Live Well: Diet Habits of those who live past 100

As part of the Live Well series here on Happiness | Collective, today we are focusing on the diet of centenarians (people who live past 100). In the book, The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner outlines major diet guidelines the blue zones/centenarians have in common. Below is a compilation of these guidelines and please take note, almost all, if not all of the Happiness | Collective featured recipes fall into these guidelines. Check out past recipes featured on the blog here.

  • Eat a mostly plant-based, whole foods diet. The Blue Zone food guidelines suggest the 95/5 rule for diet meaning 95% of your diet should be plant-based foods (e.g. fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds), while the other 5% could comprise of animal products (e.g. meats, dairy, eggs, butter). Also, eat mostly whole foods. Bob Mackey, the founder of Whole Foods Market defines whole foods as foods where "nothing bad has been added, and nothing good has been taken away" (basically anything you buy in a box or baked goods would not be considered whole foods). Check below for a link on his diet tips. In my opinion, if you can only make one of these changes, I think this one would have the biggest impact on life expectancy and quality of life. 
  • Eat beans, nuts, fruits, veggies, and whole grains. These are the power foods that should consistently comprise your diet. According to the blue zones diet you should strive for up to 1 cup of cooked whole grains (e.g. quinoa, brown rice),  1 cup of beans, a serving of nuts and/or seeds, and plenty of veggies every day.
  • Avoid Sugar, processed foods, sodas, and diet sodas. Remember, whole foods are foods where "nothing bad has been added, and nothing good has been taken away". This rule of thumb applies to all beverages as well. Matt and I have given up sodas completely and drink mainly water, coffee in the morning, or tea at night. We often squeeze lime into sparkling water for a refreshing treat with dinner. Best news ever: wine is allowed, and actually encouraged on the blue zone diet (in moderation of course). 
  • Bread should be whole food and naturally fermented or sprouted. If you've ever turned over a bag of bread and read the ingredients in conventional supermarkets, you know that so much bad stuff is added to bread. The only bread you should be consuming should be made with whole ingredients (e.g. flour, salt, water) and naturally fermented or sprouted. Naturally fermented sourdough goes through a natural fermentation process which breaks down the phytic acid found in bread making the bread much easier for our systems to digest and making the nutrients found in the whole grains available to us. Unfortunately this bread is much harder to obtain since its a lengthier, more labor intensive means of baking bread. Read more about the process here. Sprouted bread is easier to find in the supermarkets and while I don't believe it's as good as a true naturally fermented sourdough, sprouting does break down the phytic acid as well, decreasing the negative impact the bread would have on your system. 

That's really it guys. The blue zones diet is really quite simple. Eat whole foods, mostly plants, drink plenty of water, and avoid sugar and processed foods. Fairly simple, but not easy to follow. In doing research on the blue zones diet, I was pleased to discover this is mainly the diet Matt and I follow. In the future I may do a separate post on the food philosophy Matt and I follow. It's far from perfect, especially since we both have a sweet tooth, but it's always a work in progress. Happy eating, and I'll list some diet-related links below that I've found particularly interesting: