Start 2020 with a Blue Zones Kitchen
The zones—Sardinia, Okinawa, Nicoya, Ikaria, and Loma Linda—range from the Mediterranean, Central America, the South Pacific, and Southern California and are where the greatest number of centenarians live on the planet.
The Blue Zones Kitchen—100 Recipes to Live to 100, by Dan Buettner (photographs by National Geographic photographer David McLain) explores the wisdom of traditional plant-based meals to help us live longer, healthier lives.
Happiness has a lot to do with longevity—photos show smiling glowing faces of people enjoying meals together and supporting each other. There’s a strong message here!
What the Blue Zones have in common
There is a clear picture of social bonding that emerges—the psychological boost from bonding and conversation that happens when we chop vegetables side-by-side and share meals together.
Minestrone soup for the daily lunch is a ritual in Sardinia. Greens, tubers, tofu, and purple sweet potatoes are loved by the long-lived Okinawans. A simple and satisfying rice and bean dish is breakfast in Nicoya, coupled with wood-fired corn tortillas from an ancient recipe dating back 8000 years. Ikarians forage through craggy hillsides for wild oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, and mint. In Loma Linda, the longest-lived Americans are Seventh-day Adventists who thrive on whole grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and beans.
The Blue Zones prioritize sharing plant-based meals with family and friends each day—traditional cooking with fresh local food and caring for one another go hand-in-hand, and they share a deep respect for the elders in their families and communities. And, people keep their body moving naturally as a way of life.
It’s a lifestyle with the focus on local
It’s natural to share healthy home-cooked meals with each other, yet for many Americans preparing and sharing dinner together is an item on a to-do list to be squeezed-in at the end of a busy day. When we’re under stress, it’s much more difficult have self-discipline. Overwhelmed schedules often mean running to a restaurant or ordering take-out at the last minute and having food delivered.
The Blue Zones focus is on local seasonal food. How can we make this work in American cities where it’s hard to escape trendy chain restaurants, convenience and big box stores? Start by finding local growers (there may be more than you realize) as well as supplementing with growing some of your own food, even just small amounts.
When I decided to join a CSA (community supported agriculture), I did a Google search and found over twenty! I had no idea that many CSA’s were active in my area with some extending their growing seasons with hoop houses and greenhouses. I discovered new vegetables I had never eaten, like fennel (now fennel, paired with leeks, is a must-have in my kitchen for soups and stews). I eat more roasted beets and brussel sprouts than ever before.
Buying locally and growing your own strengthens food security and has a low carbon footprint. When you know the farms you buy from (or grow your own), you have assurance that your food is grown without chemicals.
Maybe you feel limited with a small balcony or patio. Small space gardening is a movement that is rapidly taking off around the world, and Urban Gardeners Republic is an inspiring resource for designing vegetables gardens in small spaces. Indira Naidoo grows an impressive amount of food on her small 13th floor balcony in Australia.
When we buy directly from farmers or join a CSA, we boost our local food network and economy. There’s a social bonus when we talk with our local farmers face-to-face and learn how food is grown plus invaluable farming advice. Some of my best conversations with like-minded people happen at the farmers market with organic farmers who grow and harvest the food I eat and cook for my family.
The Blue Zones Kitchen embraces the powerful relationship of food and human connections. It inspires us to take steps each day to come closer to this lifestyle—for a long and happy life this should be our priority.