There are many diets out there claiming to be healthy, but I am very practical. Diets that have been shown to enable people to live to 100 are proven diets. Diets that have been scientifically tested are also reliable. To this, I add that a diet must be affordable and attainable to all people. You are welcome to buy the most expensive version possible of the foods that are recommended, if you believe in certain extra requirements, but the vast majority of the health benefits come from certain basic rules.
1) Buy the least processed foods
2) Buy the most colorful versions
3) Eat little meat
4) Balance the vegetable proteins
5) use exclusively monounsaturated oils (olive, avocado, etc.)
Let us look at the recommended foods in Blue Zone, Mediterranean, MIND, Founder crops, and the Bible.
Where the Blue Zone just says vegetables, the MIND diet has two categories non-starchy vegetables and dark green leafy vegetables, the other three can be more specific. A good rule of thumb from the diets, though is “eat the Rainbow.” By this, it is meant eat the most colorful version that you can find. For example, as you go from green to yellow to red bell peppers, the pepper gets sweeter and contains more nutrients. Red bell pepper is considered one of the most nutrient dense vegetables. Lycopene is a red colored chemical and found in both red peppers and red tomatoes. Lycopene has strong anti-cancer powers and becomes more bioavailable with cooking and especially if cooked with a little oil.
Another strong Phytochemical (Plant chemical) is anthocyanin. It is one of six different flavoniod groups. The have strong positive effects on the body. Depending on the pH, anthocyanin can be red, blue or purple. Again, this is found in blue and purple foods. Unfortunately, we tend to breed the chemical out. Carrots used to be purple. The sweet potato is the main component of the Okinawan Blue Zone diet, barely mentioned in the Blue Zone book. Unfortunately what is not mentioned at all is that their sweet potato is purple. Our orange sweet potato, though healthy does not have this benefit. That is why the recommendation is to eat the darkest, ripest, most colorful vegetables. “Eat the Rainbow.”
The true superfood of the vegetable world is the dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, arugala, and collard greens. Containing caretenoid, among other beneficial chemicals, it has been shown to keep your mind 10 years younger and to be the key to avoiding alzheimer’s. I am trying, but have not yet attained the one serving a day recommendation. Remember, in comparison, iceberg lettuce has been bred for mild taste, and is nutrient poor.
Fruits have a similar recommendation. In general all fruits are healthy. I am wondering about the white fruits, Apples, Bananas, etc. Many of your colorful fruits, such as red watermelon have proven health benefits, but the intensely colored berries are labeled superfoods. Berries such as strawberries, blackberries and blueberries, if eaten 4 servings a week have been shown to keep your mind 2 years younger and reduce your chances of alzheimer’s.
All of the Blue zones eat legumes (beans) of some sort. Legumes include soy, black, pinto, garbanzo, lentils, and even peanuts, any sort of bean. I prefer the darker bean to the white ones (black soybean over the white one, etc.) Beans are a great staple for the diet. You can combine beans with whole wheat, corn, or brown rice for a more complete protein. Beans are truly deserving of the title “superfood.”
Finally, there are the seeds and nuts. The MIND diet recommends four servings a week and states it keeps the mind younger and resistant to alzheimer’s. These are tree nuts, as opposed to ground nuts like peanuts (a legume.)
One other saying is “No White Foods!” By this, I mean no white flour, white rice, white potatoes, and other foods where we have removed (processed) out the beneficial part, or bred it out. 100% whole wheat and the purple potato are example of the healthy versions.
It is no accident that Adam and Eve and the other early farmers had a farming package diet that included all these categories of beneficial foods. These are a “Fab Four” which you can make the main part of your diet.
Here is my favorite Chili recipe:
- 1 pounds ground beef chuck
- ½ pound bulk Italian sausage
- 4 (15 ounce) cans beans, drained (or start with 1-1 1/3 lbs dry beans)
- 2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 green chile peppers, seeded and chopped
- 1 tablespoon bacon
- 4 cubes beef bouillon
- 1/2 cup beer
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco™)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
Cook the veggies in olive of avocado oil. I frequently double the herbs. Letting it simmer for a few hours blends the flavors. Leave out the meats for a great vegetarian chili. Don’t be daunted by the long preparation time. This is six dinners for a couple. That is five preparation free nights!