The Mediterranean Diet: How to Make Your Home a Blue Zone

  • Marie Roth, R.D.N.
Only about 20% of how long the average person lives is determined by genes — which means 80% is determined by environmental and personal lifestyle factors.    

Decades of research provide some very compelling reasons to emulate the Mediterranean eating patterns and lifestyle. Some of the notable health outcomes include:  increased life span, improved brain function, better eye health, lower risk of certain cancers, decreased risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, lower levels of blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, protection against depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, improved rheumatoid arthritis, fewer autoimmune disorders, better (male & female) fertility, and increased likelihood of delivering a healthy baby.

Click here for some delicious recipe ideas following these principles!

The Mediterranean diet is not really a diet, but instead a general pattern of eating or way of life which can be narrowed down to two words—whole and simple—because the cornerstone of most dishes are whole, plant-based foods prepared in simple ways. High intakes of whole plant foods elevate fiber, mineral, vitamin, antioxidant, polyphenol and phytochemical levels, which help to mitigate inflammation and oxidative stress—the root causes of most chronic diseases.  Research has focused on the key elements of the diet, most notably the relatively high amount of minimally processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains; the use of dairy and fish; and the high amount of healthful fats from olive oil. Equally or maybe more important is to note what the Mediterranean eating pattern does not include, namely processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages and fast food.  

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Some Mediterranean regions overlap with the world’s Blue Zones. In a nutshell, Blue Zones are the small pockets around the globe where the longest-lived people reside.  Research on the lifestyles of people in the Blue Zones reveals dietary as well as other lifestyle factors that likely play a role in longevity and quality of life.

What Blue Zones & the Mediterranean lifestyles have in common:

  • Meats are eaten only a few times a month in 3-4 ounce portions.  Instead, the main protein sources come from beans & legumes, nuts, seeds, and fish. In the Blue Zones, beans are the foundation of most centenarian diets.
  • The majority of foods consumed is plant-based; herbs and spices are used generously to season foods instead of salt; teas made from local herbs and water are the common most beverages; and fruit is frequently the after meal sweet.
  • Movement is part of daily living activities. Instead of hitting the gym or pumping iron, the world’s longest living people live in environments that involve lots of natural daily movement.
  • Stress exists everywhere and can lead to chronic inflammation—one of the major contributors of chronic diseases. Stress-management routines vary but are deeply entrenched in the lifestyles leading to longevity.
  • Social activities are important. Community participation and family connectedness among the generations have been shown to reduce morbidity and mortality rates in both the old and young.


Sources:

Barclay, E. (2015, April 11). Eating To Break 100: Longevity Diet Tips From The Blue Zones. Retrieved May 4, 2018, from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/04/11/398325030/eating-to-break-100-longevity-diet-tips-from-the-blue-zones

Buettner, D. (2012, October 24). The Island Where People Forget to Die. Retrieved May 4, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/magazine/the-island-where-people-forget-to-die.html?_r=0

The Blue Zones Story. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2018, from https://www.bluezones.com/

Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan. (2017, November 03). Retrieved May 3, 2018, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801

The Mediterranean Diet - A Practical Guide to Shopping, Menu Ideas, and Recipes. (n.d.). Retrieved May 3, 2018, from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/050112p30.shtml

Mediterranean Program. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2018, from https://oldwayspt.org/programs/mediterranean-program

Romagnolo, D. F., & Selmin, O. I. (2016). Mediterranean diet: Dietary guidelines and impact on health and disease.

THIS MESSAGE WAS BROUGHT TO YOU BY BLYTHEDALE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL AND KOHLS EAT WELL, BE WELL NUTRITION PROGRAM. 

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Kohl's Eat Well, Be Well Program

Blythedale Children's Hospital, through the generosity of Kohl’s Department Stores, is proud to offer Blythedale and Kohl's Eat Well, Be Well, an innovative outreach program designed to bring health and nutrition education to schools throughout Westchester and Putnam counties. Through this program, Blythedale staff members teach healthy eating habits to children by providing curricula, training and educational tools to school districts throughout the area. The program provides general nutrition guidelines to students, parents and school faculty. Blythedale Children's Hospital offers experts in nutrition and health-education to speak with local parenting groups, PTAs and school personnel.

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