Heard of the BLUE ZONE diet?! No it is not another fad diet. Five spots in the world have been identified and branded the blue zone namely Ikaria (a Greek island), Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa (a Japanese island), Nicoya peninsula (in Costa Rica) and Loma Linda (a town in California). What is common in them that they get banded together? People living there have long and healthy lives. It was found that these people have several commonalities in what they eat and do. They eat a mostly plant based fare with a small component of meat, dairy. They do not drink much and don’t smoke at all. They are all engaged in some ‘meaningful’ activity and engaged well with family and friends. They eat what is locally available and seasonal so there is a lot of variation in the types of fruits and vegetables they consume. They all practise mindful eating, stopping before they are full. They are not big exercisers, they just are on their feet busy with something throughout the day. The cases of dementia in the people in these zones are surprisingly low.
Dan Beuttner, a National Geographic fellow and author discovered these five places and created a huge buzz when his article “ The island where people forget to die” was published in the New York Times Sunday magazine and appeared as a National Geographic cover story.
His book list a few foods as super ‘blue’ foods. They are
- All kinds of beans, legumes
- Oats, barley, brown rice, wild rice, less of wheat that too of lower gluten variety
- Whole grain pasta, soba noodles
- All kinds of local vegetables and fruits
- Herbal teas, green tea
- Olive oil, coconut oil, peanut oil, walnut oil
- Sweet potatoes
- Seaweed like kombu, Wakame
- Herbs and spices
- Condiments like vinegar, mirin, miso
- Honey, stevia
Is this not an easy list to incorporate in our diets and lifestyle?
There are also a list of no-no in a blue zone region. They are
- Processed food, wrapped in plastic, read to eat foods
- Sweetened drinks, fruit juices, sodas
- Candies, energy bars
- Salty snacks like chips
- Predator fish, farmed fish, overfished species like Chilean sea bass
- Factory processed meats
Are these not the usual suspects?!
There is a list of limit the intake foods. They are
- Family farmed meat ( beef and turkey does not figure) twice a week
- Eggs not more than three per week from cage free, hormone free chickens
- Starchy potatoes twice a week
- Not more than 7 tsp of sugar per day, never a sugar high item as a snack. Desserts , cookies limited size only twice a week
- Eat fresh fruits preferably than dry fruits
- Limit dairy, sheep’s milk or goat’s milk is preferred. Feta cheese is preferred. Full fat yoghurt is good in limited amount.
Going through the eat, limit and avoid lists, one thing starkly stands out. Just stick to your basics, eat freshly made homemade wholesome food and you are doing very well. The irony is these simple things are becoming difficult to follow in this current fast world.