“The magic of Hunza is hard to depict. Locked between three icy giants, the valley changes its colors from emerald to deep green in spring and yellow to orange in fall due to its poplar trees. The air is tuned with flutes of shepherds and fragrant with blossoms of peach and apricot. The people of Hunza have rosy cheeks, bright eyes and often survive to celebrate 100 years of life.”
James Hilton has immortalized the magic of Hunza in his famous novel, Lost Horizon where everybody lives peacefully in Shangri-La.
The Hunza tribe are not the product of legend, nor is the country they inhabit a mythical utopia. They call themselves the Hunzas (pronounced Hoonzas) and live in what has come to be known as the roof of the world – the mountain peaks of the Himalayas. To be more precise, the Hunza country, with a population of only 30,000, is situated at the extreme northern point of India, where the borders of Kashmir, China, India and Afghanistan converge.
It is said that this tiny group of people, residing in an inaccessible valley about 3000 meters (9000 feet) above sea level, are more or less completely cut off from the outside world. It is also said that they are the happiest people on earth.
Another important point to understand is that the health of the Hunzas is not characterized by the simple absence of disease, although that in itself is quite an accomplishment. More than just not being affected by diseases that strike down so many of our peers in the prime of life, the Hunzas seem to possess boundless energy and enthusiasm, and at the same time are surprisingly serene. Compared to the average Hunza, a westerner of the same age – even one who is considered extremely fit – would seem sickly. And not only seem sickly, but actually be sick!
The life expectancy of the average Westerner is about 70 years. The life expectancy of the average Hunza falls onto a different scale altogether – these people reach both physical and intellectual maturity at the venerable age of one hundred! This fact emphasizes the relative nature of what we refer to as normal.
As we’ll see a little later on, the way we are conditioned to perceive aging has a determining effect on the way we develop.
At one hundred years old, a Hunza is considered neither old nor even elderly. Even more extraordinary is the fact that Hunzas remain surprisingly youthful in all ways, no matter what their chronological age is.
According to a number of sources, it is not uncommon for 90 year old Hunza men to father children. Hunza women of 80 or more look no older than a western woman of 40 – and not only any woman, but one who is in excellent shape.
They also force us to ask the following question: is there some secret technique that allows these people to live so long, and stay so healthy? The answer is yes – the Hunzas do know something we don’t. But there isn’t just one secret, there are many.
The first, and certainly the most important of these secrets concerns nutrition. Interestingly enough, the Hunza approach resembles that outlined by Hippocrates, father of modern medicine, who lived over 2000 years ago in ancient Greece. The basic precept of their common notion of what constitutes a proper diet is simple: the food you eat is your best medicine.
There’s a modern saying, coined in the sixties: ‘You are what you eat.’
So what do the Hunzas eat?
Well, the basis of the Hunza diet, which to a large extent is dictated by the rather harsh climatic and geographical conditions of their home country, can be summed up in one word: frugality.
Hunzas eat only two meals a day. The first meal is served at twelve noon, although the Hunzas are up every morning at five a.m. This may sound surprising, since most nutrition experts here in the west stress the importance of a hearty breakfast, even though our life-style is relatively sedentary compared to that of the Hunzas, who engage in demanding physical labor all morning long on an empty stomach.
Unlike most Westerners, Hunzas eat primarily for the establishment and maintenance of health rather than for pleasure, although they are very meticulous when preparing their food, which, by the way, happens to be delicious.
In addition, Hunza food is completely natural, containing no chemical additives whatsoever. Unfortunately, that is not the case as far as most of our food is concerned. Everything is as fresh as it can possibly be, and in its original unsalted state. The only “processing” consists of drying some fresh fruits in the the sun, and making butter and cheese out of milk. No chemicals or artificial fertilizers are used in their gardens. In fact, it is against the law of Hunza to spray gardens with pesticides. Renee Taylor, in her book Hunza health secrets ( Prentice-Hall 1964) says that the Mir,or ruler of Hunza, was recently instructed by Pakistani authorities to spray the orchards of Hunza with pesticide, to protect them from an expected invasion of insects. But the Hunzas would have none of it. They refused to use the toxic pesticide, and instead sprayed their trees with a mixture of water and ashes, which adequately protected the trees without poisoning the fruit and the entire environment. In a word, the Hunzas eat as they live – organically.
