Nutrition From the Blue Zones

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The latest research indicates that the Mediterranean Diet has proven to be the healthiest way to retain lifetime longevity and good health! You may have recently been hearing about eating the way they do in the Blue Zones. The Blue Zone concept was developed in response to a study of the areas across the globe where people tend to live the longest and have remarkably low rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Living in the Blue Zones is a very high concentration of individuals over the age of 100! Food Choices vary from region to region but are all focused on primarily a plant-based diet, with as much as 95 percent of daily food intake coming from vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. People in Blue Zones typically limit meat and dairy, as well as sugary foods and beverages. They also steer clear of processed foods.

A wholesome diet isn’t the only factor thought to lead to longevity for those living in Blue Zones, however. Such individuals also have high levels of physical activity, low-stress levels, robust social connections, and a strong sense of purpose.

Still, sticking to a vibrant, nutrient-rich eating plan appears to play a key role in the exceptional health of Blue Zone dwellers. There are seven main food categories; legumes, dark leafy greens, nuts, olive oil, steel cut oatmeal, blueberries, and barley. Here are some recipes from the Blue Zone guidelines, give them a try.

Black Bean Soup

Ingredients
1lb. dried black beans
3 quarts water (2 cups to a pint, 2 pints to a quart)
2 bay leaves
½ – 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1-2 large red bell peppers seeded and chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1-2 onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T ground cumin
2 T dried oregano
1 T sugar
2 T salt
1 red onion, diced, for garnish (optional)
8 oz. sour cream, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  • Place the beans in a nonreactive pan. Cover with the 3 quarts of water, add the bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the beans for 2 ½ to 3 hours, stirring frequently and adding more water if necessary to keep them well covered.
  • Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan or skillet. Sauté the bell peppers, shallots, and onions over medium heat until the onions are translucent (about 15 minutes)
  • Add the garlic, cumin, dried oregano and sauté for an additional 2 minutes
  • Remove from the heat and let cool slightly
  • When the beans are almost tender, add the onion/pepper mixture, sugar, and salt to the beans and cook until just tender (20 to 30 minutes) Adjust the seasonings, garnish with the red onion and sour cream, and serve.

Easy Lentil Vegetable Soup

Ingredients
½ pound (1¼ cups) green, black, or brown lentils
7 cups (1 quart plus 3 cups) vegetable broth
2 large red globe, beefsteak, or heirloom tomatoes, chopped (about 1½ cups)
1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (about 2⁄3 cup)
2 medium red potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 2⁄3 cup)
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon salt
Finely-chopped scallions, for garnish
Extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish

Instructions

  • Spread the lentils on a large baking sheet and pick them over for any bits of stone.
  • Stir the lentils, broth, tomatoes, onion, carrots, potatoes, bay leaves, and salt in a large saucepan or soup pot. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, set a lid askew over the pan or pot, and cook until the lentils are soft, for 45 minutes.
  • Discard the bay leaves. Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish each with scallions and up to 1 teaspoon olive oil.

Serves 6.

 Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Wraps

Ingredients for slaw
¾ cup shredded Cole slaw mix (¾ green container)
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
⅓ teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons chopped cilantro
Ingredients for shrimp
6 large peeled and deveined shrimp
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
Ingredients for lettuce wraps
2 leaves of romaine lettuce (try to find bigger, leafier heads of romaine that have the larger outer leaves – these will work better). Cut off the top of the romaine leaf and just use that, discarding the light green, crunchy bottom
½ avocado, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, very thinly sliced (optional topping)
Extra cilantro, chopped (optional topping)

Instructions

  • Assemble the slaw first so that the flavors can be marrying together while you finish everything else.
  • Combine the shredded coleslaw mix, lime juice, honey, and cilantro in a bowl – stir well until everything is completely mixed together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • Stir together the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Lay the shrimp out on a plate and season liberally on both sides with this seasoning mix.
  • Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
  • When hot, add the shrimp to the skillet and sear on both sides until cooked through.
  • To assemble, add half the slaw to each romaine leaf, add half the avocado slices, 3 shrimp, a few jalapeños, and a sprinkle of cilantro on top.

Serves 1. Calories 256, Fat 18 g., Carbohydrates 16 g., Fiber 10 g., Protein 14 g., Sodium 165 mg.

Crock Pot Baked Beans and Sweet Potato Stew

(This recipe was featured on The Chew.)

Ingredients for bean stew
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ white onion (diced)
1 green bell pepper (seeded and diced)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1-2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo sauce
2 cups navy beans (drained and rinsed, canned, 14.5 ounces each)
2 sweet potatoes (peeled and cut in ½-inch pieces)
3 cups vegetable broth
Ingredients for gremolata
2 jalapeños (seeded and minced)
¼ cup parsley stems (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 lemon (zested)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions for Bean Stew

  • In a large sauté pan, add olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper and cook until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add tomato paste during the last minute of cooking and mix to combine.
  • In a 4-quart slow cooker, add the onion and bell pepper mixture, Dijon mustard, molasses, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, chipotle in adobo sauce, navy beans, sweet potato, and broth and mix to combine. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours until beans and potatoes are tender.

Instructions for Gremolata

  • In a small bowl, add the jalapeños, parsley stems, garlic, and lime and mix to combine. Add olive oil and mix to combine. Place 1 tablespoon of gremolata on top of each bowl of stew.

Serves 4.