The Blue Zone Diet to Longer Life: Vicious Cycle of Gut Health
September 21st, 2018
People around the world who live a long life do not experience longevity by accident. Along with the right genes, good habits also play an important role in promoting long lifespans. Dan Buettner, the National Geographic Explorer, conducted global research expeditions to learn the fascinating secrets of the Blue Zones, areas on earth where a large number of centenarians are living and enjoying impressively long, active lives. Buettner discovered that the hidden key to longevity is woven into the intricate and vital threads of life that connect community, spirituality and lifestyle. Anyone who grasps a full understanding of this hidden key is supposedly destined to add a significant number of years to his or her life.
Dan Buettner’s book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, became a New York Times Best Seller after it was published in 2010, and this captivating book is enjoying longevity itself as a popular choice on worldwide book selling markets today. As revealed in this book, the oldest people living in the world today are found in Sardinia, some areas of the Greek Islands, Costa Rica, Okinawa, Japan and certain locations in California (particularly, Seventh-day Adventists) in the U.S. Their lengthy lifespans are often attributed mainly to the foods that compose 90 percent of their daily diets—healthy fresh fruits and vegetables. These people also gain life-enhancing benefits of a good, positive social structure and lower stress levels, which may result from the healthy foods they eat.
Achieve Longevity with a 95 to 100 Percent Plant-Based Daily Diet
Residents of the “Blue Zones” eat a large array of fresh garden vegetables in season, drying or pickling surplus produce to eat during the rest of the year. The ideal foods for achieving longevity are leafy green veggies like kale, spinach, turnip tops, chard, collards and beets. These dietary staples are supplemented with seasonal produce, whole grains and beans throughout the year.
Plant-based oils are preferred over animal-based oils, and olive oil is considered the most desirable. Among older people in the Blue Zones, consumption of olive oil every day has been shown to raise levels of good cholesterol while lowering bad cholesterol counts. In some areas, the likelihood of extending the lifespan is thought to be doubled by consuming approximately six tablespoons of olive oil each day.
Although residents of four of the five Blue Zones eat meat, they use it primarily as a food for celebrations, as a side dish or as an ingredient to add flavour to recipes. (The California Seventh-day Adventists do not eat meat.) Researchers have been able to project the strong possibility that a Seventh-day Adventist who is 30 years old and is a vegetarian is very likely to live up to eight years longer than other members of the community who eat meat. Vegetables and other foods eaten frequently today in the Blue Zones include beans, greens, sweet potatoes and yams, fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Advice from Blue Zone Experts for a Dietary Plan that Leads to Longevity
Experts who have studied foods characteristic of daily diets in the Blue Zones of the world offer the following advice about adopting a dietary plan compatible with the general Blue Zone eating habits that lead to longevity:
- Cut the Meat. – Researchers discovered that on average, people living in the Blue Zones consume two ounces or even less of meat approximately five times in a month. Various studies around the globe have shown repeatedly that vegans or pesco-vegetarians whose diet is plant-based with a small percentage of fish enjoy long lifespans. Okinawans use firm tofu as a regular high-protein food that is suitable for all types of diets and promotes a longer life.
- Refrain from Eating Frequent Fish Dishes. – The most fish you should consume equals less than three ounces, served no more than three times each week. In the Blue Zones, most of the fish being included in the regular diet are small species of fish that are fairly inexpensive like anchovies, cod and sardines. These fish are not tainted by exposure to high mercury levels or PCBs that can pollute the global gourmet fish varieties today. Fishermen in the Blue Zones know not to deplete the ecosystems they count on, so they do not over-fish. Both for ecological and health reasons, it is a good idea to eat only fish that are common, non-fancy, wholesome types and that are not likely to become extinct from over-fishing.
- Do Not Overindulge in Dairy. – Cow’s milk is not a normal component of any of the Blue Zone locale diets except for some of the Adventists’ meals. In general, milk from cows is considered too high in fat and sugar content to be healthy. In the Ikarian and Sardinian Blue Zones, milk form sheep and goats is included in the diet. However, the majority of the goat’s milk consumed is in the form of yogurt, cheese or sour milk. Although goat’s milk does contain lactose, another of its ingredients is lactase, which is an enzyme that aids the body in digesting lactose.
- Eliminate Extra Eggs. – In the Blue Zones, residents eat around two to four servings of eggs in one week, usually as a small side dish with whole grain foods or vegetables. Nicoyans sometimes fry an egg and fold it into a corn tortilla to eat with a side dish of beans. In Okinawa, people boil an egg in soup. In the Mediterranean, it is common to fry an egg for a side dish to eat along with bread, olives and almonds for a healthy breakfast. Eggs in the Blue Zones are from free range chickens that consume a large variety of natural foods. Their eggs mature slowly and have high counts of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Boost the Beans. – Consume no less than half a cup of cooked beans every day. Beans are the foundation of all diets that promote longevity, worldwide. While black beans are common in Nicoya, people in the Mediterranean eat garbanzo or white beans and lentils. Residents of Okinawa eat soybeans. People who live in the Blue Zones usually consume four or more times as many beans as most Americans eat. Beans are high in fibre content, and they also contain about 77 percent carbs, 21 percent protein and very little fat. As a superfood, beans are composed of more rich nutrients per gram than any other food found on our planet.
- Break Robust Bread. – Eat only 100 percent whole wheat bread or sourdough bread. In Ikaria and Sardinia, breads normally consist of a healthful mixture of whole grains like rye, wheat and barley. All these whole grains contain many valuable nutrients like the minerals magnesium and selenium and tryptophan, an amino acid. Some breads in Blue Zones include the natural bacteria of lactobacilli, which actually digests, or greatly lessens, the amount of starches and glutens while enabling the bread to rise. This same process forms an acid, which is the “sour” in sourdough bread. These traditional sourdough breads lower the glycemic content of meals, making the entire meals healthier and energizing.
- Drink Water and Wine. – Although in some Blue Zone locations, coffee is consumed regularly, in others, tea of different types is the favoured hot beverage. However, in all Blue Zones, large quantities of water are consumed to ensure good hydrationof the body for excellent blood circulation. In most Blue Zones, people drink one to three small glasses of red wine per day, either with meals or as a relaxing drink with family or friends. Those who drink wine do tend to live longer.
Blue Zone Diets Build Healthy Microbiome Populations in the Body
All the Blue Zone diets are high in plant-based fibre, which travels through the digestive tract to the colon where it is transformed into healthy bacteria that strengthen and protect the inner walls of the colon, improving its functionality. Without this pure fibre in your system, you can be at risk of developing digestive tract upsets and more serious chronic health conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s disease. Healthy microbiomes (bacteria or fungi) are necessary throughout the body for good operation of all the body’s systems. While gut biomes are essential for keeping the digestive tract healthy and functioning well, other microbiomes protect and empower the immune system to safeguard the body from the development of inflammations, infections and disease. High in natural, plant-based fibre, proteins, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, Blue Zone diets promote all major aspects of good health and well-being.
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