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Eat Well, Live Well, Be Well!

A healthy dose of my diet, nutrition and lifestyle hacks to improve your health. Every bite counts!

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Blue Zones: Live like the healthiest people on Earth

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

Have you heard of the Blue Zones? Blue Zones places around the world with the most nono-genarians and centenarians – people aged over 90 and 100.


Where are the Blue Zones?

  • Okinawa, Japan. Probably the most well known

  • Sardinia, off the Italian Coast

  • Loma Linda, 7th Day Adventist community in California

  • Nicoya, Costa Rica

  • Ikaria, another Mediterranean island, near Greece

The Blue Zones have have been studied intensely for their secrets to long lasting health and longevity. Not only do people in Blue Zones reach a ripe old age, they live life to the full - disease free, well into old age.


What can you learn from the oldest and healthiest people on earth?

First up, none of these people eat fast food, junk food, food in packets, pesticide sprayed, GMO or artificially preserved foods. Their diet is a wholefood diet.


Specific foods and diet composition differs depending on geographic location but there are clear common threads in Blue Zone eating patterns.


What the diets of the healthiest, longest living people have in common:

  • High vegetable intake

  • Low consumption of animal proteins (dairy, fish, meat)*

  • High consumption of plant protein – legumes, pluses, soy, nuts, seeds

  • No refined carbohydrates, some wholegrains

  • Fruit in minimal amounts

  • Abundant fibre

  • Overall low fat

  • Overall lower caloric intake

*Where animal protein is consumed, it’s minimal. It’s also pasture-raised and unprocessed eg. meat and dairy is from family raised animals that are pasture fed (sheep, goats, pork). Seafood is locally caught and eaten fresh. Soy is organic, non GMO, often fermented.

Why are these diet patterns associated with better health and longer lives?


Put simply, Blue Zone diets are rich in nutrients we need for healthy body function and low in elements that disrupt it.


Abundant vegetables provide a rich blend of highly available vitamins and minerals for the proper function of all organs.


Naturally anti-inflammatory compounds reduce risk of inflammatory conditions, from asthma and arthritis to heart disease and Type II diabetes. Blood glucose levels are not elevated.


Abundant fibre supports a balanced and broad variety of gut bacteria. Antioxidants support healthy cell activity and limit cell damage.


Lower body weight and less accumulated fat further reduces systemic inflammation.


Blue Zones have specific healthy lifestyle habits too…

  • Daily movement. Not slugging it out on treadmill or a 45-minute HIIT class. Just consistent daily movement, mostly outdoors, often as part of daily chores: food collection, gardening, household jobs.

  • Sense of Purpose. That reason you get up each day. The Okinawans call ikigai and the Nicoyans call it plan de vida - the plan of life. I talk about this in my 7 Pillars of Whole Health. We all need a purpose!

  • 80% rule. Instead of ‘bon appetit’ the Okinawans say ‘ Hara hachi bu’ which roughly means ‘May you eat until you are only 80% full.’ Eating, not overeating.

  • Alcohol. Except for the 7th Day Adventists most Blue Zone dwellers have moderate alcohol consumption. 1 or 2 glasses a day, enjoyed with food and friends.

  • Inter-generational living. Sharing the care of the oldest and youngest members of the family is a common theme, one we’ve sadly lost.

  • Community. Social support, connection and care is built into the fabric of the culture. No one is isolated or lonely. Everyone has a place.

It’s beautiful and amazing.


Now consider the Standard American/Australian Diet & Lifestyle (aka. the SAD diet):

  • High in sugar, especially refined carbohydrates

  • High in animal protein

  • High in many fats

  • Low in vegetables

  • Low in fibre

  • High overall calories

  • Overeating is common

  • High alcohol intake

  • less physical movement

  • More stress and ‘striving’ for sense of purpose

  • Less inter-generational family support

  • More isolation – especially among our elderly

Spot the difference?

Despite being the wealthiest, with the most food, best healthcare and modern medicine, Western populations have the highest rates of chronic illness and disease.

Diseases that reduce our ability to live well. Diseases that affect more than 50% of our adult population.


When it comes to healthy aging and longevity, learn from those who are doing it best!


Blue Zones are the best examples of how to live a long and healthy life. Use these tips from the healthiest people on the plant and get in the Zone to live a better, longer life!




REFERENCES


Buettner, D., & Skemp, S. (2016). Blue Zones. American Journal Of Lifestyle Medicine, 10(5), 318-321. doi: 10.1177/1559827616637066


Passarino, G., De Rango, F., & Montesanto, A. (2016). Human longevity: Genetics or Lifestyle? It takes two to tango. Immunity & Ageing, 13(1). doi: 10.1186/s12979-016-0066-z


Pes, G., Tolu, F., Dore, M., Sechi, G., Errigo, A., Canelada, A., & Poulain, M. (2014). Male longevity in Sardinia, a review of historical sources supporting a causal link with dietary factors. European Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, 69(4), 411-418. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.230


Reference, G. (2020). Is longevity determined by genetics?. Retrieved 25 August 2020, from https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/traits/longevity


Ricker, M., & Haas, W. (2017). Anti-Inflammatory Diet in Clinical Practice: A Review. Nutrition In Clinical Practice, 32(3), 318-325. doi: 10.1177/0884533617700353


REFERENCES Willcox, B. (2014). Healthy aging diets other than the Mediterranean: A focus on the Okinawan diet. Mechanisms Of Ageing And Development, 136-137, 148-162. doi: 10.1016/j.mad.2014.01.002

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