All of us have wondered at those incredibly amazing people who can still do push-ups at the age of 90. Ultimately, we end up typing “anti-aging secrets” in Google search and we find millions of links to healthy diet foods, what celebrities eat, etc. Most of them sound too good, that is because they are supported by scientific studies. Remarkably, it comes down to two major factors. What are those? First, our genes, which cannot be changed, second, our lifestyle, which can be changed. And yes, our health and well-being depend on one of the most important choices- the foods we eat daily.
Researchers have collected few interesting insights into aging from the Blue Zones- five distinctive cultural and geographic regions in Asia, Europe, the US, and Latin America. Why? Because people here enjoy healthy and long lives, with most of them reaching 100 years. These populations have surprisingly low rates of obesity and heart diseases, especially cancer and diabetes. So, what is the secret these people know, and we do not? These people lead a long and healthy life because they have one thing in common. They eat healthy diet foods, mostly plants, they do work out regularly, they do not smoke, they have enough sleep, and they do not have stress.
Healthy Diet Foods that People in the Blue Zone Eat?
ü Eat plants- All of us are aware of the health benefits of vegetables and the advice by doctors to eat at least 3 serves of vegetables a day, but still, just 64 percent of us can achieve the target. Even when you agree on the differences among certain diets in the Blue Zones, all of these deliver a huge 95 percent of their kilojoules in the form of plants. Okinawan diet is made of stir-fried vegetables, sweet potato, and tofu.
Studies have proved that intake of veggies reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer. The research found that following a plant-based diet can even reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular illness by nearly 20 percent. Adding more vegetables to your diet is simple. The key is to stop thinking of veggies as side dishes and start including them in your daily menu. To enhance the taste, you can try Mediterranean-style cooking. Toss your favorite vegetables in olive oil to reap maximum benefits, then slowly roast or fry them to enhance their natural taste.
ü Almonds- Rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fats, these nuts are good for more than snacking. You can use slivered almonds as a topping for yogurt or oatmeal, also add them to the muffin recipes, or you can even use almond flour instead of regular flour while making the pancakes.
ü Reduce the intake of meat- Unlike most of us who have grown up on meals consisting of meat and two vegetables, people who live in the Blue Zones rarely consume meat. Whenever they do, it is mostly in the form of a side dish and in a small portion, not the huge chicken steaks that are common in other menus.
On the islands of Okinawa and Sardinia, meat is meant for Sundays and any special occasions. However, most Adventists do not eat meat products. All of us know that eating too much meat can be harmful- studies have shown that red meat can cause bowel cancer. According to the World Cancer Fund guidelines, we should limit cooked portions of pork, lamb, and beef to below 500 g per week and avoid processed meats, like bacon, salami, and ham. Keep quantities to 100 grams of raw meat and have them along with vegetable-packed meals at least three to four times a week.
ü Avocado- With a lot of potassium, avocados are rich in healthy monosaturated fats and hunger-suppressing fiber. You must have eaten avocado toast, but how many of you have tried avocado smoothies?
ü Beans- Filled with fiber, beans are one of the popular healthy diet foods that celebrities eat to maintain their weight. They are a good resource to regulate blood sugar, enhance cholesterol, and strengthen overall gut health. You can have them in different forms like mashing them and take a dip, use them instead of the ground beef in tacos and various other dishes, or use them in brownies or other desserts.
ü Understand what your body is trying to say- Japanese approach their foods with the saying, “Hara Hachi bu” – eat till you feel you are 80 percent full. This practice involves listening to your body’s hunger cues, which in turn helps one to eat less. Okinawans remain lean for their whole life and their average body-mass index (BMI) is below many. About 2 in 3 New Zealand adults suffer from obesity.
Learn to understand your body’s hunger signals. While eating, rate yourself on a scale from 0 to 10, and make sure you stop eating as soon as you hit 7 or 8. While eating, focus on what you are eating, so that you enjoy every bite. Our stomach takes hardly 20 minutes to feel full, so eating slowly can help you to avoid overindulging. Studies show that having food on small plates helps reduce the portions.
ü Coffee- Is coffee good for your health? Coffee not only boosts energy, but also reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. For an additional boost, try to make things better by adding spices to your coffee before you brew it. For each scoop of coffee, add ¼ teaspoon of either cardamom, cinnamon, or turmeric.
ü Nuts- Want to know what the world’s healthiest people snack on? Nuts. They are a great source of heart-friendly fats, antioxidants, and fiber. So, whenever you want to have some snacks, instead of having chips, coke, have some healthy nuts.
Several clinical trials show that individuals suffering from heart disease can live longer if they eat nuts. Those who ate a 28gram handful more than 3 times a week lessen the risk of mortality rate by 39 percent. Though we know the health benefits of nuts, many of us do not eat nuts regularly. Why? Because we think that nuts will increase our weight. However, this is not the reality. Studies have shown that people who eat nuts tend to weigh less compared to those who do not.
Long-life involves making smart decisions about several aspects of our lives, including the foods we eat daily. This makes diet an important aspect, but our long-term well-being is defined by a multi-faceted approach- and our lifestyles are hugely different from those residing in the Blue Zones.
While many of us face the demands of our stressful, busy schedules, Blue Zone people find pleasure in doing their daily duties. They live and work with a purpose that helps them share good community support networks, encourage a close relationship with neighbors and relatives, and enjoy food collectively as extended families.
Follow it or lose it- Exercise plays an important role in the life of people living in the Blue Zones, but again, their approach is different. Most of us sweat it out at the gym. On the contrary, people in Blue Zones keep moving the whole day- walking, watering the plants, doing household works. All these tasks help in alleviating stress, which health professionals link to heart disease and high blood pressure.
So, now as you know which healthy diet foods the world’s healthiest people eat, start including them in your diet from today! Who knows, someday your name may also be included in the list of healthiest people in the world.