7 Blue Zone Foods to Include in Your Diet

People living in Blue Zones seem to live longer than people in other parts of the world. They do not often have heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. These places also have a lot of people who live to be over 100 years old. Blue Zone locations include:

  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • The province of Ogliastra in Sardinia, Italy
  • The community of Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California
  • The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica

A National Geographic Fellow and author named Dan Buettner came up with a diet plan inspired by these long-living people. It includes the foods that people living in these places eat a lot of. It's called the Blue Zone diet.

The diet is mostly plant-based. The daily food intake of people living in Blue Zones is about 95% vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. They do not eat much meat, dairy, sugary foods or drinks, and processed food.

Food is not the only reason that people in Blue Zones live long, healthy lives. They also get a lot of physical activity, have low levels of stress, are connected socially, and have a strong sense of purpose in life.

This article will talk about seven foods that are part of the Blue Zone diet and give you tips on how to add them to your diet.

1

Legumes

Bean salad in a bowl

Elenathewise / Getty Images

From chickpeas to lentils, legumes are a key part of Blue Zone diets. Loaded with fiber and heart-health benefits, legumes are also a top source of protein, complex carbohydrates, and many vitamins and minerals.

Whether you prefer pinto beans or black-eyed peas, try to get at least a half cup of legumes each day. Legumes can be added to salads, soups and stews, and many veggie-based recipes.

For example, Maya Feller, a registered dietician and the owner of Maya Feller Nutrition, recommends that if you want to make a 3-bean chili for dinner, "Use dry beans and soak them, cooking them with your own spices and fresh veggies."

2

Dark Leafy Greens

Dark leafy green vegetables

yulkapopkova / Getty Images

Dark leafy greens are one of the most nutrient-dense veggies. Greens like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are a prized part of the Blue Zone diet.

Dark greens are a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C. These vitamins have a substance in them that helps prevent cell damage (antioxidants).

People in Blue Zones mostly eat produce that comes from where they live (locally grown). The fruits and veggies are grown using only natural fertilizers and pesticides (organically farmed).

3

Nuts

shelled walnuts in a glass bowl

Aksenovko / Getty Images

Nuts are packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals. They also give you plenty of unsaturated fats. This type of fat is good for your heart.

Research has also shown that eating nuts may help you lower your cholesterol levels. Keeping your cholesterol in check can help prevent heart disease.

"Nuts are a high-fiber food," said Feller. "Almonds, for instance, provide about 3.5 grams of fiber in a ​one-ounce serving."

While they are nutritious, nuts also have a lot of calories. Try to stick to a handful of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, or Brazil nuts.

4

Olive Oil

Extra-virgin olive oil

portokalis / Getty Images

Olive oil has fatty acids, antioxidants, and compounds like oleuropein, a chemical that can help reduce inflammation. The oil can be used for cooking or drizzled on salads and vegetables.

Research has shown that olive oil may improve heart health because it can help keep cholesterol and blood pressure levels in a healthy range.

The oil might even help protect against conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

There are different kinds of olive oil. When you're shopping for oil, look for a bottle that says "extra-virgin olive oil."

Remember that olive oil is sensitive to light and heat. Keep it in a cool, dark part of your kitchen, like a cabinet that's not near your stove.

5

Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Steel-cut cooked oatmeal in a bowl

DebbiSmirnoff / Getty Images

People in Blue Zones often choose oats as a source of grains. Steel-cut oats are one of the most natural kinds of oats. That means they have been made without being changed much (processed).

Oats are known for their cholesterol-lowering power, but they also have other benefits. Studies have shown that oats can help you manage your weight, prevent diabetes, and protect your heart by keeping your arteries from hardening.

A bowl of steel-cut oat makes for filling breakfast with lots of fiber, but that's not all it offers.

"Oats are known for their fiber content, but they also provide plant-based protein," said Feller. "Oatmeal made with 1/4 cup of steel-cut oats provides 7 grams of protein."

6

Blueberries

Blueberries in a basket

Kuvona / Getty Images

Fresh fruit is a go-to sweet treat for many people living in Blue Zones. Any fruit can be a tasty dessert or snack, but blueberries are one of the best to add to your diet.

Research has shown that blueberries may boost your brain health as you get older. The berries may help stave off heart disease by helping you control your blood pressure better.

If you don't like blueberries, try papayas, pineapples, bananas, or strawberries.

7

Barley

Barley porridge with vegetables

nata_vkusidey / Getty Images

Barley is another whole grain that people in Blue Zones like to eat. Studies have shown that barley can help lower cholesterol. It also is a source of the "building blocks" your body uses to make proteins. They're called amino acids.

Barely is easy to add to soups. You can also eat it by itself as a hot cereal for breakfast. Research has shown that eating barley may improve your digestion.

People living in some parts of the world seem to live very long, healthy lives. The diets of people living in "Blue Zones" play a key role in their lifelong good health. Fueling your body with nutritious foods that people living in Blue Zones prefer will benefit your health now and in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the Blue Zone Diet?

    It’s a diet or food plan based on the eating habits of people who live in areas of the world known to have long lifespans and low incidents of cancer, heart diseases, obesity, and other illnesses that increase the risk of death. The diet consists of mainly plant-based foods with beans being the centerpiece of their meals.

  • Can you eat eggs on a Blue Zone Diet?

    Yes, but if you want to imitate the longest living communities, have just a small or moderate amount of eggs each week. In actual blue zone areas of the world, people eat eggs as a side dish about two times per week. 

  • What are the blue zone countries?

    There are five geographic areas that researchers have found have the highest number of people who live to age 100 or beyond. These include Loma Linda in California, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Sardinia in Italy, Ikaria in Greece, and Okinawa in Japan.

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9 Sources
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