Could a ‘Blue Zone’ lifestyle be the one for you? The latest health trend explained.

There’s nothing better than feeling good in our own bodies, but it’s always easier said than done when it comes to weight loss  and improved wellbeing – having to sacrifice the very things we enjoy the most. Restricting our food intake with traditional diets is often hard to maintain in the long term. What if there was an easier and more fun way to live healthily? Well there is, or at least that is what followers of the Blue Zone lifestyle say.

What is the Blue Zone?

Blue Zoning has exploded in popularity over recent months. But what actually is it, and how do we get a piece of it? Here’s Blue Zoning explained…

The healthiest and longest-living people can be found in so-called Blue Zones. Their environment, lifestyles and diets are all optimised to give them the highest life expectancies in the world. People in Blue Zones have lower levels of chronic disease, obesity, and BMIs.

The five original Blue Zones are:

  • Okinawa (Japan)
  • Ikaria (Greece)
  • Sardinia (Italy)
  • Nicoya (Costa Rica)
  • Loma Linda (California)

As a whole, Blue Zones advocate physical activity and healthy eating. The Mediterranean diet is well-established as one of the healthiest in the world. It is rich in fish, vegetables, nuts, and healthy fats like olive oil. So it’s no surprise to see Greek and Italian islands in the list of Blue Zones. The Blue Zone eating method as a whole is very similar to the traditional Mediterranean diet.

Blue Zone cultures pride themselves on understanding the benefits of a positive attitude (and after the past few years, we could all do with a hefty dose of positivity. Here’s what we can learn from the areas where people live longest, and adopt in our own lives…

Tips from Blue Zone areas

Less Dairy = healthier skin

Dairy products might be packed full of vital vitamins and minerals, however, they can be problematic for some people. There is also some evidence that milk and similar products could cause acne. Model Rosie Huntington-Whitely has said she avoids her favourites of eggs and dairy because ‘there’s nothing better than having good skin’

Of course, not everyone will notice these impacts from dairy, but for those that do it’s good to know that dairy substitutes can be just as indulgent as the real thing. Just because veganaury is you can still explore plant-based eating and enjoy whipping up a feast with no side effect of bad skin.

Limit your sugar intake

Most of us are guilty of having a secret stash of chocolate bars or sweet treats but this can have an adverse effect on your skin and body. We don’t need to tell you that chocolate isn’t a healthy choice for the body-conscious. But sugary treats can also give you – you’ve guessed it – ‘sugar face’. And the effects are longer-lasting. Sugar breaks down collagen, the protein that keeps your visage looking youthful.

If you want to snack like a blue-zoner, opt for healthy nuts. And if you find them unexciting on their own, why not mix them up into tastier recipes? For example, you can swap your guilty pleasure Ferrero Rochers with a protein ball version packed with healthy nuts that’s just as delicious.

Get some winter sun

Is it a coincidence that all five Blue Zones are in warmer climates? Research shows that short days and cold weather can have a negative impact on our health, so it’s the perfect excuse for a winter getaway. Cold weather can affect your mood, dry out your skin and even make you feel more tired.

Going on a holiday to a sunnier destination in January is a great way to reap the benefits of those sun rays. It’s also the cheapest month to jet off to your desired destination. Of course, you should always use adequate SPF  to protect yourself in the sun.

Research shows that 29% of people in the UK are deficient of vitamin D between January and March. This essential vitamin helps the body absorb calcium. When deficient, people can experience low energy levels, depression, headaches and joint pain. If you’re an active, healthy woman, the last thing you need is joint pain.

Of course, jetting off on holiday might not be realistic for many of us, so it’s good to know there are some great substitutes for your vitamin D intake, such as vitamin D supplements and a light therapy SAD lamp.

The expert’s view

Rosie Martin is a registered dietician who specialises in preventative and lifestyle nutrition. Alongside her role as an NHS Employee Health & Wellness Dietitian, Rosie runs her own practice. She says Blue Zoning is the way to go.

‘The Blue Zone populations have a ‘plant slant’ approach to their diet, meaning their energy intake comes predominantly from whole, plant foods.

‘With less reliance on animal products, their diet is low in harmful substances like saturated fat, heme iron, N-nitroso compounds and trimethyl-amine N-oxide (TMAO). These substances are linked to chronic inflammation and increased risk of debilitating conditions such as heart disease and cancer.

‘A plant-predominant diet provides abundant low-energy but highly nutrient-dense foods with additional fibre and phytochemicals that protect our bodies from chronic disease. These foods help to reduce inflammation, support our ‘good’ gut microbes, manage our weight, improve our mood and lower our risk for tumour growth. A plant-predominant diet doesn’t just add years to your life but adds healthy life to those years.’