|It’s weird I haven’t come across Dan Buettner and his Blue Zones before, stuffed as my Instagram feed is with middle-aged men telling me what to eat, what not to drink and ideas so frankly joyless I question why I still follow them.
But this I happened to hear on BBCR4’s The Food Programme (which I switched to on yesterday’s morning walk as Radio 6 Music was playing something really jarring to my tired and peace-seeking brain) so attention must be paid.
These so-called Blue Zones are five places on earth where inhabitants have the best and healthiest life expectancy. Lucky people live to a ripe old age, resisting many of the ailments associated with later life- heart disease, cancer and even dementia. These are Okinawa in Japan, a place in Sardinia, a little town in Greece, an area of California with a high concentration of Adventists (vegetarian) and Nicoya in Puerto Rico.
You can listen to the episode here, but I’ll give you the lowdown on what they have in common;
50% of reason for this phenomenon is likely down to how they live their lives, how their social network encourages them to remain active (walking and gardening play a vital role), maintain a life purpose, spend time with friends and enjoy life more- all of which are natural destressors. They also live in like-minded communities- that must help.
50% is what they eat– and possibly more importantly, what they don’t eat. Traditionally, they haven’t succumbed to the US or westernised diet- although sadly this is changing as younger generations come through.
Buettner says the 5 things they eat in common are:
1. Rice, wholegrains, cornmeal
2. Lots of green and leafy veg
3. Tubers. Sweet Potatoes, Celeriac, Swede. You heard it here first.
4. A couple of helpings of fish a week and only five smallish portions of meat per month (they tend not to eat cow’s dairy).
Beanz (a cup a day) Meanz adding a whopping FOUR healthy years to your life expectancy.
But Buettner agrees that should you want to give yourself the best chance of health in later years and change your diet for the better, you need to find a way to make these foods tasty.
As our Stir It Up family knows, we try very hard to make our tubers, greens and beans very tasty. But admittedly, even for me, getting my daughter to eat beans once a month let alone once a day will be an almightly challenge. And the less said about our family butter habit the better.
But the other thing these communities have in common is that they drink red wine every day.
And that’s definitely something worth celebrating with your friends. Often.
Have a great weekend!