We all desire and want a healthy and long life, but are there any actual mantras that work towards achieving this goal? Well, there are few areas or, rather, zones in the world where people live longer than other parts of the world. Various experts believe that people in these zones live longer because they have low rates of chronic diseases that happen because of numerous health and lifestyle choices that the people of these areas make. One of the important factors that contribute toward their longer life spans is their food or diet choices! So, what is the kind of diet that these people consume or they follow? Their diet is popularly known as The Blue Zone Diet, and more on this interesting topic is discussed in detail in the following blog!
What Are Blue Zones?
Before we decode the blue zone diet, let us understand more about these zones. The term ‘Blue Zone’ was first used by a researcher named Dan Buettner, who studied various areas of the world where people lived longest. While doing so, he started circling the areas with the highest life expectancy in blue color, and that is how the term ‘Blue Zone’ came up. Following are these blue zones:
1. Nicoya, Costa Rica
The people of this area have a positive outlook towards their lives, but their diet is also rich in tropical fruits, which are naturally loaded with antioxidants. Apart from this, their water sources are also rich in magnesium and calcium, which help keep their bones stronger and keep heart ailments at bay.
2. Loma Linda, California
This city boasts of very religious people who live in close-knit communities and observe their Sabbath day weekly. These people also follow a strict vegan diet.
3. Ikaria, Greece
Apart from many islands in Greece, Ikaria, in particular, has the highest life expectancy rate in the world. The people of this island follow a Mediterranean diet that includes loads of whole grains, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, fruits, and beans. Apart from this, many people are Greek Orthodox Christians, who observe various periods of fasting throughout the year when they follow a strict vegan diet.
4. Okinawa, Japan
This area in Japan boasts of the longest-living women in the women. This is accredited to their close-knit circles, their meditative exercises (tai-chi), and their rich soy-based diet.
5. Sardinia, Italy
Sardinia boasts of the longest-living males in the world. The people of this area live on mountains and walk miles during a day while working on their farms. Their diet is mostly plant-based, and they also enjoy red wine regularly. However, meat is only enjoyed on weekends and special occasions.
Factors That Affect The Blue Zone Lifestyle
Here are some factors that affect the blue zone lifestyle:
1. The 80 Percent Rule
One of the most important factors contributing to longevity or longer lives of these people is eating until they feel only eighty percent full. It is also a great way of managing calorie intake that keeps the weight under check and wades off obesity.
2. Being Active
Well, these people are not regular gymgoers or run marathons, but they believe in being active throughout the day. They often spend their time doing household chores that include cooking, cleaning, gardening, and other such chores. According to research conducted on men from the Sardinian region, it helped establish the fact that these men walked long distances shepherding and farming, which was linked to their longer lives.
3. Purpose In Life
The people belonging to these zones have a strong sense of purpose in their lives that motivates them to wake every morning. Nicoyans and Okinawans use phrases like ‘plan de vida’ and ‘Ikigai,’ which means ‘why I wake up in the morning,’ which helps them keep on going!
4. Sufficient Sleep
The people of these regions get just the right amount of sleep. They do not sleep and wake up at set hours; rather, they rest as much as their bodies guide them to do. The concept of afternoon napping is also widely popular in areas of Sardinia and Ikaria.
5. Moderate Consumption of Alcohol
Alcohol consumption is another factor that is commonly seen in all these zones; however, they limit their alcohol consumption to one to two glasses of wine per day. It has also been observed that the Sardinian Cannonau wine is processed with Grenache grapes, which results in a wine that is high in antioxidants in comparison to other wines.
6. Plant-Based Diet
The blue zone plant-based diet that is mostly homegrown is one of the important factors of this diet. However, they also consume meat occasionally, which is just four to five times a month.
7. Close-knit Families and Communities
These people have close-knit families, and they stay with their partners and children. They also enjoy close friendships and social circles, where they share healthy bonds. These people also follow faith-based services with their family and friends that bond them further.
Benefits of Blue Zone Diet
If you are wondering what is good about the blue zone diet, this fiber-rich diet is highly dense in nutrients, which is great for digestion and improving overall health. The diet is great for improving heart health by reducing health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, etc. Here are some benefits of the blue zone diet that you should know:
1. It is a Fiber-Rich Diet
It is a well-known fact that a high fiber diet helps you feel satiated for long, which means consuming fewer calories, which in turn helps in losing weight, which is what this diet offers!
2. You can Consume Alcohol
This diet does not refrain you from consuming alcohol, and thus if you enjoy a drink or two regularly, this diet can become a great option for you. However, it would be best if you exercised moderation to reap maximum benefits from the diet.
3. It’s Good for your Social Life
Most of the time, we find it difficult to stick to a diet because it is practically impossible to sustain if you like to eat out or hang out often with your friends. However, this diet poses no such constraints as you can practically eat from a wide option of foods, even when eating out!
4. No Fad Diets or Drinks
Unlike other strict diets, this diet does not require you to add drinks or food options that are not readily available; instead, the blue zone diet for weight loss can not only help you to knock off kilos, but it is also easy to find the foods mentioned in this diet in your local grocery store or supermarket!
How Does Blue Zone Diet Work?
The blue zone diet indicates a relationship between the low rate of chronic diseases and the longer lives of people. It is anti-inflammatory benefits that these dietary choices render to the people who follow them. These people are not strictly vegan, but their diet majorly consists of plant and plant-based dietary options. These people emphasise homegrown vegetables as they form an important part of their diets because they get vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from these.
Their diet also consists of healthy fats such as olive oil, which helps keep their heart health intact by providing ample antioxidants and heart-healthy fatty acids.
The people of these zones enjoy eating fish a few times a week and enjoy other kinds of meats; however, they limit their red meat consumption. They occasionally enjoy sweets too, but they keep their consumption under check!
These people believe that balance and moderation are what makes a healthy diet and avoid overindulgence as much as possible.
List of Foods Included in The Blue Zone Diet
If you are scratching your brains to know what all is included in the blue zone diet, well, here is the list of foods that are included:
These are the fruits that you can enjoy:
- Plums, etc.
Following are some of the vegetables that are included in this diet:
- Brussels sprouts
- Leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, etc.
The following beans should also become a part of the regular diet:
- Kidney beans
- Cannellini beans
- Navy beans
- Pinto beans
- Black beans
These are some whole grains that should be added to the daily diet:
- Wild rice
- Farro, etc.
These nuts are an integral part of this diet:
- Cashew nuts
- Pine nuts
- Brazil nuts
This is the list of beverages that you can add to your diet:
- Wine -in moderate amounts
- Coffee- in moderate amounts
- Tea- in moderate amounts
- Water- approximately 7 to 8 glasses in a day
Though the blue zone diet is majorly a plant-based diet, however, few servings that are approximately 3 ounces, two to three times a week, can help in yielding ample health benefits. Here are some fish that can include:
- Sea bass
8. Fermented Food
Here are some fermented foods that are also included in this diet:
- Sourdough bread
- Picked vegetables
What Types of Food Items Are Not Recommended as Per the Blue Zone Diet
These are some of the food items that should not be consumed if you wish to follow a blue zone meal planner:
- Not more than 28 grams of sugar (or 7 teaspoons) should be consumed in a day; therefore, candy, ice cream, soda, cakes, pastries, etc., should be avoided.
- Cut down dairy intake that includes milk, yoghurt, cheese, etc.
- Not more than three eggs should be consumed in a week.
- Reduce the intake of highly processed foods such as salty and sugary snacks, fried foods, food with artificial flavoring or coloring, etc.
- Reduce meat intake such as chicken, pork, beef, turkey, etc. to four to five times a month and limit it to two ounces or lesser than that.
Blue Zone Diet Recipes
Here are some blue zone diet recipes that you can try:
1. Green Mango Smoothie With a Spicy Twist
This refreshing drink can be enjoyed any time of the day, and it comes with a multitude of health benefits, too! If you wish to tone this drink down a bit, you can replace arugula with baby spinach.
- 1 cup frozen mango
- 4 cups baby arugula
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 2 scoop protein powder
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- Take all the ingredients and put them in a blender jar.
- Blend to a few seconds and serve!
2. Spinach Pancakes
This easy recipe can be whipped any time to shove away from the untimely hunger pangs!
- 1 cup shredded spinach
- ½ cup oatmeal flour
- ½ cup wholewheat flour
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup milk (2 per cent fat)
- 1 ripe avocado, finely chopped
- ½ bunch cilantro, finely chopped
- Salt to taste
- Olive oil for cooking
- Break the egg in a deep bowl and whisk well.
- Add shredded spinach, chopped cilantro, and avocado and give a good mix.
- Add wholewheat flour, oatmeal flour, milk, and salt into the egg mixture and give a thorough mix.
- Heat a pan and grease it with olive oil.
- Use a ladle to spread the mixture on the pan. Flip sides until cooked nicely.
- Serve hot with a choice of sauce or dip!
3. Black Bean Soup
This soup can be enjoyed as a hearty meal option on cozy winter evenings!
- 1 medium-sized onion, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2-3 ribs of celery, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 5 cups of vegetable broth
- 4 to 5 oz can of black beans, drained
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pot.
- Throw in onions, celery, and carrots and sauté on a medium flame for 10-15 minutes.
- Add minced garlic and sauté for a minute.
- Now, add black beans, bell pepper, cumin, and vegetable broth to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer and cook covered for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Take out half the soup and blend it for a few seconds and put the pureed content back to the pot, and cook for a minute or two.
- Serve hot garnished with chopped cilantro, chives, sliced avocadoes, or lemon juice!
If you wish to enjoy a long and healthy life, you must pay heed to what goes on your plate. Many diet options ensure good health and longevity and the blue zone diet is one such diet that has been proven to advocate longevity. We hope this article helped you in understanding more about this diet and what it entails. However, whenever it comes to making major lifestyle changes, you must seek professional help, and the same applies here too. If you wish to follow this diet to reap its many benefits, talk to your doctor and take advice before implementing any changes!