A healthy diet is more than just choosing some items from the list of recommended foods. The author of The Blue Zones Solution, Dan Buettner, proposes a radical revision of the nutrition system based on years of research on the lifestyle of centenarians around the world.
What are “blue zones”?
When scientists identified the best places for research, they wrapped them in blue ink on a map. And so the name “blue zones” appeared. By 2009, there were five. For example, the list includes the Greek island of Ikaria, which has one of the lowest mortality rates globally in middle age and the lowest incidence of dementia. The Japanese island of Okinawa is the largest in the subtropical archipelago, with the largest number of long-lived women in the world. Men who have survived to the age of one hundred predominate in the province of Ogliastra on the island of Sardinia. Loma Linda, California, is famous 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 male longevity. These people shared their experiences, which formed the basis of the book.
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How do centenarians eat?
Residents of the “blue zones” eat to live and enjoy food as much as other people. We can adapt the eating habits of “blue zones” to our way of life, replacing some harmful foods with those eaten by centenarians.
This is by no means a restrictive diet. You need to eat in the best way possible.
First of all, you need to take care of the number of calories. Blue-zone residents eat less caloric food than we do. Science confirms that calorie restriction helps to lose weight and slows down the aging of the body.
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More plant-based food
We need to make sure that 95% of plant-based products are in our diet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends eating between 46 and 56 grams of protein a day. All nine essential amino acids are found in meat, eggs, and some plant-based products. But meat and eggs increase cholesterol, which contributes to the development of cardiovascular and cancer diseases.
Residents of four of the five “blue zones” eat meat, but relatively rarely. Consultant Walter Willett of Harvard School of Public Health says, “Meat is like radiation: we don’t know what its safe dose is.” Buettner’s team’s research showed that 30-year-old California vegetarians are likely to live eight years longer than meat-eaters of the same age.
You don’t have to give up meat immediately and switch to peas. But if you want to live longer, limit the animal proteins to a tiny portion a day. Even better – eat meat in boiled form no more than twice a week in portions no more than 60 grams. Eggs are no more than three pieces a week.
Fish can be eaten for 100 grams a day. Minimize consumption of cow’s milk and dairy products such as cheese, sour cream, and butter. They have a lot of fat, and more than half of people do not absorb milk. In small quantities, dairy products – especially fatty sheep or goat’s milk, naturally fermented yogurt without added sugar – are helpful. Residents of “blue zones” receive the same nutrients from plant sources. For example, one glass of boiled kale cabbage or two-thirds of a tofu glass contains as much bioavailable calcium as a glass of milk.
Many of the substances we need are found in legumes, greens, yams, sweet potatoes, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Whole grains should also be included in the diet.
Eat no more than seven teaspoons of sugar a day. As a rule, centenarians eat sweets only on holidays. Forget the sweet carbonated water. Make honey your favorite sugar substitute. For dessert or as a delicacy, eat fruit: better fresh than dried. Fresh fruits have a lot of water, so they cause a feeling of satiety and calories in them less. Be careful with sauces, salad dressings, and ketchup: they usually add a few teaspoons of sugar.
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Snack on nuts, eating two handfuls a day. That’s about 60 grams. Nuts contain such nutrients as copper, fiber, folic acid, vitamin E, and the amino acid arginine. They lower cholesterol and contain high protein content. To reduce the overall glycemic load, eat some nuts before eating.
If you like bread, try to eat real bread on sourdough, such as bake on the island of Ikaria. It is made from a slowly rising dough using lactobacillus rather than yeast. Eat bread from sprouted grain. According to nutritionists, starch and sprouted grain proteins are easier to digest by the body, and bread from it contains:
More essential amino acids.
- Minerals and B vitamins than conventional whole grain flour products.
- More easily digestible iron.
Give preference to bread made from rye flour of coarse grinding: it has a low glycemic index. Do not buy rye bread if the first ingredient is wheat flour (look for labels for rye flour).
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Studies have shown that people who drink red wine in moderation live longer than those who do not drink it at all. But if you don’t drink alcohol, it doesn’t mean you have to start.
Residents of the “blue zones” drink from one to three glasses of red wine a day.
This drink helps the human body absorb antioxidants of plant origin, so it perfectly complements the diet of residents of “blue zones.” A small amount of alcohol drunk at the end of the day helps relieve stress, which is also good for health. Just keep in mind that for women who drink more than a glass of wine daily, the risk of getting breast cancer increases. The ideal portion is one glass a week.
Four products that should always be:
- One hundred percent whole-grain bread.
Four products to exclude:
- Drinks with added sugar
- Salty snacks
- Meat products
- Sweets in bags
Based on these rules, try to introduce new foods into your diet. Someone says that he does not like lentil soup without even trying it. Someone has never eaten tofu in their life, just without paying attention to it in the store. Find what you like and forget about diets and serious limitations forever.