Eating for a long life

Updated: May 19, 2015 - 1:47 pm

Longevity expert and world explorer Dan Buettner is out with a new book, “The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People.”

It shares tips and recipes from people living in Blue Zones — areas identified by Buettner and other researchers where people are living very long lives with low rates of chronic diseases.

People living in the Blue Zones reach 100 at rates 10 times higher than Americans, on average. Buettner along with colleagues from National Geographic and other longevity researchers have identified Blue Zones in Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, Calif; Nicoya, Cost Rica; and Ikaria, Greece.

Buettner, a southwest Minneapolis resident, has also worked on projects applying Blue Zone principles to transform lifestyles in communities. The pilot project in Albert Lea in 2009 got residents involved in more walking groups, community garden projects and improved eating habits in schools, among other things.

Buettner said he’s currently working in 23 cities on Blue Zones projects, including ones in Iowa, Hawaii, California, Minnesota, Florida, Oregon and now Fort Worth Texas.  

“I’d love to explore the possibility of working in my hometown here,” he said.

Buettner said people who embrace the Blue Zones lifestyle get a lot of walking in throughout the day and focus on making time for loved ones.

“I can tell you that most of their trips — to the store, out to eat, work etc. — are done on foot,” he said. “They spend a good couple hours a day socializing with friends. Meals are eaten with family and not with one hand on the steering wheel.”

He said 90 percent of their diet comes from plants and unprocessed plant products. They eat meat only about five times a week, on average.

“Sixty-five percent of calories come from whole grains, greens, fruits and beans,” he said. “Beans are the cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world.  About a cup of beans a day.” 

Buettner said he’s also made adjustments to his lifestyle based on his research with the Blue Zones centenarians.

“I’m nearly pesco-vegetarian,” he said. “I’ve cut out almost all meat.  I know how to make a few killer bean dishes, I bike to work, and I make family and healthy friends and absolute priority in my life.” 

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Ikarian Longevity Stew With Black Eyed Peas

(This is one of Buettner’s favorite recipes featured in his new book. It can also be found at www.bluezones.com.)

Ingredients:

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 fennel bulb

1 cup (8 ounces) black eyed peas (with dried peas, bring to a boil, boil for 1 minute, remove from heat, cover and let sit for an hour. Drain, rinse, and use.)

1 large, firm ripe tomato, finely chopped

2 tsp tomato paste, diluted in ¼ cup water

2 bay leaves

salt to taste

1 bunch dill, finely chopped

 

Directions:

1. Heat half the olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion, garlic, and fennel bulb stirring occasionally, until soft (about 12 minutes). Add the black eyed peas and toss to coat in the oil.

2. Add the tomato, tomato paste and enough water to cover the beans by about an inch. Add the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the black eyed peas are about half way cooked. (Check after 40 minutes, but it may take over an hour.)

3. Add the chopped dill and season with salt.

4. Continue cooking until the black eyed peas are tender. Remove, pour in remaining raw olive oil and serve.