Several communities around the globe share a unique trait. In these regions (known as the Blue Zones) many people live to be 100 or beyond. Scientists have studied these groups of people to discover their secret, and after years of research they’ve uncovered several dietary and lifestyle similarities that may be the key to long life.
While you may think longevity is due to a special blend of vitamins or supplements, it’s actually just common sense healthy foods. People who live longest typically shop at farmer’s markets, eat food that is grown locally, and consume the entire food. They don’t eat bread with the grain stripped of its nutritious goodness or drink only a fruit’s juice. Their complete nutrition comes from eating healthy foods. And they don’t need extra vitamins or minerals to supplement.
Want to know what foods promote a long and healthy life? Keep reading.
Plant-based – the majority of foods eaten by people in the Blue Zones are those that come from plants—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. There’s more reason than your waistline to eat a salad everyday. Leafy greens prove to be some of the healthiest on the planet and the best food for longevity. Vegetables such as kale, spinach, mustard greens, bok choy, broccoli, and Swiss chard are filled with fiber and antioxidants. And while iceberg lettuce may be a popular salad filler, it contains less nutritional value than some of the greener options out there.
Fish – people who live the longest eat fish three to five times a week. The healthiest fish choices include cod, salmon, anchovies, and sardines. Poultry, pork, and lamb are also eaten in Blue Zones and they often come from free-range farms. Red meat, on the other hand, is consumed in small portions only a few times a month and often as a way to flavor other foods.
Beans – green beans are good for you and taste great on their own, but it’s black beans, lentils, soybeans, white beans, and garbanzo beans that promote longevity, so take your pick and add them to your next meal. Filled with protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and nutrients, beans are one of nature’s healthiest foods. Blue Zone diets include at least a half a cup of beans a day.
Whole grains – filled with fiber that helps keep cholesterol levels down, whole grain breads, pastas, and rice can be a part of a longevity diet. Several Blue Zones eat bread made with 100% wheat, barley, or rye. Others eat sourdough breads made with bacteria that help digest the gluten and starch.
Drinks – when it comes to drinks, the Blue Zone regions prove water, coffee, tea, and red wine are the healthy way to go. Water keeps you hydrated and is free of sugar. Coffee has been shown to lower your risk of dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Green tea is rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants that fight free radicals and help prevent heart disease and certain cancers. And all those leafy green nutrients get more fully absorbed by the body when you drink red wine.
Nuts – live longer and have a healthier heart by eating more nuts. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or cashews are all good choices. A handful or two a day has been shown to reduce mortality rate and dramatically lower bad cholesterol levels. Just be careful, because tasty as they are, a handful of nuts that turns into an entire container eaten can quickly add to your waistline.
The sugar cut – want to live longer? Cut back on sugar. Avoid processed foods that list sugar as one of the first five ingredients. Enjoy sweets only at special occasions and no more than one or two times a week.
Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and the owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.