We know that our health essentially depends on two things — food and exercise. What you eat and how much you eat, affects how your body in various ways. Eat a lot of oily food and your cholesterol levels are bound to rise. If you eat fatty foods excessively the fat deposition in your body will increase — leading to weight gain.
As a rule of thumb, the food intake should be based on the kind of lifestyle you follow. If your lifestyle is predominantly active like field-based work or being outdoors for long hours, then the diet should comprise foods with more energy. But if your work involves sitting at your workplace for long hours, then the diet changes accordingly.
Apart from that, what we eat also significantly affects our bodily functions such as hormone regulation, nutrition development and our body's ability to fight against diseases. Think of your body as a plant in a garden. With the right amount of sunlight and nutrients, the plant produces beautiful flowers and fruits. The soil your plant stands in also plays an important role in producing food results. But if the soil is full of dirt and the plant doesn't get the right amount of water, nutrition and sunlight — the plant is bound to be weak and droopy.
This was proven by a study conducted by Dan Buettner when working on an article "Secrets of a Long Life" for National Geographic magazine. During the course of his study, he tried to understand the various reasons that could help one live a longer life. Basis this, Buettner identified that there were five regions where people consistently lived past the age of 100. He called them the Blue Zones.
What do people in the Blue Zones eat?
The zones identified by Buettner included Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Ogliastra Region Sardinia; Loma Linda California and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. According to his study, the diet of the people in these regions is high in legumes, low on meats, and moderate consumption of alcohol.
But The Bridge Chronicle takes a deeper look into each diet to help you better understand what food you should eat.
Okinawa is one of the largest islands in Japan. Additionally, it is home to some of the longest-lived women, most surpassing the age of 100. Apart from that, the people of the island have remarkable low rates of comorbidities. But surprisingly, their diet is not fish-based but rather, the whole plant-based. Whole plants makeup 90 per cent of their traditional diet and comprise only 1 per cent of fish, meat, and dairy and eggs. The people in Okinawa eat more vegetables and beans and purple and orange sweet potato are their sources of calories.
Mediterranean diet is known to be one of the healthiest diets around the world. It is dominated by fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, and nuts. It also includes fish and dairy, olive oil and a glass of red wine. Ikaria in Greece, one of the blue zones also follows a Mediterranean diet owning to similar geographical conditions.
The Nordic diet mostly includes root vegetables, whole-grain bread, and fish. They also eat a lot of fermented milk and cheese along with limited amounts of meat.
Though French food is quite famous around the world, and we surely understand the French ways of living, there is a paradox involved in their food. The French diet consists of bread, cheese and wine along with saturated fats. But the French have a particular way of eating. These people consume a limited amount of portion of high-quality food, as opposed to eating large amounts of healthy food.
West African food
As opposed to the diets suggested earlier, West African food constitutes lean meat, vegetables, and cereal. This diet is high in protein, fibre and other nutrients but low in calories.
Based on this, The Bridge Chronicle tried to pick out foods that are common across these diets to help you better understand what you should be eating.
1. It is observed as an overall theme that, naturally available food constitute a major part of these diets. Additionally, seasonal foods are also an important inclusion in the diet. Including legumes, beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds stand out when comparing these diets.
2. Most diets consume fresh meat and steer away from processed foods and meats.
3. Similarly, for fruits and vegetables choose whole, natural, unprocessed foods. Additionally, employ cooking methods that do not take away nutrition from the food. High heat or excessive treatment can kill the nutrients in food.
4. Restricting your portion size as the day goes on also is important as the level of activity decreases. We are the most active during the first half of the day and gradually as the day ends, the level of activity reduces. Hence it is essential to plan your food accordingly.
5. Stick to consuming natural sugar and avoid processed sugar as it has detrimental effects on the body.
Eating the right kind of food goes a long way in developing immunity and gut health in the body. This plays an important role when fixing wear and tear in the body, and also responding to any form of infections and diseases. With the right combination of diet and exercise, we can help make our body stronger.