Live To 100 With Blue Zones® Food Guidelines
First off, what are the “blue zones”?
Dan Buettner, Blue Zones founder, is a National Geographic Fellow and multiple New York Times bestselling author. He has discovered five places in the world – dubbed blue zones – where people live the longest, and are healthiest: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California.
𝗜𝗗𝗘𝗡𝗧𝗜𝗙𝗬𝗜𝗡𝗚 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗕𝗟𝗨𝗘 𝗭𝗢𝗡𝗘𝗦-
The concept of blue zones grew out of the demographic work done by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain outlined in the Journal of Experimental Gerontology, identifying Sardinia as the region of the world with the highest concentration of male centenarians. Pes and Poulain drew concentric blue circles on the map highlighting these villages of extreme longevity and began to refer to this area inside the circle as the blue zone. Building on that demographic work, Dan pinpointed other longevity hotspots around the world and dubbed them blue zones. Blue Zones® is now a trademark of Blue Zones, LLC, and reflects the lifestyle and the environment of the world’s longest-lived people.
Centenarians (100 years of age or older) in the original Blue Zones® areas don’t diet or count calories to stay lean and healthy. They simply eat whole foods each day, mostly plants. By adopting some of the healthy-eating principles that define a Blue Zones lifestyle, you too can live longer & better.
So what do the diets of these Blue Zones® centenarians look like? Read on.
People in Blue Zones areas have a diet that is 95% plant-based. Fruits, vegetables, beans, tofu, lentils, nuts, and seeds are rich with disease-fighting nutrients and the cornerstone of their diets. When they eat meat, fish, eggs, or dairy, they treat it as a condiment rather than the feature item. Try to gradually reduce consumption of animal-based foods to 5% of your intake each day.
𝗪𝗛𝗢𝗟𝗘 𝗙𝗢𝗢𝗗𝗦 𝗔𝗥𝗘 𝗕𝗘𝗧𝗧𝗘𝗥
People in Blue Zones areas eat whole foods. Whole foods are not processed in factories—they’re made with ingredients that are recognizable as coming from the earth, like rice, corn, soy, fruits, and vegetables, or prepared food like tofu or manna bread. Strive to cut processed foods and incorporate more whole foods in your diet by checking the ingredients on the box for things you don’t recognize.
People in Blue Zones areas eat meat about once a week and typically their servings are no larger than a deck of cards. Their diets do not include processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, and sausages. Instead, they favor free-range chicken and family-farmed pork or lamb. Try to reduce portions of meat in each meal so they are more in line with those eaten in Blue Zones areas (the size of a deck of cards), or pick one day each week to go meatless and work on expanding from there.
Fish is an important part of the Blue Zones diet, and it’s healthy to eat a serving about the size of your palm daily. Wild-caught fish that fall in the middle-of-the-food-chain like sardines, trout, snapper, cod, and anchovies are good choices. Predator fish, such as tuna, swordfish, and shark should be avoided due to potentially high levels of mercury.
People in Blue Zones areas enjoy small amounts of products made from sheep and goat’s milk— especially yogurt—a few times a week. To eat like a Blue Zones centenarian, try incorporating dairy products made from sheep and goat’s milk in your diet, but limit the serving to the size of two ice cubes.
People in Blue Zones areas typically eat an egg every other day, or 3 per week. Favor eggs from cage-free, pastured chickens just like the Blue Zones centenarians.
𝗕𝗘𝗔𝗡𝗦 𝗙𝗢𝗥 𝗟𝗢𝗡𝗚𝗘𝗩𝗜𝗧𝗬
Beans are an important source of protein in the Blue Zones areas with centenarians eating at least one cup of cooked beans daily. Whether your choose black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, fava beans, navy beans, or peas, try including more beans in your meals. If you buy them in a can, try to avoid brands with added sugars, salts, and chemicals.
𝗦𝗡𝗔𝗖𝗞 𝗢𝗡 𝗡𝗨𝗧𝗦
Nuts are a healthy source of fat and help you feel full. Commonly eaten nuts include almonds, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, and peanuts. To eat like Blue Zones centenarians, eat a small handful of nuts daily. Mix it up by trying different types of nuts so you don’t tire of them, but avoid sugar and salt coatings.
People in Blue Zones areas eat very little bread, but when they do, they predominantly eat sourdough. Unlike other breads made from white flour, sourdough bread doesn’t cause spikes in blood sugar. Substitute sourdough or 100% whole-grain bread for white bread, and be mindful of your serving size.
People in Blue Zones areas don’t eat foods with added sugar. Instead, they favor foods that are naturally sweetened with fruit and honey. Added sugar is known to increase inflammation, putting the body at greater risk for developing disease. To eat like a Blue Zones centenarian, read labels and purchase foods with little or no added sugar. Strive to consume less than 24g of added sugars daily, and replace sugar with honey for sweetening beverages or baking.
Blue Zones centenarians typically drink coffee at breakfast, tea in the afternoon, wine at 5pm, and water all day. To live to be 100, keep your beverages simple and avoid sugary beverages like soda and fruit juices.
For those of you that have been following our advice from the beginning, you’ll notice about 95% correlation between the Blue Zones diet and the advice we’ve been providing since day 1.
In fact, it’s no surprise that my favorite diet, the Mediterranean Diet, is strikingly similar to the diet of the centenarians living in the Blue Zones around the globe.
The average American’s diet is nowhere near the Mediterranean or Blue Zone diets but with a conscious effort and a desire for health and longevity, following these dietary guidelines is extremely easy. And even if you aren’t able to follow these guidelines to a T, integrating some or most of these principles into your weekly menu will make a significant difference in your overall health and wellness.
As with any major lifestyle changes, it’s best to make gradual changes and set yourself a realistic time frame for fully integrating these changes into your daily routine. And make sure to share this information with your spouse and children. It is considerably easier to make these lifestyle changes when those around you are also on board.
Let’s make the coming year YOUR year for positive change! I will be here to support you along the way.❤️
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