As an adult, the only person I'm tapping for tips on human longevity is the 105-year-old lady who lives in one of the world's Blue Zones—healthy hot spots across the globe where long life spans are the norm. For the residents of these five regions of the planet—Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California—it is common to live into the triple digits, yes, but also to maintain a healthy, active body and mind in the process.
There are some characteristics that all Blue Zones share, including maintaining low levels of stress, feeling a deep sense of purpose, being moderately active throughout the day, and eating mostly plant-based meals.
The meal patterns of the Blue Zones is particularly interesting—and important. In addition to eating plenty of vegetables, legumes, healthy fats, and fish, residents of the Blue Zones consume minimal processed foods and foods with added sugar. If you've ever wondered what the ideal meal for a centenarian looks like, you're not alone. At a recent event in New York City, Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner had the attention of the entire room when he promised to share the breakfast recipe of a woman living 80 miles east of Los Angeles whose centennial celebration is very much in the rear view mirror.
"She's very prescriptive about her breakfast," said Buettner, the crowd the edge of their seat. After a dramatic pause, he explained that her signature morning meal includes slow cooked oatmeal mixed with walnuts, dates, and soy milk, followed by what she calls a "prune juice shooter."
The dish sounds delicious—and it's nutritionally impressive, too. Let's break it down.
The 5 ingredients that go into a 105 year-old's favorite Blue Zones recipe:
A single serving of oatmeal packs 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, plus it serves as a rich source of iron, selenium, and magnesium. It's great for gut health and digestion and helps fight inflammation. The beta-glucan in oats work in favor of blood pressure by helping to reduce your cholesterol. Oats also contain vitamin E, zinc, and silica—a killer combo for strong, eczema-free skin.
Dates are high in fiber to keep your bowel movements on track. "Dates are also a great source of potassium, an essential mineral that most Americans do not consume enough of,” Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, told Well+Good. A single serving of dates will give you about 334 milligrams of the mineral, similar to what you’ll find in a small banana and about 13 percent of your recommended daily intake. “Potassium is important for controlling fluid balance and regulating your heartbeat and blood pressure,” she says.
These nuts come loaded with omega-3s that support brain health and oh-so much more. They're a super source of antioxidants, have been shown to combat chronic inflammation, promote gut health, and have been linked to reduced risk of chronic illness such as heart disease and cancer.
4. Soy milk
Soy milk is a good source of potassium and can be fortified with vitamins A, B-12, and D, as well as calcium. It also contains a similar amount of protein as cow's milk—roughly 8 grams per serving.
5. Prune juice
And as for that prune juice—wowza—let's just say it's aiding everything from your digestion to your bones to your heart. It's high in potassium, iron, and helps reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, as well.
According to Buettner, Blue Zone people live their lives by "ikigai," a Japanese concept to describe "the reason for which you get up in the morning." In this case, a great big bowl of oats is reason number one. What's the inspiration for opening your eyes each day?
Originally published June 27, 2019; with additional reporting from Betty Gold.
If you like oatmeal, then you'll love oat milk. Here's everything you need to know:
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