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/.

 

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.

Four foods to avoid

Over the past year or so I’ve been studying exercise science and nutrition. I’ve read several books on nutrition, which I plan to review in a series of posts in the future. But here’s the nutritional bottom line that most sources agree on: There are four foods we should limit in our eating plans.  They are, in no particular order:

  • trans-fats – trans fats are one of the things that make processed and fast foods taste delicious.  That’s the only positive aspect of trans-fats! They raise LDL and reduce HDL levels, increasing your risk for heart disease. The US FDA has even put a 3 year time limit on their removal from processed foods because, they said, trans fats are “not generally recognized as safe”.  Look out for and avoid “partially hydrogenated oil” in your food. Stay tuned for my book reviews to find out more about cutting out trans-fats!
  • sugar/refined grains – cookies, cake, crackers, white bread, white sugar, chips, soda and even juices contain large amounts of added sugar.  (I’m including refined grains in this category because the starches in bread and the like are broken down quickly in your digestive tract and then enters your bloodstream as glucose.  This causes the spike in blood sugar and insulin levels.) In addition to putting you two steps closer to diabetes, added sugars are harmful to your liver and may contribute to development of cancer.  Yikes!  Also, it’s addictive – sugar causes a dopamine release in the reward center of our brain and affects how you eat for the long term.  So start by weeding all the refined carbs out of your eating plan, then cutting back on added sugars. It’s really hard to do – I know! It’s so hard to do! – but I am certain it will be worth it.
  • animal protein – there are many people who will disagree with me on this one but there is so much evidence to show that, over the long term, a plant-based diet is better than an animal meat-based diet. I’m not saying that meat, in general, is bad. What is bad is the long-term diet of primarily animal protein.  It increases the risk of cancer, especially eating a lot of processed meats. Stay tuned for my book reviews to learn more about how a plant-based diet can increase longevity!
  • sodium – too much sodium in Americans’ diets has been linked to high blood pressure and heart disease.  Fortunately for us, cutting out the processed foods and refined grains to reduce sugar will also remove a lot of the sodium in our food since processed and restaurant foods are some of the main culprits for both.

What are your thoughts?  Anything else you think should be listed here?

I am not a licensed medical care provider and represent that I have no expertise in diagnosing, examining, or treating medical conditions of any kind, or in determining the effect of any specific exercise on a medical condition.   You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself.  You must consult your physician before beginning any exercise or diet program.