The Hunzas, then, eat very little. But what exactly do they eat?
Well, a large part of their diet is composed of grains: barley, millet, buckwheat and wheat.
They also eat fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. For the most part, these are consumed fresh and raw, although some vegetables are cooked for a short time. Their preferred fruits and vegetables include potatoes, string beans, peas, carrots, turnip, squash, spinach, lettuce, apples, pears, peaches, apricots, cherries and blackberries. They also have a particular fondness for apricot pits. (You can get apricot seeds in your health food store, get only the dried ones which don’t have all the important enzymes killed off). Almonds are eaten whole, or used to make oil through a process that has been transmitted from generation to generation.
Milk and cheese are important sources of animal protein. Meat, although not completely eliminated, is consumed only very rarely, reserved for special occasions like marriages or festivals. This fact is no doubt one of the reasons why the Hunzas have such healthy digestive systems. Even when meat is served, portions are very small: meat is cut into small pieces and stewed for a long time. Beef and mutton are rarely used – chicken is their most common source of animal protein.
The important thing to remember is that although the Hunzas are not wholly vegetarian, meat forms a minimal part of their daily diet.
They generally eat meat only once a week, if that often, and live longer and stay healthier than we do.
Like grains, fruits and vegetables, yogurt is also a staple of the Hunza diet. Yogurt, which replenishes intestinal flora, is extremely beneficial for the human organism. Bulgarians, who also eat a lot of yogurt, are another people who live to a ripe old age. Bulgaria boasts 1,666 centenarians per million inhabitants, while here in the west the number is only 9 per million inhabitants.
Walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, beechnuts, etc. also comprise an important part of the Hunza diet. Along with fruit, or mixed into salads, nuts often constitute an entire meal.
No discussion of the Hunza diet would be complete without mentioning their special bread, called ‘chapatti,’ which is eaten along with every meal. Since it is used so often, it would be logical to conclude that it is a determining factor – or at least a very important one – in causing their amazing longevity. (There are a couple of recipes included below).
Specialists believe that it is this special bread that endows 90-year-old Hunza men with their ability to conceive children, something that is unheard of here in the west. In fact, chapatti bread contains all essential elements. It can be made from wheat, millet, buckwheat or barley flour, but what is most important is that the flour is whole, i.e. it is not refined, and has not had its germ removed, a common practice here in the west. It is this part of a grain which gives it its reproductive power, as well as its brown color. Unfortunately, westerners tend to associate the whiteness of flour with purity, something that is completely false. In addition, leaving the germ intact makes storing flour-based products more difficult. This presents a problem for the food industry, which prefers using refined white flour even though it has been stripped of most of its nutrients.
The germ of grains has astonishing nutritive properties. For one thing, it contains all of a grain’s Vitamin E content. This vitamin plays an important role in maintaining sexual functions in both humans and animals, and as you may know, sexual activity, which is directly related to the proper functioning of the hormonal system, is vital for health.
Hunza Bread recipes;
Preparation doesn’t take very long – about an hour in all. The first thing to do is to buy some freshly ground flour. A mixture of wheat and buckwheat is excellent. Use one-third wheat flour, and two-thirds buckwheat flour.
Typical Hunza Bread is made fresh each day from stone ground grains, primarily, wheat, barley, buckwheat and millet. These delicious flat unleavened breads are an important part of a nutritious diet of grains, fruits, dried fruits, and veggies. They drink substantial amounts of “Glacial Milk” which is milky colored water fresh melted from base of glaciers, rich in rock flour and minerals.
A Typical Hunza Chapatti Bread Recipe Is Kamali:
2 cups of stone ground whole wheat flour, or mix of flours
1/2 teaspoon vegetable salt or iodized sea salt
(Although they have rich mineral diet,
iodine is rare away from marine locations and fish.)
