For those of you who have read my about page you'll know a little about my philosophy on food and wellness. You'll notice I don't focus on what not to eat, instead it's all about the limitless possibilities of vibrant, alive, colourful, real and mostly plant-based food.
My day on a plate consists of leafy greens, veg, fruits, beans, lentils, wholegrains, nuts & seeds. Plant-based creations, with the occasional serving of free range eggs or sustainable seafood. It's not a chore, it's simply what I love and crave to eat. Nothing is set in stone - I like a bit of fancy cheese from time to time. Coffee and alcohol are not a huge part of my life but I certainly enjoy the odd wine with dinner or out with friends. I don't mind cooking meat (the good stuff) for my husband, even though I don't eat it myself.
The point is, diet constraints and pigeon holes be gone! Food, (and we are talking about REAL food, here) is a joy, not a battle. It's about preference, listening to your body, gratitude, creativity, flavour, friendship and family. What does wholesome food have in common with music, or art, or exercise? I think it helps us live in the moment with those we are dining with, and helps us to enjoy and be truly present. I think that true love of food extends beyond taste, to an appreciation & gratitude of how it's grown, how it nourishes, and how it brings people together.
the mediterranean diet
Which brings me to the Mediterranean diet. It’s a 'diet' in the best kind of way: an eating style that’s not only about what you eat, but also how you eat, and who you eat it with. This traditional way of eating epitomises the rich cultures and cuisines of many countries around the Mediterranean Sea, including Spain, France, Italy and Greece. The diet is abundant fruits and veggies, omegas and antioxidants. Herbs and spices are used liberally, and monounsaturated fats like olive oil and avocados are embraced. Included are lean proteins from fish and plant sources in beans and nuts, along with very modest amounts of dairy and meats. Compounds known as phenols and polyphenols are present in a range of Mediterranean foods such as grapes, olives, berries and of course, red wine and extra virgin olive oil.
People following this eating style not only experience low incidence of heart disease and better longevity, but healthier weight and blood pressure, improved metabolic control, lower risk of diabetes, stroke, certain cancers, Parkinson’s and age-related declines in cognition and memory. It probably has something to do with living here, too:
It just so happens that people from around the Med are among the healthiest, most vital and happy populations in the world, with life expectancies 10 years above the global average, Sardinia in Italy and Ikaria in Greece are two of five areas in the world known as "Blue Zones", pockets around the world where people live measurably better:
Researchers have identified nine common denominators of these five groups:
1. Move Naturally The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it. They grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house and yard work.
2. Purpose. The Okinawans call it “Ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida;” for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
3. Down Shift Even people in the Blue Zones experience stress, but they manage it. Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.
4. 80% Rule “Hara hachi bu” – the Okinawan, 2500-year old Confucian mantra said before meals reminds them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. People in the Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat any more the rest of the day.
5. Mostly Plants Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat is eaten on average only five times per month. Serving sizes are about 90gm, about the size of deck of cards.
6. Wine People in all Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately - 1-2 glasses per day, with friends and/or with food. And no, you can’t save up all weekend and have 14 drinks on Saturday.
7. Belong All but five of the 263 centenarians interviewed belonged to some faith-based community. Denomination doesn’t seem to matter.
8. Loved Ones First Successful centenarians in the Blue Zones put their families first. This means keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home. They commit to a life partner (which can add up to 3 years of life expectancy) and invest in their children with time and love (They’ll be more likely to care for you when the time comes).
9. Right Tribe The world’s longest lived people chose–or were born into–social circles that supported healthy behaviours. Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. So the social networks of long-lived people have favourably shaped their health behaviors.
CREATING MY OWN BLUE ZONE
This year has been a blur. Where did it go? I've loved every minute, seeing the Health Yeah community grow, connecting with beautiful like-minded people, creating, cooking and enjoying wholesome food. But blogging and working full time comes with downsides: it's hard work! A computer or cellphone next to me almost always; my husband's infinite patience as I write and edit late into the night; many mornings willing I could stay in bed for an extra hour.
With the past few weeks of glorious weather, I feel I'm emerging from winter hibernation. I've seen my family many times, been surfing every weekend, and I'm reconnecting with what I, what Health Yeah!, is all about. And this summer I'm bringing my own personal Blue Zone to Auckland, NZ. I'm determined to create an environment in which I can reduce my stress, enjoy whole, flavoursome, healthy food, spend time in the company of family and friends, ditch the electronic gadgets, move naturally and get outdoors as much as possible.
OLE is loaded with powerful, free radical-scavenging antioxidants. Studies show it has up to 30 times the antioxidants of the freshest extra virgin olive oils, 400% greater antioxidant capacity than Vitamin C and approximately double the power of Green Tea extract and Grape Seed extract. The antioxidants in OLE play a huge role in protecting our body cells from damage caused by a poor diet, stress, pollution, excessive exposure to the sun, cigarette smoke and alcohol.
OLE supports heart health and in clinical studies it has proven to stabilise blood sugar levels naturally and help reduce elevated LDL-cholesterol levels. Blood pressure is lowered and the blood flow through arteries increased.
If you want to join me and create your own Blue Zone this summer, the Antioxidant challenge is a very cool way to get started. Join me for delightful summer meals, a month of enjoyment and taking time out, and daily Olive Leaf Extract shots! You can find out more about the Challenge by clicking on the image below:
What I like about the Mediterranean diet is the focus on family, enjoyment and longevity - the perfect approach to food as we enter into summer. Have you tried this way of eating? How has it made you feel? Please share your experiences and recipes below!
Homemade Bounty Bars
Chocolate Coconut Kale Thickshake
Dinspiration - my favourite throw together meals
Raw Vegan Lime Cheesecake
The Original Green Smoothie
Plant-powered Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream
DIY Three Ingredient Facewash
Creamy Cashew Berry Smoothie