Why the Blue Zone Diet May Work For Your Longevity

Living in the United States, and specifically in Los Angeles, I am pretty much always surrounded by other people, places and things. The bustle of the city is something I enjoy, although at times I am not so sure how conducive to a healthy lifestyle it is. Yes, everything is available at my fingertips, but the problem is… everything is available at my fingertips. I am able to take a jog on the beach and sip an organic juice after, but I can also order in and binge watch Netflix all day.

I am constantly struggling to find the proper balance of fitness, down time and sociability. In most of the United States, I would say this dilemma is pretty common. However there are a handful of places, some rural and some urban, that have seemed to somehow come across the perfect balance of everything. These communities have been labeled as “Blue Zones” and they are areas across the world, including Sardinia, Italy, Okinawa, Japan, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, Icaria, Greece and Loma Linda, California, where people have the highest longevity rates, living seemingly untouched by modern day disease.

There are many factors that these areas all have in common as far as resident’s lifestyle, with the most notable including a strong emphasis on family time, low levels of smoking, eating a semi-vegetarian diet, participating in constant, moderate physical activity (such as walking) and consuming large quantities of legumes.

According to the researches of the Blue Zone areas, the diet aspect of each community seemed to be the key element to longevity. The majority of the Blue Zone diet is made up of plant-based foods. Meat is consumed, but in very limited quantities, a concept that seems foreign to many North Americans. However, this way of eating is nothing to scoff at. Most people living in Blue Zones reach to live to the age 100, if not older, a statistic that makes them ten times more likely to get to that age than people in North America. Heart disease and cancer are almost non-issues to people living in Blue Zones, two of the biggest killers in the United States. 

The good news is that adopting the Blue Zone diet is not a hard task. It mainly requires the banning of processed and refined foods. Vegetables are essential to the diet. They are low calorie, full of fiber, packed with antioxidants and filling. Each meal on the Blue Zone diet should include at least two veggies. Protein is also important, but in the Blue Zone diet it is mostly plant-based proteins that are consumed, such as beans and tofu. They are low in cholesterol and high in fiber. Nuts are another source of protein and fat that are widely consumed. They have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol naturally. Both meat and alcohol are limited in all the Blue Zone areas. Wine is ingested daily by almost all the Blue Zone residents, but going over board on the sauce is not regular.  

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of New York City Department of Transportation

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