Some diet and lifestyle practices common to the Blue Zones diet have been gaining traction as a powerful way to promote longevity. Here's an exploration into why people in certain areas of the world are living longer than those from other areas.
What is the Blue Zones diet?
First things first, it's not technically a diet. It's a lifestyle based on a book called The Blue Zones, by author and National Geographic Fellow, Dan Buettner. Together with his colleagues, Buettner identified five regions of the world where people were living the longest (past 90), due mostly to their healthy lifestyle choices. There was only a 25% genetic influence on health, with the bulk of the influence being from healthy daily habits. These regions include Ikaria, Okinawa, Sardinia, Loma Linda, and the Nicoya Peninsula.
Healthy practices in Blue Zones
The main commonality people in the Blue Zones share is that they follow plant-based diets. They're not necessarily vegetarian, but on average they eat less than 600g of meat per month.
- Are high in fibre - which protects the body from chronic illness, lowers body weight and improves healthy gut bacteria.
- Provide plant proteins - these are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than animal proteins.
- Promote healthy body weight - which puts the body at least risk of obesity, a precursor for disease.
The resulting benefits of enjoying a plant-based diet are thought to be the main reason behind the longevity of those in the Blue Zones.
Now for some excellent news if you enjoy red wine. Adults in the Blue Zones usually have 1-2 glasses of red wine per day. Red wine is rich in an antioxidant called polyphenols, which is thought to be the reason behind the health benefits of this daily practice. Note: in these instances, red wine is always enjoyed with food and often drunk with family or friends. Also, it is mentioned that if you don't drink alcohol, it won't necessarily benefit you to start.
Other factors for longevity
It doesn't all come down to nutrition, though. People in the Blue Zones also stay healthy from supporting lifestyle factors like a sense of community, spirituality, managing stress and reaching for a sense of purpose. Individuals also eat each meal mindfully, ending when they are 80% full, and opting for smaller meals at night.
We sat down with our golden (medal-winning) girl Erin, to chat about her views on health. Read on to see why Krispy Kremes aren't going anywhere, and how travel can be a double-edged sword. (You can read Erin's full bio here.)
What is your definition of a healthy person?
For me, a healthy person is someone who is healthy in all aspects (give or take, here and there) in their life. They’re active, they’re happy and they’re eating clean, good foods. It’s not about who can eat the most vegetables but about a person who has a good balance in their diet, social life and active lifestyle.
What healthy habit/s do you follow daily, without fail?
I always start my day off with Nature's Nutrition, either in my morning oats or a nice smoothie before training. I have to make sure I get at least 2 litres of water throughout the day too. If I make sure I get these two things right, I know my body will thank me for it.
What does a week of exercise look like for you?
My week always consists of seven swimming sessions that can range anywhere between 1.5 - 2hrs, three rehab sessions, two gym sessions and one Gyrotonic session. In between the days, I’m constantly seeing chiros, physios and doctors to sticky tape my body back together, haha! In total, I spend about 17-22 hours being active per week.
What is your general nutrition outlook/strategy?
My outlook on nutrition is pretty simple: what you put in is what you’ll get out. If you put the good stuff in you’ll feel good on the outside too! Being an athlete, it’s super important to keep my body healthy, and the easiest way to do that is to eat as well as I can.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to living well?
My biggest challenge is probably when we travel. With swimming, we are lucky enough to see a bit of the world, but when we do it’s obviously expensive and some foods aren’t easy to find (depending on where we travel). We tend to go for the cheapest and most convenient option, but it tends to be the unhealthier choice. So it’s definitely tough to stick to my usual routine eating.
What are your non-negotiable indulgences?
CHOCOLATE! And definitely Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
It's ten years from now: what do you want your day, week or general life to look like, from a health perspective?
In 10 years I hope that I am still fit, happy and eating well. Maybe it sounds cliched, but I hope I would’ve learnt yoga and meditation. I want my days started with a clear mind and finished with a stronger body.
If an individual wanted to start living healthier, what is the FIRST recommendation you would give them?
I would tell them to create a meal plan that consists of healthy but enjoyable foods for THEM! You have to find what works and what doesn’t work for your body. There’s no point in eating broccoli every meal if you hate it because being healthy will become a chore. It’s got to be something you look forward to.
Erin uses our Protein variants every day. Shop for yours online here: Nature's Nutrition Protein