Cooking Tips for Eating to 100

 

Excerpt adapted from The Blue Zones Kitchen by Dan Buettner, which captures the way of eating that yielded the statistically longest-lived people and explains, in some detail, why that food has enabled populations to elude the chronic disease scourge that has befallen Americans. 

 

The longevity phenomenon is disappearing in blue zones, but its secrets survive—mostly in the kitchens of older people. People who’ve grown up eating the foods of their ancestors aren’t looking to trade them in for packaged junk. Older people who possess the skills, recipes, and culinary wisdom of previous generations carry forth a tradition that is centuries—or millennia—old.

For The Blue Zones Kitchen, I went back to each of the five blue zones areas. I persuaded older people to allow me to watch them cook everyday foods. In most cases, I spent the better part of a day perched on a stool, observing exactly how to make the food that has produced the world’s longest-lived people.

In blue zones areas, people ate meat and sweets, but mostly as celebratory foods. Everyday meals were composed of simple peasant fare, made with fresh, plant-based ingredients. Some of the recipes require time to prepare, but the vast majority take less than a half hour. Another plus: Most of the ingredients are cheap—beans, whole grains, herbs. This completely destroys the myth that you need to be rich to be healthy; in fact, the reverse is true.

This completely destroys the myth that you need to be rich to be healthy; in fact, the reverse is true. —@thedanbuettner Click To Tweet

Along the way, I met experts who could help me explain why the foods people ate led to longer lives: Dr. Makoto Suzuki and Drs. Craig and Bradley Willcox in Okinawa; geneticist Dr. David Rehkopf in Costa Rica; Dr. Gary Fraser in Loma Linda; Dr. Christina Chrysohoou in Ikaria; and the great Gianni Pes in Sardinia. Here are a few cooking tips for eating to 100:

Use Fewer Ingredients

Blue zones diets tend to use the same 20 or so ingredients over and over. Less variety may help keep people from overeating and keep the immune system strong.

Blue zones diets tend to use the same 20 or so ingredients over and over. Less variety may help keep people from overeating and keep the immune system strong. —@thedanbuettner Click To Tweet

Add Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower have been known to help protect the heart, stave off cancer, and lower oxidative stress. In Sardinia, we discovered that because people add cruciferous vegetables to their daily minestrone, the thyroid functions differently and may help slow down the metabolism and help you live longer. (Think of turning down the flame of a lighter.)

In Sardinia, we discovered that because people add cruciferous vegetables to their daily minestrone, it may help slow down the metabolism and help you live longer. —@thedanbuettner Click To Tweet

Make Beans Tasty

In America, cooks tend to make meat the focus of their ingenuity; in the blue zones, beans are the main story. They’re cooked into soups and stews, enhanced with spices, and complemented by grains and vegetables. Moreover, nuts, beans, and grains are a much healthier source of protein than meat or eggs; they’re also high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. And finally, they’re cheap, they’re versatile, and they allow subtle flavors to shine through.

In America, cooks tend to make meat the focus of their ingenuity; in the blue zones, beans are the main story. —@thedanbuettner Click To Tweet

Finish Dishes with Olive Oil

Olive oil’s monounsaturated fatty acids break down quickly when oils are heated beyond the smoking point of about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In blue zones, room-temperature olive oil is added to breads, drizzled over vegetables, and added to soups and stews.

In blue zones, room-temperature olive oil is added to breads, drizzled over vegetables, and added to soups and stews. —@thedanbuettner Click To Tweet

Supplement with Fresh Herbs and Spices

Rosemary, oregano, sage, mint, garlic, turmeric, and mugwort all possess well-documented medicinal values; they also add flavor while imparting healing properties. Since most bioactive properties in herbs degrade as soon as you pick them, it’s best to use them fresh. People in blue zones often get their herbs from a kitchen garden, which doubles as a live medicine chest.

People in blue zones often get their herbs from a kitchen garden, which doubles as a live medicine chest. —@thedanbuettner Click To Tweet

Fiber is More Important Than We Thought

Grains, greens, nuts, and beans not only contain the protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that keep our heart healthy and our mind sharp, and prevent cancers, they also feed the eight pounds of bacteria living in our gut. Some of that bacteria produces toxins like choline; others produce compounds that reduce inflammation, regulate our metabolism, and fuel our immune system. The toxin-producing bacteria tend to feed off meat and eggs, while the healthy bacteria favor fiber.

Grains, greens, nuts, and beans...help feed the eight pounds of bacteria living in our gut. Click To Tweet

Enjoy Your Meals with Red Wine

We’ve all heard plenty about polyphenols and antioxidants, which occur more often in red than white wine. But it turns out that red wine, along with a blue zones (plant-based) diet, almost triples the absorption of antioxidants. Additionally, 90 to 95 percent of wine polyphenols are metabolized in the gut, where good bacteria convert them to powerful compounds that lower inflammation and decrease leaky gut syndrome.

It’s Not Just What You Eat

Finally, it’s important to remember that eating for longevity is not just about what you eat, but how you eat. Blue zones teach us that dining with family, pausing before a meal to express gratitude, fasting occasionally, eating a big breakfast, and trying to eat all of your calories in an eight-hour window helps you stay healthier, live longer, and feel better. In Sardinia, people pass each other on the street and greet each other by saying, Akentannos—May you live to 100! So here’s to making it to your 100th birthday—and may the people sitting around your table be there to count every year!

In Sardinia, people pass each other on the street and greet each other by saying, Akentannos—May you live to 100! —@thedanbuettner Click To Tweet

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