Book Review: The Blue Zones Solution

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In The Blue Zones Solution author Dan Buettner outlines 9 common lifestyle denominators among the populations with greatest average longevity:

  1. move naturally
  2. sense of purpose
  3. have a routine to de-stress
  4. stop eating at 80% full
  5. 1-2 glasses of wine/day
  6. social circle which supports healthy behaviors
  7. eat lots of plants with beans as foundation; meat only once or twice peer week
  8. faith-based community
  9. loved ones come 1st

Then the author goes on to describe the diets of these populations, from which he extracts a list of what he calls “longevity foods”.  Here’s a list of what I saw that they had in common:

They eat mostly vegetables & fruits, including lots of beans:

  • greens, seaweed
  • potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams
  • black-eyed peas, chickpeas, black beans
  • lemons, tomatoes, papayas, bananas
  • mushrooms
  • fennel
  • almonds, nuts
  • avocados
  • squash

They eat whole grains, such as:

  • brown rice
  • barley
  • oatmeal
  • maize nixtamal
  • whole wheat bread
  • flat bread (from durum wheat)

Their diet also includes fermented foods like:

  • sourdough bread
  • wine

They don’t drink soda!! Instead they drink:

  • H20
  • coffee
  • goat’s/sheep’s milk
  • green tea
  • soy milk

White sugar is not their primary sweetener. Instead they eat:

  • honey

… and use lots of spices like:

  • garlic
  • turmeric
  • black pepper
  • mediterranean herbs

And they do not cook with Crisco, but they do use olive oil.

 

 

In case you’re wondering, the “blue zones” are:

  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Okinawa, Japan: 
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  • Icaria, Greece

In summary, these people move throughout the day as they work, rather than sit all day then work out for an hour at best (#1 above).  They avoid processed foods, eat plant-based diet, and they don’t over-eat (#s 4 & 7). And they prioritize their own mental health (#s 2, 3 & 5) as well as their sense of community (#s 6, 8 & 9).

The author also includes recipes that include the superfoods listed above, if you want to incorporate more of these into your diet. Overall this is one of the more insteresting books about diet that I have read because it’s grounded in real life, not just lab results and number crunching.  I recommend this book if you find such reasoning persuasive, and if you’re interested in how other cultures eat and live.  If you want to know more about the Blue Zones project, you can check out https://www.bluezones.com/about-blue-zones/.

 

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Book Review: Get the Trans Fat Out

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I picked up this book on a whim a couple months ago because I was interested in learning more about trans fat vs. saturated fat. According to author Suzanne Havala Hobbs, Trans fat is simply hydrogen + vegetable oil. Main sources are “partially hydrogenated” oils… look for them in the ingredient lists of processed foods!

Trans fat raises blood LDL and lowers HDL, as well as causing general inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. So obviously we want to avoid this stuff!  Limit your processed foods because Trans Fat is mostly found in vegetable shortening (Crisco, anyone?), fast food, and commercial baked good.  Actually, it has been determined that there is no safe level of trans fat intake, so stay away from this stuff as much as possible by eating meals prepared at home.

Overall, this book was helpful but keep in mind that it was written over 10 years ago, so there is information about saturated fats that some experts now disagree with (which is why I have not included it in this review). But the sections about trans fat contain useful information and tips to help you avoid this harmful ingredient.

I’m on a Quest…

I heard about these protein bars by Quest Nutrition from Blogilates.com and finally decided to try them out. I bought a box of the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavor for $24.99 from Vitacost.com.

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My primary goal was to find a protein bar that will also serve as a meal replacement bar.  Basically, I think I don’t get enough protein but I’m also trying to lose weight, so I’d like to eat a protein bar for breakfast or lunch.  In the past I had been eating CLIF Builder’s bars, so I’ll compare the Quest Bars to those.

These bars claim to be all natural (i.e., clean) and low carb. The Cooke Dough bars contain 190 calories each and 70 of those from fat, with 8g total, 3g saturated.  There are 21g carbs, with 17g listed as dietary fiber.  Note that there’s some controversy over the fiber source because its made in a factory rather than being plant-derived, and because the body treats it like sugar. Check out this article from Me and My Diabetes for more information about that issue. Quest Nutrition is very up front about the ingredients in their bars – here’s the ingredient list from their website.  The ingredient list is short, but the proteins are from whey/milk proteins so these bars may not work for people who are lactose intolerant.

The best part is the taste – the bars I have tried are really yummy!  Honestly, the Cookie Dough flavor could be your dessert, they’re so good! I ate one for lunch yesterday, and I didn’t get hungry again for about 3-4 hours.  These could definitely serve as a meal replacement bar for breakfast or lunch, as long as the sweetness isn’t overwhelming for you.

Depending on where you buy them, they’re about $2 per bar.  You can find them on Vitacost.com, or at GNC stores or site.

I also LOVED the box!  How motivational is this?

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So how do these compare to my old standby, Builder’s Bars? In comparing them to the Cookies ‘N Cream flavor from CLIF, they are smaller in size (only 60g vs. 68 g in CLIF) and lower in calories (190 in the Quest vs. 270 in CLIF) but have the same number of calories in fat. Total fat content is the same in both bars, but the Quest bars only have 3g saturated fat whereas the CLIF bars have 5g.  Quest bars claim 21g of protein vs. 20g in the Builder’s bar.  Finally, the total carbs are significantly less in the Quest bars, at only 21g, versus 30g in the CLIF bar.

My final verdict is that I’ll definitely buy them again. They taste great and I am OK with the ingredients.  If you are comfortable with the ingredients, I’d recommend these to you, too.  To meet my current health goals, I would choose these over the Builder’s bars because they have less calories, fat, etc., but they also kept me satisfied for the amount of time I needed.

Have you tried Quest Nutrition Protein bars? What do you think of them?