At this week's Create A Better You session I spoke about Blue Zones. If you've never heard the term before, simply put, Blue Zones refer to the five regions of the world where residents are most likely to live to 100 years young. These people also tend to be very healthy, with much lower rates of chronic diseases when compared with western societies - they're not just living, but thriving!
At yesterday's session we covered the nine important similarities these communities share and simple tips for 'blue zoning' your life (check out Dan Buettner's Blue Zones website here for further information), but today I wanted to follow that up with a few recipes that adhere to the dietary principles commonly shared by these centenarians. For those that weren't at the session here's a quick recap:
1. Plant Based Diets
While most centenarians were not strict vegetarians, meat is typically only eaten about 5 times per month - and when it is, the serving sizes are small. Plants take centre stage at each meal, so try to make 90-95% of your diet vegetables (including a serve of greens each day), fruits, legumes and whole grains. Snack on nuts and seeds.
2. Be Mindful of Fish
The intake of fish varies dependent on Blue Zone, but falls between 0-3 serves per week. Modern day fish is unfortunately often laced with mercury, PCBs and other industrial pollutants. Fish ingest these chemicals and cannot excrete them from their bodies, so it builds up in the flesh. The larger a fish (and the higher up the food chain it is) the more likely its flesh will contain dangerous levels of these chemicals. It is because of these chemicals that fish are not recommended as part of the official Blue Zones® diet. If you choose to eat fish it would pay to familiarise yourself with the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) guidelines regarding fish consumption.
3. Love your Legumes
Legumes (particularly fava beans, lentils, soy and black beans) are seen as the cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world. Aim for a cup of beans daily.
4, Whole Foods
Wherever you can eat whole, unprocessed foods. You won't see people in Blue Zones guzzling down on soft drinks and biscuits, or microwaving their store-bought frozen lasagnes. Added sugar is kept to a minimum - its used as a flavouring, not a food! Ideally go for the intact grain itself, but if having bread choose whole grain or traditional sourdoughs . Make your food at home most of the time - eating out and sweet or fatty foods are seen as treats and is reserved for special occasions. As the saying goes if it comes from a plant eat it, if it was made in a plant, don't!
Foods commonly eaten include:
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Sweet Potatoes
- Whole Grains
- High antioxidant herbs and spices
- Nuts and seeds
Bonus points if you have a garden and grow your own!
5. Water and Wine
Drink plenty of water each day and enjoy unsweetened tea and coffee. Some centenarians don't drink, but most enjoy 1-2 glasses of high antioxidant wine daily with meals or while socialising with friends. This doesn't mean you can save them all up and have 14 glasses at the weekend in one sitting!
6. Bring Mindfulness to the Table
In Okinawa the mantra ‘Hara Hachi Bu’ is said before meals to remind them to stop eating when they are 80% full. The calories in that extra 20% can be the difference between losing weight and gaining it. You wont see people in Blue Zones eating on the go or in front of the TV either. Eating should be a relaxing and enjoyable experience where you are completely present to savour the tastes and enjoy peoples’ company.
Ive been trying to incorporate more of these principles into my cooking for a while now, and as the weather is getting a lot cooler of late I thought I'd share my recipe for a super easy soup that ticks all the Blue Zone boxes. You'll have this soup prepared, cooked and on the table in well under half an hour, and its full of fibre so will keep you feeling satisfied. I hope you enjoy it.
RUSTIC VEGETABLE SOUP
• 1 Onion, chopped
• 2 Cloves garlic, diced
• 1 Tsp thyme
• 1 Tsp rosemary
• 4 Tomatoes, chopped
• 1 Can cannellini beans (drained and rinsed well)
• 2x Zucchinis, roughly chopped
• 150g Eggplant, roughly cubed
• 1 Celery stalk, diced
• 1 Cup spinach
• 1.5 Cup salt reduced vegetable stock
1. Add onion, garlic and celery to pan and saute until onion is translucent
2. Add tomatoes and stock and simmer over medium heat for ~2 minutes
3. Add zucchini, eggplant, thyme and rosemary to pot. Cover and simmer for ~5-7 minutes
4. Add cannellini beans. Cover and simmer for another 5 minutes or until vegetables are nicely
5. Add spinach before taking soup off heat.
6. Salt and pepper (and chilli) to taste.
*you could just as easily chuck all ingredients into a slow cooker/pressure cooker, but use dried cannelloni beans, for this recipe.