Eat like the earth’s longest-lived people
It’s official! The research is in and now scientists know exactly what you should be eating to help you stay alive and well for as long as possible.
How do you live a long, healthy life? The answer to that question may be found on your plate, researchers have revealed.
Scientists studied the diets and lifestyles of some of the world’s longest living inhabitants from five distinct regions known as ‘Blue Zones’ - Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Icaria in Greece and Loma Linda in California in the USA to unravel their secrets to longevity.
And what they discovered is that while the diets of the world’s longest living people differed according to their geography and culture, they also share some remarkably telling similarities ...
Here we share those common Blue Zone staple foods with you so that you, too, can apply these simple changes to your own eating habits and eat your way towards a longer and healthier life.
Whole grains have been getting some bad press over the last few years, but their nutritional value is indisputable. Not only are they a healthy source of carbohydrates, whole grains provide us with energy, protein and fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients which are essential to promote good health.
Eating an average of 6 serves of grain per day of which at least three serves are whole grains, such as brown rice, barley, oats, corn and rye will ensure you are able to enjoy the health benefits from grains.
A recent Harvard University study, published in the journal Circulation in June 2016, found a definitive link between whole grain consumption, as part of a healthy and varied diet, and longevity, which is no doubt the reason why it’s a staple dietary ingredient in Blue Zones around the world.
Eating more fresh vegetables – especially leafy greens - is a no-brainer when it comes to maintaining health, of course. Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend we eat five servings (combined with legumes) a day. However, Blue Zone inhabitants will eat that – and much, much more because plant-based foods such as fresh garden vegetables are the cornerstone of their whole diet.
Vegetables contain many nutrients, including potassium, folate, dietary fibre, antioxidants, Vitamin C and Vitamin A, which all provide their own unique benefits for health.
So how do you up your vegetable intake each day? Easy! By ensuring they’re deliciously seasoned or spiced.
Like vegetables, fruit packs a powerful punch when it comes to nutrition and they’re also a natural sweet treat! Centenarians who live in the Blue Zones eat around two-to-three servings of fruit a day, which is also what the 2015 Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends.
Ensure you’re getting plenty of fruit in your diet by choosing bananas, blackberries, blueberries, lemons, lime, mango, oranges, papayas, pears, peach palms, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries, grapes … or whatever’s in season.
Legumes – otherwise known as pulses or beans - are a low-fat, high-protein source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidant and dietary fibre. They’re also a source of protein, which helps repair body tissue and also helps you to feel fuller.
Soybeans are enjoyed in the Okinawan Blue Zone, lentils, garbanzo and white beans in Greece and Italian Blue Zones and black beans are devoured in Nicoya, South America’s Blue Zone. An expansive 2004 scientific study revealed that legumes presented a seven-to-eight percent reduction in mortality hazard ratio for every 20g increase in daily intake.
Add split peas, kidney beans, baked beans, soybeans (tofu), chickpeas, four bean mix, Lupin, and red, green or brown lentils to your diet and enjoy the many amazing health benefits of these little nutrient-dense morsels centennials right around the world consume on a daily basis.
Nuts and Seeds
Most blue Zone inhabitants generally enjoy a handful or two of nuts every day and so should you. Why? Because people who eat nuts live two-to-three years longer than non-nut eaters. This was discovered by a recent 30-year Harvard study, which found that nut eaters have a 20 percent lower mortality rate than those who don't eat nuts.
High in protein and fibre, (unsalted) nuts go a long way towards helping you feeling fuller and provide energy in thanks to their healthy unsaturated fats.
You can choose between almonds, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or Brazil nuts – they’re all delicious and contain essential fats, nutrients and protein that promote feelings of fullness between meals.
Other dietary recommendations
Centenarians s who live in Blue Zones also drink plenty of fresh water, eat minimal meat and consume very little dairy – with the exception of Mediterranean Blue Zones, where goat and sheep milk and cheese are regularly enjoyed.