Featured, Food, Wellness

What We Can Learn From The World’s Blue Zones

November 6, 2019
What We Can Learn From The World's Blue Zones

I’ve been fascinated by the Blue Zones ever since I picked up a copy of Dan Buettner’s first book nearly 10 years ago. Buettner, a National Geographic fellow, has dedicated his life to researching these seemingly immortal populations, lacing together their similitudes and behaviors that result in longevity and optimal health. Scientists ranging from geographers to epidemiologists have worked collaboratively with National Geographic and the Blue Zones Project to share the captivating data from these comprehensive and ongoing population studies – studies that delve into the science of how we all can live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives. 

So what is a Blue Zone?

Simply put, Blue Zones are regions in the world where populations of people live to be 100 years or older. Aside from lofty life expectancies, these populations of people are aging well and with strikingly low levels of chronic disease and disability. 

Hands, Old, Old Age, Elderly, Vulnerable, Care

Where are the Blue Zones?

  • Loma Linda, California – a community with the highest concentration of Seventh-day Adventists in the U.S. Many residents live up to 10 more healthy years than the average American.
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica – located in Central America, residents in Nicoya have the second highest concentration of male centenarians and the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality.
  • Sardinia, Italy – lush and mountainous, this Italian island takes the prize for having the world’s highest concentration of centenarian men.
  • Icaria, Greece – set in the Aegean Sea, this small island 1 mile off the coast of Turkey has one of the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and lowest rates of dementia.
  • Okinawa, Japan – this subtropical archipelago is home to the longest-living female population.
Image via World Economic Forum

So what are the secrets of these longevity hotspots? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not a powder or pill you can find in the supplement section, nor can it be discovered scouring the latest health trends (which are often propagated using sensationalized language and cherry-picked data). What you will find within these regions, is a residuum that coats the environment, gently nudging the broader population towards habits and practices that are conducive to health and longevity. The Power 9 ® is a list of lifestyle factors that are the undercurrent of every Blue Zone.

The Power 9

Move Naturally

The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons, or join gyms. Instead, the live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving. The grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house and yard work. Every trip to work, to a friend’s house, or to church occasions a walk.”

What can you do?

  • Switch up your daily commute or weekly errands by walking or bicycling instead of driving.
  • Start a garden, do household chores by hand, take the stairs, volunteer for a community cleanup project, rake leaves or shovel snow for a neighbor in need. There are minuscule choices you can make every day that ultimately stack up in favor of your health.
  • If your job requires you to sit at a desk, read up on the Blue Zone’s Pain-Free Office guide which includes tips like taking movement breaks every 20 minutes.

Purpose

The Okinawans call it ‘ikigai’ and the Nicoyans call it ‘plan de vida’; for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” In all Blue Zones people had something to live for beyond just work. Research has shown that knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy. “

What is your purpose?

That’s a big question and one that will continue to evolve throughout the stages and circumstances of your life. You might know exactly what your life’s calling is, you might have more than one, or perhaps, you have no idea. If you’re unsure, you can start exploring with the resources below:

Downshift

Even people in Blue Zones experience stress, which leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. The world’s longest lived people have routines to shed that stress: Okinawans take a few moments every day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap, and Sardinians do happy hour.”

What does it mean to downshift in our fast-paced, modern society?

  • Meditation – the science behind meditation and mindfulness, while relatively vague at this point, is continually unfolding with new and exciting insights. If you’re hesitant to try meditation or it seems a little ‘out there,’ apps like Calm and Headspace make it easy and digestible for all levels of experience.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Disconnect from technology (even 20 minutes per day).
  • Call or meet up with a supportive friend, coworker or family member.

There’s no right way to destress! Find what works for you and your schedule and stick to it.

80% Rule

Hara hachi bu – the 2,500-year-old Confucian mantra spoken before meals on Okinawa – reminds people to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. The 20 percent gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight and gaining it. People in the Blue Zones eat their smallest meals in the late afternoon or early evening, and then they don’t eat any more the rest of the day.

Did you know?

Ghrelin levels reach a low around 30 to 60 minutes after eating? Once full, the stomach reduces the desire to consume more food by lowering ghrelin production and by sending a message to the hypothalamus. So eating slowly and savoring your meal can help you tune into those hunger and fullness cues.

Plant Slant

“Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentil, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meats – mostly pork – is eaten on average five times per month, and in a serving of three or four ounces, about the size of a deck of cards.”

People in the Blue Zones eat a prominently plant-based diet. What does that mean? Mostly vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes. Read more here.

Wine @ 5

People in all Blue Zones (even some Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive nondrinkers. The trick is to drink one to two glasses per day with friends and/or with food. And no, you can’t save up all week and have 14 drinks on Saturday.

Moderation is always the key when it comes to alcohol consumption. In the Blue Zones, the drink of choice is often a glass of red wine, savored in the presence of good company and/or paired with a meal.

