I think it’s safe to say that if you ask anyone if something could make them live longer they’d be interested to hear about it. The Mediterranean diet has been in the spotlight for it’s proven efficacy in reducing the risk of heart disease and related complications. Here to join it is the Blue Zone diet.
Just a quick disclaimer, these diets (Mediterranean and Blue Zone) are NOT the same as a fad diet, they don’t exclude food groups and they are backed by science, not just testimonials, and generally incorporate a balanced lifestyle that fit within dietary guidelines which also include being active. These lifestyles highlight there is no one magical food that can help you lose weight or live longer or save you from disease, a healthful life comes from a dietary pattern, not just one food or nutrient being included or excluded. It’s important that we learn from these dietary patterns.
Okay, now onto the Blue Zone…
What is The Blue Zone?
The Blue Zones are 5 locations around the world where people are living longer and healthier lives than most. The 5 places are:
- Sardinia, Italy
- Ikaria, Greece
- Okinawa, Japan
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
- Loma Linda, California
Might seem surprising that the picture of obesity, the USA, also is home to those who live longer than their fellow citizens. This proves, that it is not genetic that people from these places live longer, it’s actually a result of dietary changes due to their religious teachings.
What do these people eat?
It’s pretty amazing to think that such a wide variety of cultures and cuisines from the Mediterranean to Asia, could be eating the same things that could explain why they’re living healthier and longer lives. However, it’s not about specific foods rather it is about a pattern of reducing the Western foods in the diet and opting for a more plant-based approach.
This means incorporating more:
- Beans & legumes
- Fruits and vegetables – seasonal always is best!
- Soy products such as tofu
However, they are not strict vegetarians they fill up their plate with grains and vegetables before reaching for fish or another lean source of protein. Their diet also includes a little bit of red wine here and there. Also being in tune with hunger signals and stopping when content is important, especially when it comes to weight maintenance. Check out my previous blog post about understanding hunger here.
Do these people exercise?
Well, let’s just say they aren’t hitting the gym and lifting heavy weights to reach their 10,000 steps. People from the Blue Zones engage in meaningful physical activity whether that be physical work to maintain the garden, clean the house, walking to a friend or neighbours house. They have little sitting time and are moving frequently, not necessarily vigorously. So it appears it’s about frequency not so much intensity, and it being “incidental” activity is another key message from this interesting group of islands and locations.
There’s also a greater sense of community that the people from the Zones foster, and not through their phones! In person social engagement is a common thread between these zones.
How can I adopt this lifestyle?
- Incorporate more vegetarian meals and snacks into your weekly dinner or lunch rotation, their high fibre content will keep you full and reducing your red meat intake will also help reduce your risk of cancer.
- Increase your incidental activity by taking public transport, or parking further away from your destination.
- Move frequently, set yourself reminders to get up and just do a lap of the office every hour or so.
- Spend time away from the screen and spend time with family and loved ones.
Read more from the expert Prof. Tim Crowe here.