If you are the type who likes resolutions, pick something very specific like quitting smoking or drinking more water. If you’ve got those basics covered let’s go for a refinement of changes. But where to start…
Health and longevity are admirable goals. Years ago people researching these goals found that there were five places on God’s green earth where people routinely lived the longest and were the healthiest. These regions were circled on maps and the globe by the researchers. They used blue pen and henceforth these areas were known as The Blue Zones. They were areas found to have less arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease! Areas where the citizens lived into the later years, and without Alzheimers!
These five locations were Greece, Japan, Sardinia (Italy), the town of Loma Linda (in California), and Costa Rica. Locations any one of us would probably be happy to live in. And live a long time. But what exactly did the people of these five locations, The Blue Zones, do to extend their lives. What do they all have in common? What are we in the United States missing?
In all of the five locations, movement, not necessarily exercise per se, was the daily norm. Additionally, these people had some purpose in life. And in all five locations people were faith, family, and community oriented. They knew how to rest once in a while from daily to weekly to yearly. And followed the 80% rule of healthy living most of the time, while still allowing for celebrations without guilt. The eating habits in all five locations is mostly plant-based.
There will be more about the individuals living in The Blue Zones in future columns. For now, suffice it to say that in none of these locations did anyone resort to strict exercise regimes, they just moved, a lot. (Do I hear a ‘yeah” out there?) Though admittedly, there are no garage door openers (and few cars), or microwaves (most food was prepared over wood fires), or junk food (most people grew or foraged for food, with the possible exception of the California location. All the other four locations are in countries we Americans tend to think of as “foreign.”
These lifestyles don’t mean you have to give up everything you’ve become used to in life. But going for the 80% rule would be a good place to start. All areas of Blue Zones are little meat, but sometimes eggs, dairy, fish, and always beans for protein. Many in these locations drank one-to-two glasses of wine and even coffee. All drank plenty of water though. So we are going to do some refinement changes, nothing totally drastic.
With the exception of Loma Linda, California, most of these zones don’t even have supermarkets like we have. Ours are filled with undesirable, factory-made, over packaged foodstuffs! One percent of all Seventh Day Adventists live in Loma Linda. They eat a very Biblical diet of fruits, grains, nuts, and vegetables. While discouraging the use of alcohol or coffee some may consume small amounts of eggs, dairy, and meat. Like the Amish, Adventists have (or should have) what’s known as “sanctuary time” where time is spent avoiding distractions such as movies and television. Instead they take long walks and visit with friends. Many religions observe “sanctuary time” in their own fashion.
All of The Blue Zones evidence decreased calorie lifestyles–some by eating only two meals a day, all by increasing fiber, eating in season, no junk food, and daily walking or biking or even dancing. Drinking plenty of water and eating high fiber will automatically decrease calories by filling you with high quality nutrition. If half of your food intake is beans and vegetables, you’ll never be hungry! Regrettably, the Japanese consumption of plant foods went from 82% of the diet in 1950 down to 48% before 1990. Though still eating little salt or sugar, “the diseases of affluence” are infiltrating this (all?) countries.
Each of The Blue Zone world locations has something wonderful to be gleaned. Each has an outstanding result to be considered–from the Mediterranean diet to the area with the longest living females, or the longest living males, to Biblical and historical diets. Each of these areas of The Blue Zones will be reviewed in future columns, but for now I’ll see you in the produce department, or gleaning for fallen fruits in your yard.