Belong

All but 5 of the 263 centenarians we interviewed belonged to a faith-based community. Denomination doesn’t seem to matter. Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4 to 14 years of life expectancy.

There’s a place and space for every person, no matter your beliefs. If religious services aren’t something you choose to participate in, you might find a similar sense of community by volunteering or joining a club that peaks your interest.

Loved Ones First

Successful centenarians in the Blue Zones put their families first. The keep aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home, which also lowers disease and mortality rates of their children. They commit to a life partner (which can add up to three years of life expectancy), and they invest in their children with time and love, which makes the children more likely to be caretakers when the time comes.”

Within these regions, younger generations return the love and care they received from their parents and grandparents. Strong family values ensure that everyone in the family, old and young, is cared for and loved. Regularly visiting elderly parents or grandparents can create lasting memories for all. Grandparents can offer love, support, wisdom and motivation for younger family members to succeed. This adds up to healthier, better-adjusted families who live longer.

Right Tribe

The world’s longest-lived people choose, or were born into, social circles that support healthy behaviors. Okinawans create ‘moais’ – groups of five friends that commit to each other for life. Research shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. By contrast, social networks of long-lived people favorably shape their health behaviors.

Creating and cultivating friendships takes time and effort, but the benefits – both physically and mentally -are insurmountable for those involved. Learn more about the moais of Okinawa here.

Resources

Online:

Books:

Podcasts:

Videos:

Entree, Featured, Food, Sides, Snacks

6 Fall Recipes To Add To Your Meal Prep Routine

October 8, 2019

Fall has definitely arrived here in Seattle! During the autumn and winter months, I’m much more inclined to cook at home, enjoy earlier nights and eat out less. This is a great time to experiment with some easy and wholesome recipes that will support your body through the colder months.

If you’re cooking for a crowd or batch cooking, simply double the ingredients for each recipe below.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

10 Minute Vegan White Bean and Kale Soup (pictured above)

Soup is a go-to at my house during the colder months. I especially love how simple and quick this recipe is (only 10 ingredients – most of which you probably already have at home.) It’s loaded with veggies and cannellini beans for a hit of plant-based protein and extra fiber.

(Vegan + GF)

Zesty Lemon Herb Quinoa

I make this quinoa recipe frequently. It’s seasonally versatile so I often serve it cold in the spring/summer and warm in the fall/winter. This also makes an excellent filling for wraps or on top of a salad.

(Vegan + GF)

Creamy Thai Green Curry

Who doesn’t love a comforting curry? This recipe has a lot of room to play, meaning, you can use any vegetables that you like and serve it alone or on top of brown rice (my favorite) or quinoa. The options are truly endless with this simple-to-make dish.

(Vegan + GF)

Easy One Pot Vegetable Soup

There’s nothing better than tossing a handful of ingredients into a large stockpot and letting it simmer all day while you go about your task list. (Checking it frequently of course!) I love to make a big batch of this soup on a Sunday and eat it throughout the week when I need something simple and quick.

(Vegan + GF)

Sweet + Spicy Roasted Cauliflower Salad

I can’t get enough of the sweet & spicy flavor profile this warming salad has. Cauliflower creates a neutral base for ingredients like caramelized leeks, plump raisins and earthy nutmeg to play. This can also be served cold and tastes even better heated up the next day!

(Vegan + GF)

Healthy Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Sometimes you just need a little extra something to get you through the afternoon slump. These delicious bars are the perfect combination of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats that will keep you fueled and satiated until your next meal.

(Vegan + GF)

Happy cooking!

Dessert, Featured, Food

Crispy Vegan Oatmeal Cookies (GF)

July 28, 2019

These delicious (and healthy) Crispy Vegan Oatmeal Cookies are destined to disappear from the cookie jar quickly! I’m normally not a huge fan of oatmeal cookies, but the touch molasses in this recipe creates a smokey flavor that makes these absolutely irresistible. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose, gluten free flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup safflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon molasses
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  2. Combine the oats, gluten free flour, coconut sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the syrup, oil, vanilla extract, and molasses. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir to combine. Fold in the raisins and nuts.
  3. Using your hands, roll tablespoon-size scoops of dough into balls. Place the balls onto the prepared baking sheet and press down slightly to flatten. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a baking rack to cool completely.
  4. Note: You can substitute chocolate chips for the dried fruit and any kind of nuts for the walnuts.
Beauty, Fashion, My life

July Favorites 2019

July 10, 2019
July Favorites 2019

Here I am again, rounding up all of my favorite things from this month to share with you. This month is multifarious and contains everything from French skincare to my mediocre gardening skills. Enjoy!

Listening:

The Simple Sophisticate Podcast

I’ll simply leave you with the description provided by the podcast host (also wonderful author and blogger) Shannon Ables.

