Healthy eating is more than just picking a few items from a list of recommended foods. Dan Buettner, author of Blue Zones in Practice, offers a radical rethink of nutrition, based on years of research into the lifestyles of centenarians around the world.
What are blue zones?
When scientists identified the best locations to explore, they outlined them in blue ink on the map. This is how the name “blue zones” appeared. By 2009, there were five of them. For example, the list includes the Greek island of Ikaria, which has one of the world’s lowest death rates in middle age and the lowest incidence of dementia. The Japanese island of Okinawa is the largest island in the subtropical archipelago with the largest number of long-lived women in the world. Men who live to be one hundred years old predominate in the province of Ogliastra on the island of Sardinia. The people of Loma Linda, California, are renowned for living ten years longer than the average American while maintaining excellent health. The Nicoya Peninsula in Central America is the region with the lowest mortality rate in middle age and the second highest concentration of long-lived men. These people shared their experiences, which formed the basis of the book.
How do centenarians eat?
Inhabitants of the Blue Zones not only eat to live, but enjoy food as much as other people. We can adapt Blue Zone eating habits to our lifestyles by replacing some of the junk foods with those that long-livers eat.
This is by no means a restrictive diet. You need to eat in the best way.
First of all, you need to take care of the number of calories. The inhabitants of the “blue zones” eat less high-calorie foods than we do. Science confirms that restricting calories not only helps you lose weight, but it also slows down the aging process.
More plant foods
We need to ensure that our diet contains 95% of plant foods. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends eating 46 to 56 grams of protein per day. All nine essential amino acids are found in meat, eggs and some plant foods. But from meat and eggs the level of cholesterol rises, which contributes to the development of cardiovascular and oncological diseases.
Inhabitants of four out of five Blue Zones eat meat, but relatively rarely. Harvard School of Public Health consultant Walter Willett says, “Meat is like radiation: we don’t know what the safe dose is.” Research by Buettner’s team has shown that thirty-year-old vegetarians from California have a chance of living eight years longer than meat eaters of the same age.
You don’t have to immediately give up meat and switch to peas. But if you want to live longer, limit animal protein to one small serving a day. Better yet, eat boiled meat no more than twice a week in portions no more than 60 grams. Eggs – no more than three pieces per week.
Fish can be eaten at 100 grams per day. Minimize your intake of cow’s milk and dairy products such as cheese, sour cream, and butter. They are high in fat, and more than half of people do not digest milk. In small amounts, dairy products – especially fatty sheep’s or goat’s milk, naturally fermented yogurt with no added sugar – are beneficial. Inhabitants of the Blue Zones get these same nutrients from plant sources. For example, one glass of cooked kale or two-thirds of a glass of tofu contains as much bioavailable calcium as a glass of milk. Both cabbage and tofu can be found in large grocery stores in almost every city in Russia.
Many of the nutrients we need are found in foods such as legumes, greens, yams and sweet potatoes, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Whole grains should also be included in the diet.
Consume no more than seven teaspoons of sugar a day. As a rule, centenarians eat sweets only on holidays. Forget soda sugars. Make honey your favorite sweetener. For dessert or as a delicacy, eat fruit: fresh is better than dried. Fresh fruit is high in water, so it makes you feel fuller and has fewer calories. Be careful with sauces, salad dressings, and ketchup, which usually contain a few teaspoons of sugar.
Snack on nuts, two handfuls a day. This is approximately 60 grams. Nuts contain nutrients such as copper, fiber, folate, vitamin E, and the amino acid arginine. They lower cholesterol and are high in protein. To reduce your overall glycemic load, eat some nuts before meals.
For lovers of bread
If you are a bread lover, try to eat real sourdough bread, such as the one that is baked on the island of Ikaria. It is made from slowly rising dough using lactobacilli rather than yeast. Eat sprouted grain bread. According to nutritionists, starch and proteins from sprouted grains are more easily absorbed by the body, and bread from it contains more essential amino acids, minerals and B vitamins than conventional whole grain flour products, as well as more easily digestible iron. Give preference to wholemeal rye bread: it has a low glycemic index. Don’t buy rye bread if wheat flour is listed first on the ingredient list (look for labels where rye flour comes first).
Research has shown that people who drink red wine in moderation live longer than those who don’t drink it at all. But if you don’t drink alcohol, that doesn’t mean you have to start.
Inhabitants of the “blue zones” drink one to three glasses of red wine a day.
This drink helps the human body to assimilate antioxidants of plant origin, therefore it perfectly complements the diet of the inhabitants of the “blue zones”. Drinking a little alcohol at the end of the day can help relieve stress, which is also beneficial for your health. Just keep in mind that for women who drink more than a glass of wine daily, the risk of developing breast cancer increases. The ideal serving is one glass per week.
Four products you should always have:
- 100% whole grain bread.
Four foods to exclude:
- Sugar-added drinks
- Salty snacks
- Meat products
- Sweets in packages
Based on these guidelines, try introducing new foods into your diet. Someone claims that they do not like lentil soup without even trying it. Someone has never eaten tofu in their life without noticing it in the store. Find what you like and you can forget about diets and severe restrictions forever.
Based on the book “Blue Zones in Practice”.Post cover: pixabay.