by Anna Hicks

Using Food to Become a Healthier Person

You are what you eat. It’s an old saying that’s rooted in truth. The foods we consume have a profound impact on not only our physical health, but also our longevity, mental health and happiness.

National Geographic researcher Dan Buettner decided to delve into why some people live longer than others. He and a team of researchers uncovered what they dubbed the “Blue Zones”. These are small pockets where people have a significantly higher chance of reaching 100 years old. They identified nine key trends among the Blue Zones, a few of which apply to the foods and beverages we consume.

Blue Zone eating is much closer to our grandparents’ diets before fast food and sugary processed snacks become commonplace. Centenarians (people who live to 100 or older) are more likely to eat traditional, wholesome foods that fuel their active lifestyles.

Deliciously Healthy Diets

There are three diets that fall in line with the research into blue zones – the Paleo diet, the Mediterranean diet and the Choose My Plate diet. These aren’t fad diets that rely on extreme, unhealthy eating. They’re based on nutrition that your body needs.

Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet has been called the caveman diet because it consists exclusively of natural, non-processed foods. If it isn’t an animal or didn’t come out of the ground, then it’s off limits. Bob’s Red Mill has a great beginner’s guide for starting a Paleo diet. It explains what you can and can’t eat on the Paleo diet and provides cooking tips.

Mediterranean Diet

Since one of the Blue Zones is in Greece and another is in Italy, it should come as no surprise that the Mediterranean diet hits a lot of healthy high notes. It’s full of healthy oils, fish and vegetables.

Choose My Plate Diet

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is helping Americans make better good choices with their new Choose My Plate initiative. This diet also fits with the Blue Zone eating suggestions since it slants toward plants. The guidelines suggest that you fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

NO MATTER WHAT DIET YOU’RE ON, FOLLOW THESE BLUE ZONE TIPS:

  • ·  Only eat until you feel about 80% full.
  • ·  Eat less meat – Blue Zone centenarians only eat 3-4 ounce meat portions a handful of times a month.
  • ·  Eat more legumes for protein in place of meat.
  • ·  Eat larger meals for breakfast and make dinner your smallest meal of the day.

When in doubt, you can always turn to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for specifics on daily nutrition. However, keep in mind the suggestions are based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Other Ways to Use Food to Live a Healthier Life

What you put on your plate is important, but the influence of food goes beyond the dinner table. There are lots of ways you can connect with others and have fun with food.

Join a Community Garden

Since you’re eating more fruits and veggies, why not grow your own? Many cities and neighborhoods now have community gardens where you can help cultivate produce. In addition to fruits and vegetables, plant garlic and herbs for an extra helping of healthy flavor.

Socialize With a Happy Hour Glass of Wine

One of the most surprising discoveries of the Blue Zone Project was that people who lived the longest, healthiest lives didn’t necessarily abstain from drinking. In fact, some of the healthiest people regularly enjoy a glass of red wine while socializing.

Taking a Cooking Class

You can pick up new kitchen skills for healthy cooking and make friends in the process. A cooking class is also a great date night idea. Try to find a class that focuses on nutrition meals and fresh ingredients.

Volunteer at a Food Bank

Volunteering at a food bank or Meals on Wheels will give you a whole new appreciation for eating. It’s a reminder that some people don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and we should appreciate being able to choose what we put on our plates.

Share Recipes

If you find a delicious and nutritious recipe share it with others. There are plenty of places online where you can post recipes. A few of the top places are Foodily.com, Allrecipes.com, and the Cookpad app.

Relax With Tea in the Afternoon

Sipping on tea is relaxing and healthy. Tea is full of antioxidants that fight cell-damaging free radicals. Green tea is a common beverage in the Blue Zone Okinawa, Japan but white tea and black tea is also beneficial.

About Dr. Anastasia

Dr. Anastasia Halldin holds a Ph.D in holistic nutrition, speaks four languages, starred on a yoga TV show, produced and appeared in thirteen yoga DVDs, and is a mother of a kindergartner, twin toddlers, and a newborn. Dr. Anastasia loves doing crafts with her children and sharing her easy healthy recipes and knowledge of health and food with mothers to help them raise healthier families.
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