- People worldwide who live to be 100 or older have staple cooking ingredients in common, according to “The Blue Zones Kitchen,” a new cookbook by Dan Buettner.
- In Blue Zones, areas of the world where people tend to live the longest, diets are often rich in whole, plant-based foods believed to boost health into old age, although there are several other lifestyle factors at play.
- Common ingredients include beans, leafy greens, olive oil, cruciferous veggies, and whole grains. Blue Zone diets also tend to have much less sugar, meat, and dairy than typical American diets.
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Beans “reign supreme” in Blue Zone diets.
Blue Zones are found across the world, from Costa Rica to Japan, Greece, and California. One thing they all have in common is a love of beans, from garbanzos to soy beans to black beans.
Beans are high in fibre, a nutrient Buettner said in the cookbook is crucial for good health and a long life, since it supports healthy gut bacteria. They also contain a lot of protein. A combination of beans and a whole grain like rice or corn forms a complete protein, meaning it contains all the amino acids needed for health.
According to Buettner, Blue Zone diets contain four times as many beans as the average American eats in a day. He recommends at least half a cup per day.
Nuts are a nutrient-dense staple.
Another common denominator among people who live to 100 is habit of snacking on nutrient-rich nuts. Whether it’s almonds or pistachios, nuts are packed with healthy fats, fibre, potassium, magnesium, and protein.
“If you’re eating a couple ounces of nuts a day, it’s probably adding a couple of years of life expectancy to your own life,” Buettner told Insider.
He said two handfuls of nuts a day is a good goal if you’re looking to live a long, healthy life.
Olive oil, full of healthy fats, is used in many recipes.
Olive oil is eaten with bread, salads, and veggies, in addition to being used to cook nearly everything in Blue Zones, Buettner noted in the cookbook.
It is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which has been found to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and in turn reduce the risk of heart disease.
It’s also anti-inflammatory and packed with antioxidants. This can help reduce the risk of many types of chronic illnesses, like cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, metabolic syndrome, and even arthritis.
Even though olive oil high in fat and calories, it’s also been linked to weight loss.
Cruciferous veggies may add years to your life.
Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage may be most shunned in typical American diets, but they could hold the key to a longer life.
Buettner found that in Sardinia, Italy, a diet high in cruciferous vegetables appeared to benefit thyroid function, potentially slowing down the ageing process.
These veggies are high in fibre, folate, and vitamins C, E and K, which are important for everything from your brain and nervous system health to strong bones and a vigorous immune system.
Drink plenty of water …
Beverages are important for longevity, Buettner said in the book. The Blue Zone beverage of choice is just water, and plenty of it.
Most American diets tend to be high in sodas and similar drinks that are loaded with sugar, Buettner wrote. As much as half of our daily sugar intake, on average, comes from soft drinks.
Sugar-free diet sodas are full of artificial sweeteners that have many of the same detrimental effects on your health as sugar.
…but also coffee…
Coffee is an American staple, in addition to being beloved worldwide. There’s a huge amount of research that it’s good for us, reducing risks of heart and liver disease as well as supporting brain health.
If coffee isn’t your cup, try tea: people in Okinawa, Japan, a highly-studied Blue Zone, drink lots of green tea, which is linked to health benefits like protecting against cancer and lowering the risk of diabetes.
Whichever you choose, be wary of loading it up with too many syrupy sweeteners . Again, a key principle of Blue Zone diets is they tend to be very low in sugars, particularly refined sugars.
… and enjoy a glass of wine with dinner.
Another shared trait of Blue Zones, Buettner writes, is that they tend to enjoy alcohol in moderation, particularly wine. Along with having a low concentration of alcohol, wine is rich in polyphenols, compounds from grape skins known to protect against human health risks like heart disease.
According to Buettner, red wine in particular can also benefit your ability to absorb antioxidants. This, combined with a healthy plant-based diet, means you’re getting a lot of beneficial micronutrients which are crucial to living a long, healthy life. Cheers to that.
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