From chocolate and bacon to staying away from MEN! The secrets of living until you’re 100, according to centenarians


Living to celebrate your 100th birthday is largely down to genetics and pure luck.

But there may be some simple ways to boost your chances. That is, if you heed the advice of people who’ve made it that far.

From eating bacon every morning and gorging on chocolate, to playing board games and avoiding men, these are some of the habits the oldest people to have ever lived swore by…  

Keeping the brain active is the habit 119-year-old Kane Tanaka in Japan (top left) swore by before she died. But Jessie Gallan of Aberdeen (top right) says staying away from men helped her live so long. San Francisco-born Maria Branyas Morera (top centre), who is 116, has prioritised living a calm existence, while Susannah Mushatt Jones (bottom left), who lived to the same age, was known for her love of eggs and bacon. Jeanne Calment (bottom centre), who lived to a record-breaking 121, enjoyed chocolate and red wine, while Juan Vicente Pérez (bottom right), spoke of the importance of making time to take holidays and relax

Kane Tanaka lived until the age of 119 in Fukuoka, Japan. She said her favourite foods were chocolate and fizzy drinks

Kane Tanaka lived until the age of 119 in Fukuoka, Japan. She said her favourite foods were chocolate and fizzy drinks

Keep the brain active 

Playing board games and solving puzzles were favourite pastimes of Kane Tanaka, who was born January 2, 1903, in the southwestern Fukuoka region of Japan.

In 2019, she was ranked the oldest person alive by Guinness World Records and in April 2022 she died at the age of 119.

In her earlier years, she ran various businesses including a noodle shop and a rice cake store.

But when asked by Japan National Tourism Organization in 2020 about her ‘ikigai’ — the Japanese concept that refers to someone’s reason for getting up in the morning — she said: ‘I would say talking to lots of the people. 

‘For me personally, it’s also playing Othello, the board game, and doing maths puzzles.’

Keeping the brain active through stimulating activities and socialising has been shown to protect against mental decline in a swathe of research.

Tanaka also revealed that her daily routine included waking up at 6am and spending the afternoon studying maths and practising calligraphy. 

And although she spoke of her love for fizzy drinks, coffee and chocolate, she never said whether she thought that helped her become a centenarian. 

Despite her love for sugary drinks and chocolate, she did recommend a few favourites from her home region of Fukuoka, including Hakata ramen, motsu nabe (offal stew), mentaiko (fish roe) and mizutaki (chicken hotpot).  

Stay tranquil 

San Francisco-born Maria Branyas Morera has prioritised living a calm existence and avoiding ‘toxic people’ over the course of her 116-year life.

San-Francisco born Maria Branyas has become the world's oldest person aged 115

San-Francisco born Maria Branyas has become the world’s oldest person aged 115 

The ‘supercentenarian’ — a title given to people once they pass 110 — told Guinness World Records that she credits her longevity on ‘order, tranquillity, good connection with family and friends, contact with nature, emotional stability, no worries, no regrets, lots of positivity and staying away from toxic people’.

Despite her age, she is active on social media, frequently posting on X, formally known as Twitter, with the help of her daughter.

In December 2022, she shared tips on diet and hailed the health benefits of one particular food.

She wrote on X: ‘And a piece of advice, if you’ll allow me. In an age when diets and miracle foods for well-being and health are constantly emerging, it is necessary to rescue yoghurt, a lifelong food with an infinite number of positive properties for the body.’ 

Yoghurt is a good source of calcium and protein, which is good for bone and muscle health, according to the NHS. But there isn’t any evidence that eating yoghurt will help you live longer. 

Avoid men 

Staying away from men and eating plenty of porridge is the recipe to living to see past your 100th birthday, according to Jessie Gallan.

Before she died aged 109 in 2015, the centenarian told all her secrets from her care home in Aberdeen. 

Jessie Gallan put her longevity down to eating porridge every day and staying away from men

Jessie Gallan put her longevity down to eating porridge every day and staying away from men

She said: ‘My secret to a long life has been staying away from men. They’re just more trouble than they’re worth.’ 

‘I also made sure that I got plenty of exercise, eat a nice warm bowl of porridge every morning and have never gotten married.’ 

Porridge is a wholegrain, which is thought to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes by up to 30 per cent when consumed regularly as part of a healthy diet, according to the British Dietetic Association

Eat bacon and eggs

Four strips of bacon, eggs and ground corn every morning may not sound like the healthiest breakfast, but it saw Susannah Mushatt Jones to the age of 116.

Before the Brooklynite died in May 2016, she put her old age down to good food and early nights. 

Susannah Mushatt Jones lived to see the age of 116 and she put it all down to her love of bacon

Susannah Mushatt Jones lived to see the age of 116 and she put it all down to her love of bacon

The super centenarian, who used to go to bed at 7pm every night and get 10 hours of sleep, swore by eating bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast every day, according to an aide at the Brooklyn senior centre where she lived.

‘She’ll eat bacon all day long,’ they told the New York Post.

However, processed meats like bacon, sausages and ham have been shown to be a health risk. The NHS warns eating a lot of red and processed meats increases your risk of bowel cancer

Processed meat refers to meat that has been preserved through curing, smoking or salting or just adding preservatives.

But it’s not just bacon that kept her going, Jones also was known to enjoy little luxuries.

Her niece, Selbra Mushatt, told TIME in 2014: ‘One time, when she had to get an EKG (heart scan), the doctors and nurses were surprised to see her wearing that lingerie, and she said, ‘Oh sure, you can never get too old to wear fancy stuff’.’ 

Eat chocolate 

Jeanne Calment is officially the oldest person to ever live. 

But she did not follow any strict diets or worry about her health. Instead, she smoked, drank red wine and ate chocolate, according to archives of her colourful life.

Jeanne Calment died in 1997 at the age of 121 and said she ate plenty of chocolate as well as drinking red wine and smoking

Jeanne Calment died in 1997 at the age of 121 and said she ate plenty of chocolate as well as drinking red wine and smoking

As well as having a sweet tooth, she also enjoyed fois gras and a rich local stew. 

She died in 1997 at the age of 121 and it was only when she was 117 that doctors suggested she should quit smoking and stay off the wine. 

Calment, who enjoyed playing tennis and roller-skating in her youth, claimed to have met Vincent van Gogh in 1888 when he visited her family’s shop to buy a canvas and described him as ‘very ugly’. 

There is some evidence, however, that chocolate, especially dark, could actually be good for you due to being high in flavanols. 

Studies suggest that eating foods rich in the natural compound, which also include apples, berries and green tea, could improve vascular health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Make time to relax 

Juan Vicente Mora from Venezuela starts his day with a cup of coffee with a glass of aguardiente

Juan Vicente Mora from Venezuela starts his day with a cup of coffee with a glass of aguardiente

The world’s oldest living man celebrated his 114th birthday in May — and he credits making time to relax and a local sugarcane hooch for his longevity. 

Juan Vicente Pérez, from Venezuela, starts his day with a cup of coffee with a glass of aguardiente, which is a spirit made from sugarcane.

Aguardiente translates into English as firewater and it has a minimum of 29 per cent alcohol, though some have as much as 60 per cent. 

Pérez gave the advice at his 113th birthday to ‘work hard, rest on holidays, go to bed early, drink a glass of aguardiente every day, love God and always carry him in your heart’. 

However, it is not advised to drink alcohol every day. In fact, men and women are advised to not drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis, according to the NHS. This equates to six pings of beer or 10 small glasses of wine.





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