The Blue Zones are areas in the world where people live longer and healthier lives than anywhere else on the planet. Dan Buettner has spent years studying these groups of people and has learned some of the tips to living long, active lives. The Blue Zones, as he calls these regions are Ikaria, Greece, Okinawa, Japan, Sardinia, Italy, Loma Linda, California, USA, and Nicoya, Costa Rica. Here are the ‘Power 9’ as these researchers call them…the common denominators of all the Blue Zones regions.
Move Naturally. Walking, gardening, doing housework…being active throughout the day is a core part of this lifestyle.
Purpose. The Okinawans call it ikigai and the Nicoyans call it plan de vida. Knowing why you wake up in the morning makes you healthier, happier, and adds up to to seven years of extra life.
Down Shift. Stress is part of life, but Blue Zones centenarians have stress-relieving rituals built into their daily routines. Adventists pray, Ikarians nap, and Sardinians do happy hour.
80% Rule. People in Blue Zones areas stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full and eat their smallest meal in the early evening.
Plant Slant. Beans are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Vegetables, fruit, and whole grains round out the rest of the diet and meat is eaten in small amounts.
Wine @ 5. Moderate but regular consumption of wine (with friends and/or food) is part of the Blue Zones lifestyle.
Belong. Being part of a faith-based community adds four to 14 years to life expectancy.
Loved Ones First. Having close and strong family connections (with spouses, parents, grandparents, and grandchildren) is common with Blue Zones centenarians.
Right Tribe. The world’s longest lived people have close friends and strong social networks.
Which of these can you add to your life? It may seem daunting to tackle them all at once but starting is hardest part. Choose one or two to start with and gradually add more. Over time, you will notice a happier self and a longer life is the bonus.
Ullassa = Happiness
Ullassa is a Sanskrit term that describes the “feelings of pleasantness associated with natural beauty.” It does not translate exactly but this is the closest definition I was able to find. I learned about Ullassa and its significant role in happiness during a Calm guided meditation with Tamara Levitt.
Below is a passage from this meditation that further defines the word and elaborates on the concept that exists in everyday life.
“We’ve all heard that nature has a healing quality. Many studies have shown that spending time in natural environments lowers stress and increases well-being.
Research from the University of Michigan even proves that time spent in the forest can boost our memory. But getting to the woods or the ocean isn’t always possible. The good news is that there’s no need to travel to exotic locations. Even if you find yourself in the heart of the city, all you have to do is pay attention to the beauty of your surroundings and you can experience ‘Ullassa.’
We grow Ullassa through things like noticing the sound of crackling leaves under foot, the magic of new buds on maple trees and the glimmer of snow in the sunlight. This awareness of natural beauty has an uplifting power. It can quiet the mind, calm anxiety and stir a reverence for the complexity and mystery of life.
Like the breath, beauty is ever present. We just need to awaken to it. So, whether you’re surrounded by skyscrapers or long leaf pines, turn your attention to the beauty of your environment and open up to Ullassa.”
For some of us the goal in life is to establish feelings of ‘Ullassa’ in our minds at all times. There is nonstop beauty around you, and if you think like that, you will feel like that. If you feel like that, your mental health and inner peace will be everlasting. Creating this takes conscious effort to develop the habit of looking for beauty around us. It is always there.
Visiting parks and being outdoors when possible enhances these feelings and can boost our morale. Nature has a way of providing healing and calming your central nervous system. Sitting in peace and stillness is healing and rejuvenating.
When we question surroundings and associate our location with unpleasantness, our mental health suffers. The same is true for when our mind sense these feelings in our head. It all happens in our minds…what we see, we see more of.
When our brain detects thoughts of negativity or unhappiness, it feels violated and sends the mind spinning in every direction, which results in anxiety. This makes the concept of Ullassa so valuable, not just to our exterior surroundings, but also our interior being. As the definition states, Ullassa associates with feelings of pleasantness through natural beauty. It’s up to us to create this “natural beauty” through realization of our environment, but also by our thoughts and the way we perceive life.
When you focus on finding the beauty in everything you see or do, your mind associates this with feelings of pleasantness. What’s the result? You will experience consistent happiness and peace throughout your mind and body.
You will experience Ullassa by way of your beautiful surroundings, as well as your positive thoughts. Ullassa is a powerful concept that has more meaning than the definition leads you to believe.
