If I asked you to close your eyes and picture Richard Branson, what image would come to mind? You might think of him strapped into a Virgin Galactic rocket shooting into space, or performing some wild publicity stunt like trying to fly a hot air balloon around the world. Perhaps you'd picture him kitesurfing with some celebrity on his private Caribbean island.
Whatever came to mind, I'm going to guess it was active and daring. Now I have another question for you: How old exactly is Sir Richard these days? Don't Google it: He's 71.
Take those two paragraphs and put them together and what do you get? A septuagenarian grandfather who, far from being creaky and forgetful, appears to be maintaining incredible levels of energy and fitness. Which is why I didn't click away when I visited Branson's blog recently and saw a post on how he eats for greater health. Entrepreneurs in general may not be the best sources of nutrition advice, but Branson seems like a guy who knows something about aging well.
Meet Richard Branson's diet guru.
The specific disease-fighting diet Branson follows was designed by Harvard-trained cancer doctor William Li, who argues that certain superfoods help the body ward off diseases like cancer and heart disease. Li recently spoke at a Virgin Unite gathering, and Branson reports being inspired by his work to improve his own diet.
"I have long prioritized an all-round healthy lifestyle. I exercise daily in the form of tennis, kitesurfing, swimming, weights, and cycling (sometimes to my detriment!). I go to bed at 9 p.m. when possible, I have an incredible team around me to help manage stress and am blessed with the most incredible friends and family. And diet, according to Dr. Li, is the final pillar to help realize full health potential," Branson writes.
Happily, many of the foods recommended by Li are ones you likely already enjoy. Branson apparently indulges in three every day.
"Dr. Li argues that drinking one to three cups of coffee a day lowers the risk of heart failure by 33 percent. And that by eating one kiwi fruit a day you can increase protection of your DNA from oxidative damage by 60 percent," Branson reports. "He also suggests that by sipping five cups per day of green tea you can significantly lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels."
If that sounds intriguing to you, you can pick up Li's book Eat to Beat Disease for lots more information, but here to get you started is a sampling of other foods Li claims help prevent disease. Eating all of them every day is a tall order, but regularly adding as many as you can to your diet should help you stay healthy and avoid disease.
Green tea for polyphenols like EGCG
Kiwi fruit for vitamin C and antioxidants
Sourdough bread for its effect on the microbiome
Hard cheeses such as Gouda, Muenster, and Camembert for vitamin K2
Leafy greens like kale, spinach, arugula, and radicchio
Legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and beans for protein, fiber, iron, and vitamins and minerals
Small tinned fish like sardines, mackerel, and anchovies for omega-3 fatty acids
Tomato sauce for the antioxidant lycopene
Extra virgin olive oil
Walnuts for omega-3 fats, B vitamins, and magnesium
Click the links above for more details on Li's diet recommendations or learn more by watching his TED talk below: