By Cathy Wong
For a long life and better health, try boosting your intake of foods that people living in Blue Zones have in their diet. A concept developed by National Geographic Fellow and author Dan Buettner, Blue Zones are areas across the globe where people tend to live the longest and have remarkably low rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
Sticking to a vibrant, nutrient-rich eating plan appears to play a key role in the exceptional health of Blue Zone dwellers. Here’s a look at seven foods to include in your own Blue Zone-inspired diet.
Legumes: From chickpeas to lentils, legumes are a vital component of all Blue Zone diets. Loaded with fiber and known for their heart-healthy effects, legumes also serve as a top source of protein, complex carbohydrates, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Aim for at least a half-cup of legumes each day.
Dark Leafy Greens: Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are especially prized. One of the most nutrient-dense types of veggies, dark leafy greens contain several vitamins with powerful antioxidant properties, including vitamin A and vitamin C.
Nuts: Like legumes, nuts are packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals. They also supply heart- healthy unsaturated fats, with some research suggesting that including nuts in your diet may help reduce your cholesterol levels.
Olive Oil: A staple of Blue Zone diets, olive oil offers a wealth of health-enhancing fatty acids, antioxidants, and compounds such as oleuropein, a chemical found to curb inflammation.
Steel-Cut Oatmeal: When it comes to whole grains, those in Blue Zones often choose oats. One of the least processed forms of oats, steel-cut oats, makes for a high-fiber and incredibly filling breakfast option. Perhaps best known for their cholesterol-lowering power, recent research has determined that oats may thwart weight gain, fight diabetes, and prevent hardening of the arteries.
Blueberries: Recent studies have demonstrated that blueberries may help shield your brain health as you age. But the benefits might go even further. Other research says blueberries might fend off heart disease by improving blood pressure control.
Barley: Barley may possess cholesterol-lowering properties similar to those of oats, according to a study recently published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Barley also delivers essential amino acids, as well as compounds that may help stimulate digestion.