Blue Zone Diets
Gerald J. Joseph, B.S., M.Ed. Health Coach
The Blue Zones
Blue Zones are regions of the world where people live much longer than average. The term first appeared in the November 2005 National Geographic magazine cover story “The Secrets of a Long Life” by Dan Buettner.
The Island Where People Forget To Die, Ikaria Greece
Health researchers have long praised the Mediterranean diet for promoting mind, body health and preventing chronic diseases syndromes. The people on Ikaria, a small island in the Aegean Sea, are an example for the rest of the world to follow.
The tradition of preparing foods in Ikaria Greece has a lot to do with the island’s longevity, and what sets it apart from other places in the region, it emphasizes potatoes, goat’s milk, honey, legumes such as garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, wild greens, some fruit and relatively small amounts of fish.
The Ikaria population has other foods like feta cheese, lemons and herbs like sage and marjoram that Ikarians use in their daily tea. What’s missing that we usually associate with Greece? Lamb.
The Ikarians do eat some goat meat, but not often, they consume large amounts of plant-based food which includes fiber, they are active and have a great social network of family.
The key to understanding the health benefits of the Ikaria diet is that the populations walks daily, they consume food from a mineral rich landscape and from animals that feed on the mineral rich grasses and they have a reason to live.
The islands of Okinawa are unique in its isolation, beaches and great weather. Okinawa also happens to have one of the highest centenarian ratios in the world:
About 6.5 in 10,000 people live to 100 (compare that with 1.73 in 10,000 in the U.S.) Centenarians on Okinawa have lived through a lot of upheaval, so their dietary stories are more complicated than some of the other Blue Zones.
Many healthful Okinawan food traditions foundered mid-century as Western influence brought about changes in food habits especially after 1949 with the large influences of the Western American diet was introduced as service men from America began to live on the island.
Okinawans began eating fewer healthful staples like seaweed, turmeric and sweet potato and more rice, milk and meat. Still, Okinawans have nurtured the practice of eating something from the land and the sea every day which is a great strategy and lifestyle.
Among their favorite foods are bitter melons, tofu, garlic, brown rice, green tea and shitake mushrooms.
Located on a beautiful island in the middle of the Mediterrean, the ratio of centenarian men to women is one to one. That’s quite unusual, because in the rest of the world, it’s five women to every one man who live that long.
The sharp pecorino cheese made from the milk of grass-fed sheep in Sardinia, has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. The Sardinians explain their exceptional longevity with their assets such as “clean air,” “locally produced wine,” or because they “make love every Sunday.”
But when you dig deeper, they found that pastoralism, or shepherding livestock from the mountains to the plains, was most highly correlated with reaching 100. So what are those ancient Sardinian shepherds eating? You guessed it: goat’s milk and sheep’s cheese — some 15 pounds of cheese per year, on average.
Also, a moderate amount of carbs to go with it, like flat bread, sourdough bread and barley. And to balance those two food groups out, Sardinian centenarians also eat plenty of fennel, fava beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, almonds, milk thistle tea and wine from Grenache grapes. Fish also makes up a part of the island diet.
Loma Linda, California
There’s a Blue Zone community in the U.S. and its located in Loma Linda California. Its members are Seventh-day Adventists who do not smoke, drink and dance and avoid TV, movies and other media distractions.
The Blue Zones research shows that adherents of the Adventist diet, which is mostly plant-based, have lowest rates of heart disease and diabetes in the U.S. and very low rates of obesity. They also follow a “biblical” diet focused on grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables, and drink only water. Some Seventh-day Adventists do eat small amounts of meat and fish.
Sugar is taboo, the community members are very much against sugar except natural sources like fruit, dates or figs.
Gary Fraser, a cardiologist and epidemiologist at Loma Linda University and an Adventist himself, has found in studies that Adventists who follow the religion’s teachings lived about 10 years longer than people who didn’t.
Another key insight? Pesco-vegetarians in the community, who ate a plant-based diet with up to one serving of fish a day, lived longer than vegan Adventists. Their top foods include avocados, salmon, nuts, beans, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and soy milk.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
The centenarian who live on the Costa rican Peninsula of Nicoya, eat lots of of rice and beans, garnished with cheese and cilantro, on corn tortillas, with an egg on top.
“The big secret of the Nicoyan diet was the ‘three sisters’ of Meso-American agriculture: beans, corn and squash.” Those three staples, plus papayas, yams, bananas and peach palms (a small Central American oval fruit high in vitamins A and C), are what fuel the region’s elders over the century.
The Gerald J. Joseph Nutrition Program
The Gerald J. Joseph Nutrition Program is a shift in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease syndromes, such as heart disease, type II diabetes and obesity.
My nutrition protocols are designed to reverse malnutrition which can be defined as the insufficient, excessive or imbalanced consumption of nutrients which can manifest in chronic disease disorders depending on which nutrients are lacking or consumed in excess.
My thesis centers on returning to a more primitive hunter-gather diet and a persistence exercise strategy which will achieve measurable improvements in health in a relatively short period of time.
By examining the very best parts of the evidence-based science around both the Plant-Based and Blue Zone diets, I have fused them into one nutrition program that is delicious, satiating, affordable, easy to prepare, fun to consume and produces substantial reduction in cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and obesity.
My objective is always to provide a scientific rational and guidelines to steer people away from the Western America diet which has been facilitated by what is call an “evolutionary clash and or a discordance. ”
Simple put, our ancient genome has not had the time to adapt with the nutritional qualities of recently introduced foods (grains, sugar, trans-fat, altered animal proteins) that may underlie many of the chronic diseases facing our global civilization where the Western American diet has been introduced.
By returning to a simpler ancestral hunter-gatherer diet, one high in plant based foods such as, vegetables, root vegetables, whole fruits, bulbs, legumes, raw nuts, seeds and moderate amounts of marine and animal proteins, very low in grains and dairy, and a few measured steps everyday, we can prevent and reverse most if not all manmade chronic disease syndromes.
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