of the week? I want to do EXACTLY your diet.

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