The latest diet fad is based not on getting thin, but rather living longer. Here’s why you might want to pay attention to how people are eating in the “Blue Zones.”
Keto. Mediterranean. Pescatarian. Vegan. If there’s one thing that’s certain about diet fads, it’s that there will always be at least one. While most diets have some valuable ideas within them, they’re often difficult for people to sustain over the long haul.
Advice from the Blue Zones
The latest diet fad, however, is a little different. It strays away from the standard diet tenet of getting thin and instead focuses on the bigger life picture — longevity. The diet examines how people eat in the regions of the world where they live the longest, or the “Blue Zones.”
“Everyone could learn something from the longest-lived people in the world. The Blue Zones principles can be effective in that they promote a way of living and not just a dietary regimen,” says Jessica Moya, a clinical dietitian with University of Miami Hospital. “These centenarians remind us that maintaining good health takes decades’ worth of dedication. It is important to find a diet that promotes positive health benefits and that is also sustainable.”
Where are the Blue Zones?
The idea began when Dan Buettner, a National Geographic fellow and journalist, worked with a number of experts, including those from the National Institute on Aging, to identify the regions of the world where people lead the longest, healthiest lives. His efforts led to the identification of the following Blue Zones: Loma Linda, California, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, Sardinia, Italy, Ikaria, Greece and Okinawa, Japan.
There are nine keys to a longer life
Of those nine, these three are primarily nutrition-based:
- Stop eating when you’re 80% full. This saves calories and naturally leads to a slimmer waist line.
- Eat meat sparingly. Almost 80% of those in the Blue Zones eat meat, but it’s not the primary component of their diet. Rather, they stock up on plentiful beans, greens, sweet potatoes, fruits, nuts and whole grains. Meat is reserved for special occasions or as flavoring in dishes.
- Drink moderately and in social settings. A surprising finding? People in the Blue Zones drink regularly. However, it’s almost always in moderation and in social settings. This makes drinking part of the stress-relieving process.
The Blue Zone Diet in Your Life
Moya notes that there are a lot of positive benefits to incorporating some of the ideals of the Blue Zones into your daily life.
“There are aspects of the Blue Zones lifestyle that I generally encourage, such as including more fruits and vegetables, reducing the consumption of animal fats, minimizing the intake of sugar, practicing mindful eating and engaging in moderate physical activity,” she says. “These recommendations promote a more balanced and sustainable diet, as well as encouraging a more active lifestyle, which will ultimately promote weight maintenance and decrease the incidence of chronic diseases.”
However, not all of the principles of the Blue Zones diet may be right for you. It really can vary based on the individual. “Plant-based diets may not be the most appropriate dietary approach for certain medical conditions,” says Moya. “These types of diets are predominantly high in carbohydrates, which would not benefit patients with diabetes. These patients would benefit from incorporating lean protein sources and plant-based fats to promote a better blood glucose control.”
The Final Word on Blue Zone Diets
As with any diet, the key is to focus on a plan that is sustainable for you in the long run.
“The Blue Zones diet is part of the lifestyle of the longest-lived people around the world,” says Moya. “They practice these dietary habits daily, and they do not view their diet as a restrictive regimen that they have to follow. To them, it is a way of living accompanied by daily moderate exercise, effective stress management, maintaining a strong social network and having a life purpose. The combinations of these habits create a synergetic positive impact on centenarians’ lifespan.”
Wyatt Myers is a contributing writer for UMiami Health News.
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