1/4 to 1 cup glacier milk (water)
Blend flour and salts together. Stir in just enough water to make a very stiff dough. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic. Cover with a wet cloth, set aside for 30 minutes. Break dough into one inch balls. Roll into very thin rounds, about 8 inches in diameter. Bake for 10 minutes on a hot lightly greased griddle over a low heat. Turn often. Makes 20 Chapattis.
A Typical Hunza Millet Bread Recipe:
1 cup Millet flour
1 cup grated carrots
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon vegetable salt/iodized salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Combine in Bowl: Flour carrots oil honey and salt. Mix well, then stir 3/4 cup of boiling hot water into the mixture. Beat the egg yolks well adding 2 tbs. of cold water, continue to beat and then add to the mixture. Fold in stiffly beated eggs and bake in a hot oiled pan at 350oF for about 40 minutes.
Although you may find the look of chapatti bread a little strange at first, you’ll soon get used to it. Just remember that the Hunzas are unconditional about their preference, and will not eat any other type of bread.
The energy and endurance of the Hunzas can probably be credited as much to what they don’t eat as what they do eat. First of all, they don’t eat a great deal of anything. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that the average daily food intake for Americans of all ages amounts to 3,300 calories, with 100 grams of protein, 157 grams of fat and 380 grams of carbohydrates, In contrast, studies by Pakistani doctors show that adult males of Hunza consume a little more than 1.900 calories daily, with only 50 grams of protein, 36 grams of fat, and 354 grams of carbohydrates. Both the protein and fat are largely of vegetable origin (Dr. Alexander Leaf, National Geographic, January, 1973).
That amounts to just half the protein, one-third the fat, but about the same amount of carbohydrates that westerners eat. Of course, the carbohydrate that the Hunzas eat is undefined or complex carbohydrate found in fruits, vegetables and grains, while westerners largely eat our carbohydrates in the form of nutritionless white sugar and refined flour.
Let’s take a moment to summarize the basic principles and ingredients of the Hunza diet which, as we said, is no doubt one of the main reasons for their exceptional longevity.
First rule: frugality. Here in the west people eat too much – much too much – sometimes two or three times more than our organism actually needs. And we’re not talking about people who have a weight problem either. Try to fashion your diet according to Hunza standards: remember that these mountain people eat only two light meals a day, even though they perform extremely laborious physical work for hours at a stretch, take part in demanding forms of physical exercise, and spend hours hiking along steep mountain paths each and every day. At the same time they do not feel in the least fatigued or anemic – on the contrary, their endurance and longevity is so great it has become almost legendary.
In fact, an excellent way to regenerate your organism and give your digestive system a rest is to fast, or drink only juice, for one day a week. Every spring the Hunzas fast for a number of days.
Although you don’t have to go that far (if you do decide to fast, make sure you are properly monitored by a competent health professional) you can gain inspiration from the Hunza approach to nutrition.
Rule number two: make fresh fruits and vegetables a major part of your diet. Eat most of your vegetables raw, or very lightly steamed. Cut down on your intake of meat, and try preparing your own chapatti bread (if you don’t have the time, at least replace white bread with bread made from whole grain flour).
Rule number three: fasting for one day a week, and maintaining a frugal diet based on Hunza principles for the rest of the week, will be certain to prolong your life and keep you healthy. In fact, you will probably feel completely rejuvenated, both physically and mentally.
Don’t be surprised if you find your life completely transformed, as your newfound physical and mental health results in greater serenity and peace of mind.
Daily Physical Exercise
Another great Hunza health secret concerns the considerable amount of time each day devoted to physical exercise. Most exercise is done outdoors in order to take advantage of the pure mountain air, which in itself has a beneficial effect on health.
Although a large part of their day is spent outdoors, working the fields, the Hunzas do a lot more than that. For one thing, they take regular walks – a 15 or 20 kilometer hike is considered quite normal. Of course they don’t walk that distance every day, but doing so does not require any special effort. You should also keep in mind that hiking along mountain trails is a lot more demanding than walking over flat terrain.
Of course we’re not suggesting that you move to the mountains and become a farmer! You don’t have to change your way of life completely in order to stay healthy and live longer. But one thing the Hunza life-style does prove is that exercise is very important for health.
