I am so tired of the constant confusion and arguments about what diet people should be eating. Give me a hell yes if you are too! One day we are told carbs are bad … then they are good. Then we need more fat, hang on make that less fat. Wait a minute do I need to be gluten free even though I don’t have coeliac disease?
The optimal diet should consist of at least 80% of calories coming from whole plant-based foods in particular leafy greens, legumes and fresh fruit. This will provide you with maximum protection against disease and help you to enjoy a vibrant life.
To reduce the top causes of premature death in Australia such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity related illness the diet of choice must include wholefoods in particular plant based foods2.
In 2004, Dan Buettner teamed up with National Geographic and the world’s best longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people live measurably longer. In these “Blue Zones” they found that people reach the age of 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States1.
The longest living populations all centre their diets around plant foods, reserving meat mostly for special occasions resulting in the highest life-expectancy2.
Here is a checklist of all the things you should be aiming to fit into your daily routine to make your home a Blue Zone of health and longevity.
2 Servings daily
Raw leafy greens contain only about 100 calories per pound and are packed with nutrients. Leafy greens contain substances that protect blood vessels and are associated with reduced risk of diabetes3.
Breakfast: Add grated zucchini to your morning porridge. Make a green smoothie that you can sip on during your morning commute or save it for when the 3.30pm munchies kicks in.
Lunch: Add greens to your lunch by incorporating salad to your routine. Mix up your greens, but if you want bang for your buck choose the darkest colours as they have the most antioxidants.
Dinner: Always have a salad with your meal or add baby spinach to your curries, pasta sauces.
1 Serving a day
All vegetables contain protective micronutrients and phytochemicals, but cruciferous vegetables have a unique chemical composition. When their cell walls are broken by blending, chopping or chewing, a chemical reaction converts compounds within the vegetables into a variety of potent anti-cancer fighting substances3
Breakfast: Try some roast cauliflower with a sprinkle of cumin and hummus on sourdough toast.
Lunch: Roast a whole bunch of vegies and add them to lunch time salads.
Dinner: Raw broccoli can be crumbled into salads.
1 Serving a day
Berries are true super foods. They are low in sugar and high in nutrients. Their vibrant colours mean that they are full of antioxidants, their consumption has been linked to reduced risk of diabetes, cancers and cognitive decline3
Breakfast: Add them to your cereal, porridge or smoothie. My favourite is almond butter and strawberries on toast. Yum, yum!
3 Servings daily
Beans are a powerhouse of superior nutrition, and the most nutrient-dense carbohydrate source. They act as an anti-diabetes and weight-loss food because they are digested slowly, having a stabilising effect on blood sugar, which promotes satiety. Plus, they contain soluble fibre, which lowers cholesterol levels3
Breakfast: Good old-fashioned beans on toast
Lunch: Hummus and vegie sticks
Dinner: Vegie burgers, falafels, lentil bolognese and any Mexican dish is perfectly paired with beans.
3 Servings daily
Fruit is full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, improves artery function and reduces cancer risk. Emerging literature has shown that low-dose fructose may actually benefit blood sugar control. Having a piece of fruit with each meal would be expected to lower, not raise the blood sugar response4
Breakfast: Porridge with grilled bananas, pancakes topped with nectarines the sky is the limit.
Snack: Chop some fresh fruit and enjoy with your choice of yoghurt
Dessert: Try some frozen bananas blended with a medjool date and raw cacao powder. It makes a delicious choc banana “nice cream”
2 Servings daily
Eat a rainbow of different colours. The colour in fruit and vegetables is due to their different phytochemical makeup. Phytochemicals may act as antioxidants, protect and regenerate essential nutrients, and/or work to deactivate cancer-causing substances. And while research has not yet determined exactly how these substances work together or which combination offers specific benefits, including a rainbow of coloured foods in a diet plan ensures a variety of those nutrients and phytochemicals 5
Get funky with Flax
1 serving per day
A few tablespoons a day of ground flaxseeds can induce one of the most potent antihypertensive effects ever achieved by dietary intervention, two to three times more powerful than instituting an endurance exercise program (though, of course, there’s no reason you can’t do both).
Breakfast: Add a tablespoon to your porridge in the morning
Snack: Add to healthy muffins as a quick snack idea
Nutty for Nuts
1 serving per day
The Harvard Nurse’s Health Study, involving more than 100,000 women, was started in 1976 and so as you can imagine, it is now the most definitive long-term study ever on older women’s health. The one specific food most tied to longevity was nuts. You appear to get four hours of weekly jogging benefit eating just two handfuls of nuts a week6
Breakfast: Nut butter on toast…. need I say more?
Snack: Small handful
Dessert: Bliss balls with any kind of nut that you enjoy.
Spice Up Your Life
serving per day ¼ tsp Turmeric
Did you know that ounce per ounce, herbs and spices have some of the greatest antioxidant activities known7?
Breakfast: Add a small piece of fresh turmeric to your green smoothie, cinnamon to your cereal
Lunch: Use fresh or dried herbs on roast vegetables or in salads
Make Yourself Whole with Whole grains
3 servings a day
In 2007 a study revealed that whole grains were linked to a healthier body weight in people both young and old7
Breakfast: Try steel cut oats, rolled oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa, wholegrain or sprouted toast
Lunch/Dinner: add some brown rice, quinoa, teff, barley, amaranth
5 Servings per day
Drinking water relieves fatigue, promotes weight loss, flushes out toxins, improves skin complexion, maintains regularity, boosts immune system, natural headache remedy, and prevents cramps and sprains.
Exercise for Energy
90mins moderate intensity activity or 40mins vigorous activity
Try something new: bushwalking, indoor cycling, weights, running, aqua aerobics.
The take home message
Step 1: Eat More Plants: Fill your plate with a rainbow of colours.
Step 2: Add more grains and beans: Eat a diet full of legumes and enjoy a variety of whole unrefined grains.
Step 3: Get to know your local green grocer and purchase in season produce to ensure it is cost effective and of the best quality. If you live in Sydney check out the Sydney Markets for the largest fresh fruit and vegetable wholesale market in Australia.
- Buettner, 2014. Blue Zones History. Blue Zones, Live Longer, Better. Retrieved from https://www.bluezones.com/2014/03/blue-zones-history/
- Greger, 2015. Do Flexitarians Live Longer. NutrionFacts.org. Retrieved from http://nutritionfacts.org/video/do-flexitarians-live-longer/
- Fuhrman, 2016. G-BOMBS: Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, and Seeds. DrFuhrman.com. Retreived from http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/gbombs.aspx
- Greger, 2015. How much fruit is too much?. NutritionFacts.org. Retrieved from http://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-much-fruit-is-too-much/
- Juliann Schaeffer, 2008. Color Me Healthy — Eating for a Rainbow of Benefits. Today’s Dietician. Retrieved from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/110308p34.shtml
- Greger, 2012. What Women Should Eat to Live Longer. org. Retrieved from http://nutritionfacts.org/video/what-women-should-eat-to-live-longer/
- Greger, 2014. Transcript: Which Spices Fight Inflammation?. NutritionFacts.org. Retreived from http://nutritionfacts.org/video/which-spices-fight-inflammation/
- Greger, 2007. The Great Grain Robbery. NutritionFacts.org. Retreived from http://nutritionfacts.org/video/great-grain-robbery/
- Hicks, J. M. (2011) Healthy Eating Healthy World: Unleashing the Power of Plant Based Nutrition. BenBella Books, Inc. Dallas, USA.