By: Natasha Bougourd on behalf of Heidi Klein
There is nothing better than feeling good in our own bodies. The path to that optimal state of mind, body, and spirit, is a healthy lifestyle. Inevitably, it opens the doors to a more fulfilling life.
Being mindful of what we put into our bodies is extremely important, especially after the indulgent festive season. To counteract the Christmas guilty pleasures, we need to find happiness in a healthy, balanced diet matched with physical activity.
But restricting our food intake with traditional diets won’t cut it this time. Say goodbye to Atkins, the 5:2 diet, and paleo, and hello to the Blue Zone lifestyle.
Blue Zoning Explained
Where do the healthiest and longest-living people reside? In the so-called Blue Zones. Their environment, lifestyles and diets are all optimised to give them the highest life expectancies in the world. People in Blue Zones have lower levels of chronic disease, obesity, and BMIs.
The five original Blue Zones are:
- Okinawa (Japan)
- Ikaria (Greece)
- Sardinia (Italy)
- Nicoya (Costa Rica)
- Loma Linda (California)
Blue Zones advocate physical activity and healthy eating. The Mediterranean diet is well-established as one of the healthiest in the world. It’s rich in fish, vegetables, nuts, and healthy fats like olive oil. So it’s no surprise to see Greek and Italian islands in the list of Blue Zones. The Blue Zone eating method as a whole is very similar to the traditional Mediterranean diet. Rosie Martin, registered dietician at Plant Based Health Professionals, commented:
“The Blue Zone populations have a ‘plant slant’ approach to their diet, meaning their energy intake comes predominantly from whole, plant foods.
“A plant-predominant diet provides abundant low-energy but highly nutrient-dense foods with additional fibre and phytochemicals that protect our bodies from chronic diseases. These foods help to reduce inflammation, support our ‘good’ gut microbes, manage our weight, improve our mood, and lower the risk for tumour growth. A plant-predominant diet doesn’t just add years to your life, it also adds healthy life to those years. Research from the Blue Zones highlights the real-life impact that a plant-predominant diet has on human health and longevity.”
Blue Zone cultures pride themselves on understanding the benefits of a positive attitude. That’s why the new year is a fantastic opportunity to commit to a Blue Zone way of life and follow through with it. A Blue Zone blog said that people who practice the blue zone lifestyle are happier. And we know being happy equals less stress and fewer visible signs of ageing.
Here’s how you can have a fresh start in the new year with Blue Zoning.
Less Dairy = Healthy Skin
Dairy products might be packed full of vital vitamins and minerals, however, they can be problematic. It’s well-established that milk and similar products can cause acne. And in a phenomenon aptly named ‘dairy face’, animal products can also cause:
- Swollen eyelids
- Under-eye bags
- Dark circles
- White bumps on the face
Let’s face it, ‘dairy face’ isn’t a desirable look. It’s good news, then, that dairy substitutes are just as indulgent as the real thing. Everybody loves an ice creamand, thankfully, there are many dairy-free alternatives. This coconut, caramel and pecan dairy-free ice cream, for example, contains only five ingredients, and the coconut milk makes it incredibly indulgent without the negative skin effects.
“With 70% of the global population intolerant to cow’s milk, we cannot rely on it as a source of calcium for bone health. Luckily, we can get all the calcium we need without it. For those who can tolerate dairy, there are still benefits to choosing a plant-based milk instead. Soya milk fortified with calcium for example is a high protein and low saturated fat option, and also provides extra phytoestrogens and fibre that may reduce the risk for breast cancer and support a healthy heart,” added Rosie Martin.
Limit your sugar intake
Most of us are guilty of having a secret stash of chocolate bars or some mouth-watering Ferrero Rochers. But, like dairy, this can have an adverse effect on your skin and body. We don’t need to tell you that chocolate isn’t a healthy choice for the body-conscious. But sugary treats can give you, you’ve guessed it, ‘sugar face’. And the effects are longer-lasting. Sugar breaks down collagen, the protein that keeps your visage looking youthful.
“Refined sugar provides a lot of energy that is released quickly into our blood stream. This causes a blood sugar spike, shortly followed by a crash as insulin causes your sugar levels to drop. These crashes are coupled with cravings for more sugar, and we are sent into a blood sugar rollercoaster throughout the day. Refined sugar is devoid of any real nutrition,” explained Rosie Martin.
“You can balance your energy levels by choosing to get unrefined, healthy sugars from whole foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. You can still get your chocolate fix by including dark chocolate in small amounts, a food that is high in beneficial polyphenols.”
If you want to snack like a blue-zoner, opt for healthy nuts. And if you find them unexciting on their own, why not mix them up into some yummy recipes? For example, you can swap your guilty pleasure Ferrero Rochers with a healthy protein ball version packed with healthy nuts that’s just as delicious.
“Thankfully, our taste preferences can change over time. If you start cutting down on added sugar and swap your refined sugary foods for healthier forms of sugar, such as those found in whole foods, you will find that these foods become more delicious, satisfying, and will provide your body with the nourishment it needs”, added Rosie Martin.
Get some winter sun
Is it a coincidence that all five Blue Zones are in warmer climates?Research shows that short days and cold weather can have a negative impact on our health, so it’s the perfect excuse for a winter getaway. Cold weather can affect your mood, dry out your skin and even make you feel more tired.
Going on a holiday to a sunnier destination in January is a great way to reap the benefits of those sun rays.It’s also the cheapest month to jet off to your desired destination. Imagine how great you’ll look in your designer bikini after following the Blue Zone diet!
Research shows that 29% of people in the UK are deficient of vitamin D between January and March. This essential vitamin helps the body absorb calcium. When deficient, people can experience low energy levels, depression, headaches and joint pain. If you’re an active, healthy young woman, the last thing you need is joint pain.
While there are some great substitutes for your vitamin D intake, such as vitamin D supplements and a light therapy SAD lamp, nothing beats the real thing. Jetting off to a sunny destination not only gives you an opportunity to relax; it’ll improve your health and happiness. You can even visit one of the Blue Zones to immerse yourself in the Blue Zone lifestyle and diet first-hand!
Adopting a Blue Zone lifestyle might well be the key to your optimal wellbeing, so why not give it a try in the new year?