The Japanese custom of Hara Hachi Bu' refers to the habit of ceasing to eat when one is 80 percent full. Contrary to this, huge meals and hefty servings are traditional in India. So, adopting this habit can help with calorie control and digestion Aminder Singh, founder of Team Aminder TA. (Image: DC)
"Health and longevity are much more a result of the right environment than right behaviours. Because behaviours don’t last. Environments do," Dan Buettner, National Geographic fellow, Blue Zones LLC founder, and author of The Blue Zones American Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100, said in a recent podcast, Live Purely.
Blue zones are regions on Earth which report the highest longevity. They also have low rates of chronic health issues like heart disease and diabetes and even cancer. Diet, fasting and exercise are part of the way of life here.
People in blue zones don’t take vitamins, count calories, measure protein grammes or read food labels. They do not restrict their food intake; in fact, they all celebrate food. Most have easy access to pesticide-free, organically grown fruits and vegetables, either from their own backyards or from local outlets.
Compare this to the situation in India – The World Health Organisation has put life expectancy here at 70.8 years in its 2019-20 report. Over the last two centuries, the figure has continuously increased in the country, yet it remains lower than the global average of 73.4 years.
What can Indians learn from the blue zone diet?
"The blue zone diet and lifestyle provide valuable insights," says Sushma Pattadur, Chief Dietician, Jindal Naturecure Institute adding, "Indians can enhance their general health and potentially increase their life expectancy by prioritising locally-sourced produce, cultivating a healthier connection with food, and appreciating the social components of eating."
People living in blue zones value simplicity in their dietary habits. "This, combined with regular physical activity, contributes to the low rates of chronic and terminal ailments," says nutritionist and fitness expert Nupuur Patil.
Aminder Singh, founder, Team Aminder TA, an online fitness training curriculum, outlines a few lessons to be learnt from those who live in blue zones:
Know when to stop
The Japanese custom of ‘Hara Hachi Bu’ refers to the habit of ceasing to eat when one is 80 percent full. Contrary to this, huge meals and hefty servings are traditional in India. So, adopting this habit can help with calorie control and digestion.
Embrace plant-based foods
Blue zone diets are high in fibre, antioxidants and essential minerals that promote long-term health. Indians should boost consumption of vegetables, legumes and grains.
Consume meat in moderation
Indians who enjoy chicken and other meats may want to consider limiting intake to two or four days per week. This will lower the risk of health problems such as obesity and heart disease.
People who reside in blue zones walk and maintain an active lifestyle, which contributes to their longevity and overall health. In India, where sedentary behaviour is on the rise, it is critical that individuals stay active as they age.
Cultivate a strong work ethic
People in the blue zones do not cease working - they don’t abide by the traditional ‘retirement age’. Instead, they remain active and involved well into their 80s and 90s. In India, where early retirement is common, it is good to consider working longer, or pursuing hobbies that boost overall wellbeing.
The blue zone & ayurveda
When centenarian lifestyles are compared to naturopathic practises, certain commonalities emerge, says Sushma Pattadur.
Naturopathy, like blue zone diets, promotes regular, low-impact activities throughout the day rather than hard workouts.
Both philosophies emphasise the need to slow down. Centenarians in blue zones abandon hectic, overworked lifestyles in favour of socialising, relaxation and spiritual practises.
Naturopathy is aligned to practices such as yoga, meditation and prayer, which promote tranquillity.
80% full rule of blue zones is similar to naturopathy’s advice to eat only till one is three-quarters full.
Both advocate a balanced diet, emphasising big midday meals and lighter suppers.
A plant-based diet is highlighted by both naturopathy and blue zone lifestyles. Both promote whole, unprocessed foods as well as plant-based oils.
Both ideologies emphasise the significance of reducing daily stress While blue zones advice a modest glass of wine to unwind, naturopathy advocates stress-reduction strategies such as yoga and meditation.
Finally, faith and spirituality are important in both perspectives. Both underline the importance of an attitude of love and empathy.
SWEET POTATOES | Sweet potatoes are not only high in protein and complex carbohydrates, they are also inexpensive and widely available. Their high vitamin content strengthens the gut microbiome, which promotes digestion and fortifies the immune system.
TURMERIC | Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory spice that has traditionally been used to treat digestive difficulties, liver problems, and wounds. It is a common ingredient in Indian cuisine.
The longevity lifestyle
Sushma Pattadur lists some takeaways from the blue zone lifestyle that Indians can adopt:
Instead of continually monitoring calorie consumption, concentrate on the quality of meal choices and the pleasure of eating.
Support local farmers and choose organic foods whenever possible, to benefit from better, more nutrient-dense food choices.
Intermittent fasting and frequent physical activity are aspects of life in the blue zones that can be incorporated here.
People living in blue zones value simplicity in their dietary habits. "This, combined with regular physical activity, contributes to the low rates of chronic and terminal ailments." — Nupuur Patil, nutritionist and fitness expert.