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America often produces fad diets that promise health benefits, but are unsustainable. However, certain regions of the world called Blue Zones have been practicing a diet for years that has allowed them to live longer and healthier lives, and thus has become an area of study for people looking for a healthier lifestyle. Blue Zone areas include parts of Greece, Costa Rica, Italy, Japan, and a community in California. These regions’ diets are different from most Americans in that they eat mainly fruits, vegetables, and grains, with very little meat. If you’re looking to change the way that you eat and see some of these positive benefits, read this blog for our favorite 6 Blue Zone foods that you should include in your diet.
Dark leafy greens
From a young age, you’ve probably heard that you need to eat your greens. This is because they are great for reducing the risk of mental decline, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Packed with vitamins and fiber, it’s well worth adding some spinach or kale to your diet.
A good way to get some leaves in your daily diet is to toss them in with your usual lettuce to make a healthier salad. You can also add these greens to smoothies, omelets, pasta, or other dishes for a small boost to your usual favorite meals.
While people from the Blue Zones don’t eat nearly as much sugar as we do in America, that doesn’t mean they don’t have sweet treats. Sweet potatoes are a great substitute when you feel like dessert. Packed with antioxidants, they are great for your gut health and your brain.
Sweet potatoes are great no matter how you decide to bake them, but a few favorites include mashed and baked (just like a russet potato). While some people put brown sugar on top of them, they also taste sweet without any or paired with some natural honey. Sweet potatoes even make great fries, with or without the salt.
Herbs and spices
Rather than sticking to salt to season your food—which can be unhealthy and bad for your heart—try using herbs and spices to add flavor to your dishes. Some herbs contain properties that affect cognition and mood and offer many health benefits. Spices such as turmeric, ginger, cumin, and peppermint are popular not only in cooking, but for their healing benefits when ill. Try reaching for these more often when cooking your favorite meals in the kitchen, and see if you feel a difference in your life.
Beans are high in fiber, and are great for your digestive health. They also can help keep your blood sugar at a normal level. While many people think of beans as solely a dish from Central and South America, there are many ways to prepare them that are more reminiscent of Italy or other Blue Zone areas.
White beans baked in garlic and sage make a savory side dish for any meal. Some people also like to combine greens into their bean dishes, compounding the health benefits. Another favorite is to combine tomato sauce, beans, pancetta and balsamic vinegar to make a delicious baked bean dish.
Another sweet option the Blue Zone areas enjoy are fresh fruits, particularly blueberries. Blueberries are high in potassium and vitamin C, as well as being a good source for antioxidants. They are anti-inflammatory, as well as help lower your risk for heart disease and cancer.
Blueberries are great on their own or added to a smoothie. Another option is to make a fresh blueberry jam or fruit salad with them. You can even use them as a topping on your waffles, pancakes, frozen yogurt, ice cream, cereal or oatmeal.
Grains are very popular in the Blue Zones of the world, but barley is among the most versatile and common. Barley is also high in fiber, it may assist in weight loss and it may improve digestion. People like to eat barley for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, as it is a versatile ingredient in any kitchen. Barley can replace oatmeal for your morning routines, as well as making a great soup. Some people even drink barley, after making their own barley water. Barley is an easy substitute that any health-conscious person can enjoy.
Live longer and have a healthier life
Whether you want to go all in on a Blue Zone diet, or you’re looking for small substitutions that you can make in your daily life, there are plenty of options widely available at any grocery store. You don’t have to give up your favorite meals to live a healthier life if you simply add in healthy options as well.
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