The Indigenous Hunza people in the hills of Pakistan don't eat until lunchtime, existing on a mostly raw diet of fruit, nuts and seeds with a little yoghurt thrown in. There is one cooked meal per day — dhal with wholemeal chapattis.
Every single night.
This has been my diet for the last four weeks.
After the blissful diet of centenarian and Seventh Day Adventist vegetarian poster child Marge Jetton, to say I was kind of dreading the Hunza diet being next on my list of centenarian tried-and-tested eating plans is an absolute understatement. I was hungry just looking at my menu for the next month.
I went from delicious oats for breakfast to nothing. Zilch. Zip. Nada. Hunger pains until lunchtime. I found myself grumpy, thinking about food constantly, and unable to concentrate at work. I ate more nuts than I thought humanly possible. I was not having a good time.
Then there was the dhal. I love dhal. Dhal is awesome. There are so many things you can do with it, ranging from the variety of lentils (red, green, brown, puy) and the flavour of stock (chicken, beef, vegetable, fish, just plain water) to the different herbs and spices that make it really unique every time.
My favourite recipe was this one, shared with me by our amazing graphic designer, Shanya:
Shanya's Dhal: (for 3-4 servings) 1 cup dhal (masoor dhal) ½ medium sized onion sliced 2-3 green chili sliced 1 tsp red chili powder 1 sprig curry leaves 1 inch piece pandan leaf (not necessary but they really amp up the flavour. You can get them in any green groceries or asian supermarkets) ¼ tsp turmeric powder 1 tsp raw curry powder 1 tsp fenugreek seeds Piece of cinnamon Salt to taste 1 cup thick coconut milk
For Seasoning 2 tbspn oil 1 tsp mustard seeds 2 dried red chili Sliced ½ onion Few curry leaves (at least a sprig)
Method Wash dhal properly few times. Place in a cooking pot. Add all the spices under ingredients list together with, onion, rampa & curry leaves. Add thin coconut milk. Cover & allow to cook in medium flame. Once dhal is cooked add thick coconut milk. Mix well. Adjust salt to taste. Simmer till the curry becomes dry. At the mean time heat another pan & add oil. Once oil is hot, add the ingredients under seasoning. Once onions are tender & golden brown; add this mix to dry dhal curry & mix well. Serve & enjoy!
I also made homemade chapattis, which were surprisingly easy and absolutely delicious. Needless to say, dinner quickly became my favourite meal of the day. For a while, at least....
ALL OF THE DHAL
I gained far more weight than I was expecting on this diet. Nuts, while clearly very good for you and great for making you feel full, are so very calorie dense.
I ended up clocking over 3000 calories a day on this diet, and considering it was mostly made up of raw food and super healthy lentils with a small amount of wholegrains, that's a pretty decent effort. The fact that I was still hungry was both amazing and heartbreaking.
My energy levels were surprisingly good. I wanted to be active, and started hitting the gym again. At least it made me forget about how hungry I was.
My RealAge was 5 months older on the Hunza diet, mainly due to the lack of breakfast and low amount of carbohydrates.
Did I cheat?
Yes. It got to the point where if I didn't start eating before 12pm I was going to get no work done, as from 10:30am onwards all I was really doing was angrily staring at the clock. I also snuck in a few cheat dinners with friends — dhal isn't as widely served as you'd imagine in Sydney.
Pros: Inexpensive, easily available produce. Dhal is delicious and homemade chapattis are the best. Cons: Constantly hungry, lack of concentration, potential deficiencies without supplementation. BMI: From 22.1 to 22.3 RealAge: From 3.1 years older to 3.6 years older