The simple sophisticate is someone who prefers quality over quantity, sensible living over mindless consumption, personal style instead of trendy fashions, has an insatiable curiosity for life’s endless questions and a desire to live a truly fulfilling life rather than being led around by the nose. Inspired by her lifestyle blog The Simply Luxurious Life, Shannon Ables (the original Simple Sophisticate) shares with listeners tips on how to live a refined life on an everyday income. From achieving your goals, preparing a memorable meal, creating a capsule wardrobe, traveling the world (Francophiles tune in as Paris is a favorite destination), and living life to the fullest without breaking the bank, living well is really quite simple.”

This podcast is all-encompassing, realistic and inspiring for all ages and walks of life. Able’s demeanor is positive and genuine, and I feel like I’m listening to a close friend when I tune in weekly.

Emilie-Claire Barlow

I stumbled upon jazz vocalist, Emilie-Claire Barlow’s, music nearly 10 years ago. Her lithe yet warm vocals have since been the subtle background to many of dinner parties and quiet afternoons spent at home. Toronto born, you can expect an eclectic mix of French and English.

Reading:

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

While I’m not usually one for fiction (I know, I’m trying), this novel came via the recommendation of a family member and The New York Times Book Review, so I’m taking a stab at it. I won’t say much, as I’m only about one-third of the way through, but thus far, it’s an immersive coming of age story intertwining a vivid ode to nature.

Flourish by Martin Seligman

I’ve read many of esteemed psychologist, Martin Seligman’s, books including Authentically Happy and Learned Optimism. While this book is much more research-forward than most self-help books (specifically within the text itself), it still provides readers with applicable takeaways and a comprehensive overview of the field of positive psychology. I also found the notes in the appendix quite helpful and interesting for further research.

Watching:

Big Little Lies

I devoured Liane Moriarty’s novels The Husband’s Secret, Truly, Madly, Guilty, and of course, Big Little Lies. So when HBO decided to bring this coveted story to the screen in 2017, I was definitely intrigued. While I only started watching it last month (a little late to the game, I know), I’m already impressed by the dark, comedic storyline laced together with the complex, multifaceted characters.

For Lovers Only  

After seeing each other for the first time in years on separate work assignments in Paris, former lovers, Sophia and Yves, rekindle their romance in an affair that takes them across France from Normandy to St. Tropez. The simplistic, black and white cinematography makes for transcendent love story filled with romance, style, and unrepentant passion. I watched this film when it premiered nearly 8 years ago and continue to watch it at least once a year for its artistic allure and inspiration.

Little Joys:

Avène Hydrance Rich Hydrating Cream

My dry, sensitive skin luxuriates in relief that this simple moisturizer provides. As a coveted French pharmacie essential, this long-lasting, hypoallergenic, and non-comedogenic formula restores and maintains skin’s hydration. I use this in the morning under my sunscreen and at night after cleansing.

Image result for french pharmacie

Caudalie Beauty Elixir

I finally gave in to all the buzz surrounding this cult-classic product on a recent trip to Hong Kong. This multipurpose mist is crafted using potent plant extracts including polyphenol-rich green grape, rosemary, orange flower, and rose. Simply shake and spray over your face, neck and décolleté to prep the skin, set your makeup or simply refresh. The glass bottle looks elegant on your countertop or bedside table too.

Tenacious by Mixologie 

When it comes to fragrance, I tend to gravitate towards more masculine, earthy scents over floral or fruity. (For reference, Tabacco Vanille by Tom Ford has long been a favorite.) I recently stumbled upon this Mixologie rollerball when shopping for a travel-size scent. It encapsulates all of my favorite notes including vanilla bean, smokey musk, amber, sandalwood, white oak, aged bourbon, tobacco flower, and tonka, and does so in a subtle, non-overbearing manner.

Savoring:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

The only joy I obtain from summer, is the fact that autumn is right around the corner. For whatever the reason – whether it’s my Northern European lineage or strong sensitivity to the sun – I simply do not thrive in warm weather. So, until my beloved overcast days return and the wool sweaters reappear from the depths of my closet, I’ll be baking my pumpkin treats (all of which you can find on here) and scrolling through Pinterest looking for autumn inspiration.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Gardening

I recently took it upon myself to find flowers and vegetables that thrive with a dose of the morning sun, but primarily prefer a shaded environment. (Those are the attributes that constitute my tiny container garden here in the city.) It turns out that hydrangeas and kale fancy just that.

So far, everything seems to be thriving. However, from what I’ve read, these plants are quite resilient. Don’t get the wrong impression, I am certainly not the pinnacle of domesticity.

Hydrangea, Flower, Pink, Violet

What have you been loving this month? Be sure to share with me in the comments below or on Instagram or Facebook. I really enjoy hearing from you!

Wishing you a wonderful rest of the week.