Walking for an hour each day, something most people can manage, is excellent for both your body and your mind. In fact, walking is the simplest, least costly and most accessible form of exercise there is. And contrary to what you may think, it also provides you with a complete workout. So get in step with the Hunzas and start walking!
In addition to daily physical exercise, the Hunzas practice certain basic yoga techniques, notably yogic breathing, which is slow, deep and rhythmic, and which makes use of the entire thoracic cavity.
Another valuable yoga-related technique used by the Hunzas concerns the fine art of relaxation. Most westerners are not even aware that they are living in an almost constant state of stress.
Relaxation is the key to health, and the Hunzas, both young and old, practice it regularly, doing short meditation sessions a number of times a day.
Although they work very hard for long hours each day, the Hunzas are familiar with the art of relaxation and energy management. For one thing, they tend to work at a slow steady pace instead of in frenetic bursts. This saves both time and energy over the long run, and allows them to accomplish more than they would by overextending themselves, and then becoming exhausted. The Hunzas know that you can work much longer if you are not tense, since nervous and muscular tension result in a considerable waste of energy.
In addition to working slowly, the Hunzas take short but regular breaks, during which they practice various meditation and relaxation techniques. Although these exercises take only a few minutes, they are incredibly effective for recharging energy. What do people here in the west do when they take a break? Have a coffee or smoke a cigarette, both of which drain energy in the long run, although they may have a temporarily stimulating effect.
Anyone who has had a bit of training can rapidly enter a state of deep relaxation. For the Hunzas, relaxation is essential. During their pauses they do not talk, but instead focus inwards, listening to the silence of their soul. Why not let this ancient wisdom work for you? Learn to take time out during each working day to meditate and relax. Taking only twenty deep breaths is enough to regenerate both your mind and your body.
To the Hunzas, knowing when to take a break and using the time to relax is instinctive. Here in the west, however, we seem to have lost touch with our instincts. The unfortunate, and often tragic result is that the body, in an attempt to claim the rest it so desperately needs, will eventually refuse to function altogether. In other words, it gets sick, suffering a nervous breakdown or worse – a fatal heart attack.
An ordinary Hunza day starts early – around five a.m. Actually, the Hunzas rise with the sun, and go to bed at nightfall. The reason for this is simple: they possess no artificial means of illumination – no electricity, no gas, no oil. On the other hand, they are completely in tune with nature. Of course it would be impossible for us to live that way. But you should be aware of one important point: your deepest hours of regenerating sleep occur before midnight.
The Hunzas do not seem to worry about the future, nor are they burdened with concerns about the past. They live in the present moment. And it is only in the present that eternity exists.
Self doubt and the fear of failure, which tend to undermine the well-being of so many people, are unknown to the Hunzas.
The Hunzas seem to be completely immune to these kinds of stress-related health problems. They are perfectly adapted to their environment, and to their way of life. In some respects they are like children – happy in the present moment, not worried about the future. But at the same time they possess the wisdom of the sages. We are the mirror of our thoughts. The serenity and vitality of the Hunzas proves that they have attained perfect mastery over their thoughts, and possess what is so sorely lacking among people here in the west: peace of mind.
Now ask yourself: How different is that attitude to our own, in light of what the Hunzas have accomplished?
Perhaps in a century or two, or maybe even sooner – in 30 or 50 years – people here in the west will consider it completely normal to live to a hundred or more, as the Hunzas have been doing for centuries.
But why wait even that long? The Hunzas, whose philosophy and way of life I hope I have helped you understand, are living and irrefutable proof that it is possible to add years to your life right now! And not just ordinary years – extraordinary years of perfect health, happiness and serenity. All it takes is a little willpower.
Yes, you can overcome disease, stress and depression. Follow the example set by the Hunzas, and apply the secrets revealed in this booklet. It’s up to you to put them into practice and transform your life, so that you remain almost eternally young.
Don’t wait – the best time to start living right is right now!
You’ll feel a whole new life opening up before you as soon as you start applying these marvelous secrets, which have been handed down from generation to generation, through the ages, and which are now yours to enjoy.
All that remains is to wish you a long and healthy life!