Inside and outside, it offers perspective on the way life is meant to be lived. If you can center your focus on the beauty in life, both exterior and interior, your mind will be at peace. Your mental health will flourish. Find ways to discover and create this beauty. And once you find them, repeat them and continue the discovery and creation processes. Life is beautiful. It’s up to us to realize it, appreciate it and cherish the impact it has on our lives.
“At some point in life, the world’s beauty becomes enough.” – Tony Morrison
Preventing Cancer with a Nutritarian Diet
Dr. Joel Fuhrman coined the term Nutritarian based on the style of eating foods that are nutrient-dense and provide the biggest bang for your health. The acronym G-BOMBS, which stands for Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds can help steer us toward the most nutrient-dense, cancer-fighting foods. These foods fuel our bodies with protective micronutrients and phytochemicals that support immune defenses and have a wide range of health-promoting effects. Dr. Fuhrman’sbest-selling book, Super Immunity, highlights the health benefits of G-BOMBS in naturally strengthening the immune system against everything from the common cold to cancer. I highly recommend this book as it was one of the first I used when beginning a whole food plant based way of eating. This book, along with Eat to Live gave me the information I needed to rapidly repair some of the damage that occurred from years of not paying attention. Let’s look at what each of these food groups can do for us.
Greens – Arugula, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collard Greens, Kale, Mustard Greens, Watercress are the most nutritious of all foods. The phytochemicals in them protect blood vessels, protect against inflammation, and reduce oxidative stress (a major contributor to cardiovascular disease and cancer). Green veggies are rich in folate and carotenoids that promote healthy bodies and healthy vision. Cruciferous vegetables (Bok Choy, Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts) contain isothiocyanates (ITCs) that is released with chopping. Dr. Michael Greger has a video on his nutritionfacts.org website talking about the value of chopping cruciferous veggies about 40 minutes before consumption for the best ITC concentration. ITCs have a variety of potent anti-cancer and other health-promoting effects like immune function and gut health. Leafy greens are bulky and rich in fiber, phytochemicals and micronutrients and very low in calories. Eating more leafy greens not only promotes health from the inside but can be an asset in maintaining a lower body weight which we know is key to longevity. Greens are not limited to those mentioned above. Also try asparagus, celery, cucumber, zucchini, spinach and more!
Beans – and legumes are the most nutrient dense starch and are high in soluble fiber. The fiber content of beans increases chewing time (which is a good thing) and slows both stomach emptying and the absorption of carbohydrate, which decreases the after-meal elevations in glucose and insulin (also, good things!). Beans help us feel satisfied and can reduce appetite and total calorie intake. Adding beans to our meals not only promotes a healthy microbiome (gut health) but helps with weight control, as well. The fiber and resistant starch in beans and lentils cannot be digested by our bodies but our gut bacteria thrive on these. These gut bacteria metabolize resistant starch into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs promote good intestinal immune function and have anti-inflammatory effects. They protect against colon cancer and weight gain and insulin resistance. The fiber content of beans also helps move things along in the digestive system. This reduces cancer risk as stool hanging out too long in the bowel has been linked to colorectal, prostate and breast cancer. What are your favorite beans? Try some of these…Adzuki, black beans, cannellini, edamame, peas, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, pinto, navy, snow peas. Greger’s report on a metanalysis on nutrition showed us that eating beans with every meal is a great strategy for health and longevity.
Onions – Foods from the Allium family, onions, garlic and leeks are known for their anti-cancer properties. Like the isothiocyanates (ITCs) in cruciferous vegetables, these compounds are released when chopped, crushed or chewed. So chop your onions at least 10 minutes before cooking to allow all the ITCs to develop. Onions contain high concentrations of flavonoid phytochemicals like quercetin that promotes DNA repair and suppresses growth of tumor cells. Flavonoids have anti-inflammatory effects that also contribute to cancer prevention. Concerned about cardiovascular health? Onions and garlic are linked to a lower risk of stroke and death from cardiovascular disease. Allium veggies promote healthy blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Not only that but they promote a robust immune system, too.
Mushrooms – Cremini, Maitake, Oyster, Portobello, Shiitake and more! Mushrooms contain specific phytochemicals and potent antioxidants that help prevent breast cancer and promote a healthy gut. White button, cremini and portobello mushrooms are known to have anti-aromatase which is associated with lower breast cancer risk. Mushrooms promote anti-tumor immune cell function, prevent DNA damage, promote programmed cancer cell death and inhibit angiogenesis…all important in the prevention of cancer. A bonus of eating mushrooms is weight maintenance…mushrooms promote a healthy body weight. Mushrooms are an excellent alternative to meat…they fill you up and promote health. Mushrooms should be cooked prior to eating due to small amounts of potentially carcinogenic content that is removed with heat. Even a few seconds in the microwave can reduce the risk.
