An Introduction to: Blue Zone Foods

Blue zones are designated areas across the globe where people live longer than average. This is due to many factors, including diet. National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner researched what the world’s longest-lived people ate for the better part of their lives. We explore this idea and what you need to know.

Maybe you’ve heard the term “Blue Zones” in the grocery aisles or at a recent gathering. Perhaps it sounds vaguely familiar, but you have no idea what it is, or it’s completely new, and you’re left wondering whether it’s a parking app or new spa in the neighbourhood. As much as you’d like to learn more, who has the time to pour through copious books and blogs, or watch endless videos online to find out more? We’re here to help. In our new monthly Introduction series, we focus on one food term that’s created some traction in the news, and break it down for you in easy-to-understand terms, in just a few paragraphs.**

Maybe you’ll adapt some of the basic tenets to your lifestyle, maybe not. One thing’s for sure – you’ll have something to talk about at the next dinner party!

Let’s get started.

blue zones In a nutshell

Blue zones are designated areas across the globe where people live longer than average. This is due to many factors, including diet. National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner researched what the world’s longest-lived people ate for the better part of their lives. He traveled the world, spending time with people who lived to 100.

Photo: BlueZoneFoods.com

With the help of researchers, he figured out how to translate these healthy habits for longevity to be suitable for the North American lifestyle and compiled his findings in “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest,” and “Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People.”

Here’s a quick synopsis:

What to eat

You’ll be familiar with many of the guidelines (shared by many health experts these days) including: eliminating refined starches and sugar, and focusing on “wholesome, nutrient-dense, and fiber-rich foods.” This means: upping your intake of plant-based fare (fruits, vegetables, grains, and greens) to 95 percent, eating beans (tofu is also allowed) and a handful of nuts every day.

 

What to drink

Grab your water bottle. Buettner recommends drinking H20 throughout the day. Green tea can also be enjoyed on the regular, as it “usually contains about 25 percent as much caffeine as coffee and provides a steady stream of antioxidants.” Coffee and red wine in moderation, also make the approved list. Stay away from soft drinks and other sugar-laden beverages, and you’ll live a longer life, according to the author.

 

Photo: Big Issue North, 2018. Jamie Oliver and mentor Genaro on latest show “Jamie Cook’s Italy” where he travels to more unknown regions in Italy in search of undiscovered recipes and the traditional cooking ethos of smaller villages enabling them to reach old age.

 

Reminder: Celebrate & Enjoy

Incorporating a new way of eating can feel challenging – unfamiliar ingredients, eating only until your “eighty percent full,” forgoing items you love like potato chips (hint: switch to sweet potato or other veg) — but the Blue Zones Solution shouldn’t “feel like a restriction, a limitation, or deprivation,” Buettner writes. “Go ahead and enjoy the good meals and the occasional indulgent celebration.”

Phew. This healthy lifestyle might not be as difficult as you think.

 

Shopping List

Buettner found 44 “Blue Zone Foods” –ingredients that centenarians eat to live to 100. Here’s a small sampling of the items, ready for you to shop in-store now:

– Sweet Potatoes

– Kombu and Wakame (seeweeds)

– Shiitake mushrooms

– Avocados

– Papayas

– Sourdough or 100% whole wheat bread

– Barley

– Oatmeal

– Olive oil

– Honey

– Turmeric

– Mediterranean herbs

– Garlic

 

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Do you already eat this way? If not, what are you excited to add to your shopping list? What are you picking up on your next visit to the store? Let us know in the comments below.

 

**Note: We do not advocate any style of eating over another. We are not medical or health professionals. We’re simply presenting you with information that you can use or ignore.

Stephanie Dickison

Stephanie Dickison

A journalist with over 20 years experience, specializing in restaurants, chefs, food and drink. In addition to daily articles and features, profiling top chefs and interviewing celebs, as editor and feature writer for Toronto Restaurants, her Open/Closed column is a must-read every Thursday morning for the newest openings, and latest news + events. 

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