Cut Your Portion Size and Follow the 80 Percent Rule
Like many diets, the Blue Zones diet emphasizes keeping your portion sizes moderate and not overeating. Eating smaller portions packed with nutritious foods allows you to feel satisfied without eating too much. Foods eaten in the Blue Zones tend to be simple (made with five ingredients or fewer), wholesome, and picked for maximum nutritional impact. Filling your plate with foods bursting with fiber, protein, and water is a proven way of keeping hunger at bay without adding extra fat or sugar. Another tradition of some Blue Zones is eating only until you are 80 percent full. In other words, they avoid overeating by putting down their forks when they are no longer hungry rather than eating when they are completely full. This easy-to-follow rule can help reduce digestion issues like indigestion and heartburn and generally make you feel better after you eat.
Although wine, tea, and coffee are all part of the Blue Zones diet, water is far and away the most important drink. Most guidelines recommend 6 – 8 glasses of water per day. Coffee and tea can also be good sources of water but should be consumed without added sweeteners and cream. Staying hydrated and avoiding sugary drinks have lots of health benefits. Our bodies are between 55 to 50 percent water, most of which our organs use to perform properly. So, it’s not surprising that drinking water boosts your energy and helps keep your organs healthy. Drinking sufficient water daily keeps your blood, bones, joints, and organs hydrated and regulates your body temperature. It also supports healthy digestion and promotes good brain and cardiovascular function. Dehydration can cause you to overheat and may lead to kidney damage. Extreme dehydration can cause severe illness, such as sudden drops in blood pressure and seizures, and even death.
A glass or two of red wine with your meal is standard in Sardinia and Ikaria. Similarly, it’s common for Okinawans to have a bit of sake, a rice-based wine. Alcohol is by no means a necessary part of the Blue Zone diet. For example, the Seventh-Day Adventist community of Lomo Linda eschews all alcoholic drinks. But the diet demonstrates that alcohol can be included in a diet in a healthy way. Three features are consistent in the way that people in Blue Zones drink alcohol. First, alcohol is always consumed in moderation. A glass of wine or cup of sake is fine but drinking in excess is not. Secondly, the drinks of choice have profound health benefits. Dry red wines are full of antioxidants that protect cells and may help promote heart and brain health. Moderate consumption of sake is linked to improved digestion and a lower risk of heart disease and some cancers. Finally, drinking alcohol in Blue Zones is almost always part of socialization, which is important for brain and mental health.
Breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day in Blue Zones, where the meal is the largest of the day while meals later in the day are much lighter. Eating earlier in the day might seem counterintuitive, but there’s actually some evidence that eating a healthy breakfast is one of the best things you can do for overall health. It sets you up for eating habits throughout the day, makes it easier to focus, and has been linked to maintaining a healthy weight. By contrast, skipping breakfast altogether or eating a breakfast with little nutritional value can make you sluggish and even impact your ability to think. So what do people in Blue Zones eat for breakfast? A traditional Okinawan breakfast may consist of miso soup, rice, seaweed, and natto, a fermented soybean dish with loads of protein, iron, zinc, and many other important nutrients. People in Nicoya are more likely to have protein-packed rice and beans with fresh fruit for breakfast.
Want To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint? The Blue Zones Diet Could Be a Perfect Fit
It turns out that the Blue Zones diet is not just good for the body; it may also be better for the Earth. The production of meat and dairy products makes up about 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. The meat and dairy industries also contribute to a great deal of deforestation and other types of pollution. Eliminating or reducing meat and dairy consumption is a simple way to shrink your carbon footprint and do something good for the environment. Like other plant-based diets, the Blue Zones diet is more sustainable than meat- and dairy-based diets. While growing and processing fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products do produce greenhouse emissions, it’s significantly less than from animal agriculture. One study found that more plant-based diets, including diets that include some dairy and seafood, can reduce greenhouse emissions by up to 80 percent.
Your diet can have a real impact on your sleep. At night, our brain releases a hormone called melatonin that makes us feel sleepy. Melatonin release is controlled by our natural sleep-wake cycle, which can be affected by things like diet. When this cycle is disrupted, falling and staying asleep can be hard. Although melatonin supplements can be used as sleep aids, some foods naturally contain melatonin that may help you sleep better. Many of those foods are part of the Blue Zones diet. For example, tart cherries are the single best food source of melatonin. Nuts and fatty fish are also high in melatonin. In addition to melatonin, foods that are rich in fiber and protein, including green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains, can help you get a better night’s sleep.
Taking Care of Your Gut May Be the Key to Living Longer
There’s growing evidence that the way to good health may be through the gut. The bacteria and other microorganisms that live in our gut make up the gut microbiome. A diverse, healthy microbiome can help keep your immune system strong and support overall health. No two microbiomes are the same, but they all benefit from certain dietary choices. High-fiber foods like legumes and whole grains support the growth and survival of beneficial gut bacteria. Foods containing probiotics, including fermented food like yogurt, help keep your microbiome balanced. The polyphenols that abound in the diet are a source of food for gut bacteria. Spices like ginger and turmeric that are frequently used in Blue Zones support digestion and promote gut health, while added sugar, which is largely absent from the diet, can disrupt the microbiome.
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