Foods That May Improve Longevity – The Blue Zones Diet
By Pierre Mouchette | Bits-n-Pieces
You might have heard of parts of the world where it is common for people to be 100 years or older. These areas are known as blue zones. As a result of these people’s good health and long-life span, many researchers have studied their diet and lifestyle to uncover habits that may contribute to longevity.
What is the Blue Zones diet, and how does it work?
While commonly referred to as the Blue Zones diet, the foods and habits of those living in the blue zones are best viewed as a lifestyle. This manner of eating originates from five blue zones, which are in:
What foods are a part of the Blue Zones diet?
The blue zone diet primarily comprises plant-based foods (around 95%). The following is a list of 6 foods commonly found in the Blue Zones diet.
Seasonal fruits and vegetables - unsurprisingly, colorful fruits and vegetables are present at just about every meal in the blue zones. They are rich in the following:
Note: While the blue zones try to eat locally and seasonally, they also eat pickled and dry versions of products that are not in season.
Beans - the diet recommends eating at least ½ cup of cooked beans daily. Beans offer a good source of plant-based protein and fiber and are low in fat. These can come from all types of beans, including:
Food in its natural state - as mentioned, a common theme is eating foods naturally. Whole foods have the benefit of often being more nutrient-dense than processed foods. It can look like this:
What foods should be limited - the Blue Zones diet limits foods that may harm your health and lower longevity. These include:
Possible Health Benefits of the Blue Zones diet
About 71% of deaths worldwide are estimated to be caused by heart disease and stroke. While there is not much research on the Blue Zones diet specifically, it is possible that a similar eating pattern can offer protective benefits against health problems.
Health benefits linked to foods commonly consumed as part of the blue zones eating pattern:
Lower risk of Type 2 diabetes - many foods eaten as part of the Blue Zones diet are fiber-rich, which helps control blood sugar.
Lower risk of heart disease - the Blue Zones diet focuses on healthy, unsaturated fat rather than saturated fat. Research shows that high amounts of saturated fat are linked to heart problems.
Lower inflammation - most foods eaten as part of the Blue Zones diet also have anti-inflammatory properties, which may offer protection against liver disease, brain disorders, and some types of cancer.
Lower risk of obesity - many high-fiber foods in the Blue Zones diet can help with weight management and prevention of obesity by helping you feel fuller for longer. People in the blue zones also tend to be physically active, supporting a healthy weight.
Lesser chances of metabolic syndrome - characterized by many factors, including high blood pressure and a large waistline. Metabolic syndrome raises your risk of stroke, heart disease, and other health conditions. Recent research suggests that plant-based diets can lower your risk of metabolic syndrome by half.
Remember that other habits apart from the diet - like exercising and having a strong sense of community may play a prominent role in the health and longevity of people living in blue zones. So, it is unclear whether following the Blue Zones diet alone is enough to reap the same benefits.
Are there drawbacks to the Blue Zones diet?
It is unlikely because it is not a rigid diet based on various nutrient-dense foods. Following the blue zones eating style requires effort and encourages more home cooking than eating out. It also may be more expensive because of its emphasis on eating fresh foods.
Who should add more blue zone foods to their diet?
Anyone can benefit from eating foods common in the Blue Zones diet pattern. It is not just for older adults who want to add more years to their life. Children and young adults can also eat the Blue Zones diet to protect their health and improve their longevity for years to come.
What are the differences between the Blue Zones diet and the Mediterranean diet?
Even though there are many similarities, the Blue Zones diet is geared explicitly toward longevity. It is a bit stricter because it recommends an almost entirely plant-based diet, whereas the Mediterranean diet allows for more animal foods, specifically fish.
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