Who are the healthiest eaters? We point to the “super agers”—the residents of the Blue Zones who blow past life expectancy charts and live longer and healthier lives. Examining their dietary traits offers important nutrition tips that not only make it easy for you to eat like they do, but also add a powerful ingredient to your goal of successful aging.
Nutrition Tips from Those in the Know
Eat a Mediterranean-style diet that is 95-100 percent plant-based.
What’s often on the plate of a Blue Zones resident? Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, beet and turnip tops, chard and collards. And don’t forget the seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans. Olive oil is the most common oil used in the Blue Zones. Research shows that olive oil can increase good cholesterol and decrease bad cholesterol.
And when it comes to meat, make it an occasional thing, and then watch the size of your portion. If protein is your goal, again, look to the Blue Zones: beans are the cornerstone of their diet. In fact, residents of the Blue Zones eat at least four times as many beans as Americans do on average. And with all that extra fiber in beans, vegetables and whole grains, you’ll feel sooner and stay fuller longer.
Nutrition tips like these are good to know. So is remembering It’s not just about what you eat, it’s also how you think about food. Your daily habits. Where and how you have your meals. Consider these additional suggestions.
More nutrition tips for successful aging:
- Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter where it is easily accessible. Looking at a shiny apple or bunch of grapes might help keep your hands out of the chips.
- Place fresh vegetables at eye level in the refrigerator. Don’t wait until you are hungry to start foraging for lunch or dinner. Have what is good for you right where you first look when you open that refrigerator door.
- Even better, grow your own vegetables and herbs if you are able. Or frequent farmer’s markets if able.
When you eat:
- Eat slowly and mindfully. You’ll enjoy the meal more and you’ll be less tempted to overeat when you’re really concentrating on what you are tasting. One of the common lifestyle traits in the Blue Zones is known as Hara Hachi Bu: stop eating when you are “almost full.”
- Use smaller plates and bowls to control your portions. This is a secret many people who have been successful on diets have learned. Your plate looks full, but you’re actually eating less. Great for successful aging!
- Be present. Really present. Turn off the television, Put your phone somewhere else. Don’t read a newspaper or magazine while you’re eating. Just be in the moment and enjoy your meal.
Whether you’re in or out:
- Package your own healthy snacks for quick, easy access, both in your home and when you’re exercising or on the go. Nuts are a great choice. Blue Zones residents eat an average of two handfuls of nuts a day. Almonds are high in vitamin E and magnesium. Cashews are also high in magnesium. And walnuts, peanuts and almonds are great for lowering cholesterol.
- Drink mostly water. Avoid soda. Blue Zones residents opt for water, coffee, tea and wine. Each has its nutritional benefit. Water eases blood flow. Coffee has been associated with lower rates of dementia. Green tea has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and several cancers. A few glasses of red wine a day has been linked to greater longevity, but only when consumed in moderation.
Your Rewards for a Healthy Diet
According to bluezones.com, the benefits of eating a whole food, plant- based diet are:
- Within 1 Day, you’ll be more satisfied
- Within 1 Week, you’ll be in a better mood and have more energy
- Within 3 Weeks, you may sleep better
- Within 4 Weeks, you’re likely to lose 5 to 8 pounds and your sex life may improve
Remember, people in the Blue Zones aren’t counting calories or reading labels. They are simply making different choices, like more fresh fruit and vegetables, smaller portions, no sodas or fatty foods. They are savoring the dining experience by being fully present without distractions. Choosing nuts over chips. And choosing whole foods whenever possible. For them successful aging is about how they live every day—and with these nutrition tips, you can do the same.
At Senior Star, we are always looking for ways to enhance the lives of our residents. Download Guide to Aging Well: Secrets to Successful Aging from “Blue Zones” Around The World. Questions about senior living? Contact us to learn more.