Living on Big Macs, Bacon, Raw Eggs, and General Tso’s Chicken

Secret to longevity may not be a good diet, but the good life

We lost two great innovators last week. You may not have known them by name, but chances are you know their delicious contributions to the world.

First, Michael James Delligatti, creator of the Big Mac, passed away at age 98. Then, later in the week, Chef Peng Change-kuei, who invented General Tso’s Chicken, died — also at the age of 98.

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Health aficionados would have you believe these men contributed to the obesity rates and early deaths of millions of people worldwide. But then, how did these two men live to be 98? Did they not partake of their own yummy inventions?

Indeed, Delligatti’s family said he loved the sandwich and regularly ate it. He was one of the earliest franchisers of McDonald’s. Peng, a native of China’s Hunan Province, fled to Taiwan when the Communists took over in 1949. He continued to cook, opened a restaurant, and became known the world over.

Some people might spend their whole lives eating vegetables and doing all the “right things” — and keel over at 40. Others enjoy a life of delicious food with little health benefits but live to be 100. Some of it has to do with genetics, certainly. But some of it may have to do with the way we determine our own fate.

Sleep and generosity toward others are important contributing factors to a long life, said one centenarian.

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Now believed to be the world’s oldest woman, Emma Morano, 117, does not credit healthy living for her longevity — her doctor says she eats “very few vegetables, very little fruit” — but she does eat raw eggs.

It was, she says, because she took herself out of an unhealthy situation.

Determined “never to be dominated by anyone ever again,” she left a husband who she said had treated her poorly, and she never looked back. That was in 1938, and she has been single, independent, and happy ever since.

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At 116, Susannah Mushatt Jones credits her longevity to a daily diet of bacon, eggs, and grits for breakfast. She also finds lots of sleep and generosity to family are important contributing factors.

A French woman who lived to be 122, Jeanne Calment said she drank wine every day and ate two pounds of chocolate a week. But most importantly, she said, was to keep a sense of humor about everything.

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Staying out of people’s business has been the key to living a long life for Besse Berry Cooper-Brown, age 116, of Georgia.

In other words, removing from your life things that cause stress, looking to help others, and keeping a sunny disposition may be every bit as important to living a long and happy life as diet, exercise, genetics, or any other factor.

So the next time you’re tempted to enjoy some great food or a little wine and humor — take the time to do so. It may help you live longer.

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