Berries – Packed with nutrients and phytochemicals, berries are some of the lowest sugar fruits. They have been linked to reduced risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen includes at least one half cup serving of berries every day to promote ideal health. Berries are anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant rich. The deep color of berries demonstrates the high anti-oxidant content. Higher berry intake is associated with lower risk for hypertension, LDL cholesterol, high blood sugar and cognitive decline. Berries are an excellent food for the brain. They enhance brain healthy by promoting the body’s natural anti-oxidant and detoxification system, enhancing communication between cells in the brain, counteracting inflammation, and enhancing blood flow in the brain. Eat them today (and every day!)….blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries and more!
Seeds and Nuts – Raw seeds and nuts are an excellent whole food fat source. They are rich in micronutrients including phytosterols, minerals and anti-oxidants. They reduce oxidative stress, lower cholesterol, improve blood vessel function, help with weight maintenance, and lower the glycemic load of our meals. Walnuts and flax, chia and hemp seeds are rich in source of omega-3 fats (the good ones). Studies show that eating nuts and seeds regularly is linked to a longer life. The anti-inflammatory properties of nuts and seeds reduce blood pressure and inflammatory markers. Although they are calorie-dense, studies show that people who eat nuts regularly have lower BMI and waist circumference than those who ate them less often.
So there you have it…G-BOMBS as defined by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, nutritional scientist. Eating a variety of foods from these groups promotes the best health and the lower risk for cancer. With all the potential exposures to cancer-causing agents these days, eating a diet high in anti-cancer properties may be the best strategy to stack the deck in your favor.
Adapted from drfuhrman.com
Potatoes were the first food planted in space.
Raspberries are a member of the Rose family.
Pistachios are not a nut - they're a fruit
Food trivia :)
Recipe of the Week
Photo by Hannah Kaminsky
Cream of Mushroom Cauliflower Rice
This is one of the recipes I used recently to lose weight. It works perfectly as a complete meal…twice a day, nothing else. Weight falls off. It's brilliant. Thank you, Julieanna.
16 oz cauliflower or cauliflower rice (frozen makes it easier!)
1/2 cup cashews
4 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp anchovy-free Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp low-sodium tamari or coconut aminos
1 tbsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp red chili flakes, optional
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp arrowroot or corn starch
2 cups plain unsweetened almond milk
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced (~1/2 cup)
1 jalapeño, deseeded and diced small, optional
1 tbsp minced garlic
40 oz fresh mixed mushrooms, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
2 cups kale, de-stemmed and chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme, de-stemmed
1 tsp fresh rosemary, de-stemmed
1 fresh sage leaf
1. In a food processor, fitted with an S-blade, pulse cauliflower florets into rice. This usually needs to be done in batches, depending on container size. Alternatively, you can use one 16-oz package of pre-riced cauliflower and skip this step.
2. In a blender, combine cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, tamari (or coconut aminos), poultry seasoning, red chili flakes, black pepper, arrowroot, and almond milk. Purée until smooth and well-combined, about 60-90 seconds.
3. Heat a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot, sauté onions with as little water as possible, just enough to avoid burning, until they begin to brown, approximately 3-4 minutes. Add celery and jalapeño and continue sautéing, adding water as necessary, until soft, approximately 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for another 30-60 seconds, or until garlic is lightly browned, being careful not to scorch.
4. Add mushrooms and fresh herbs, if using, and cover. Allow mushrooms to sweat until the pan is filled with liquid. The will reduce significantly. Uncover and allow some liquid to evaporate, about 3-5 minutes. Combine cauliflower rice and blended sauce and stir to combine. Lower the heat and cook for 20 minutes, until thickened, stirring frequently. Add kale, if using, and stir until wilted.
5. Remove from heat and enjoy immediately or cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.
Adapted from recipe by plantbaseddietician.com
The Blue Zones
Lessons for living a longer from the people who've lived the longest.
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“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, and faithfulness the best relationship.”
The content in this newsletter is intended for educational/informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your health care professional.