To learn the secrets of a long and healthy life, many people turn to the habits of residents of blue zones. These are parts of Italy, Greece, Japan, Costa Rica, the United States and more where people regularly live to be 90 or 100 years old.
Best-selling author Dan Buttner has dedicated his life to shining a light on these communities and understanding their lifestyles, discovering the habits that help them live longer than most of us.
In a recent social media post, he shared the meal that “the world’s oldest family” eats every day.
The Melis family, originally from Sardinia, Italy, holds a world record for longevity. They won the Guinness World Record title for highest combined age for nine living siblings in 2012.
“Nine brothers and sisters, collective age: 861 years. The older brother is 109 years old. Every day of their lives, they ate the exact same lunch,” Buettner said in the video.
The meal that the oldest family eats every day
“The world’s oldest family eats this meal every day,” Buettner wrote in the Instagram post. The meal is composed of:
Although many factors other than what you eat play a role in how long you live, this meal exemplifies what Buettner calls the Blue Zones diet, which emphasizes whole foods and plants.
3 bean minestrone soup
Buettner said the family eats a large minestrone made from a variety of garden vegetables grown nearby and it always contains three types of beans: chickpeas, pinto and navy beans.
“People who live the longest and healthiest tend to eat half a cup to a cup of beans daily. Plus, the soup is rich in vegetables, which are long-lasting foods,” Samantha Cassetty, a New York-based dietitian and co-author of “Sugar Shock,” tells TODAY.com.
“It’s also worth noting that the soup uses three types of beans and several vegetables. Research suggests that eating 30 unique plant foods per week can improve your gut diversity, a marker of a healthy gut. Your gut regulates health functions, such as blood pressure and cholesterol, inflammation, mood, weight, and nutrient absorption. So you’re more likely to live a longer, healthier life if you have a healthy gut,” says Cassetty.
Although bread often gets a bad rap, it can be part of a healthy diet and choosing a sourdough variety can be particularly beneficial for gut health.
“People in blue zones eat fermented foods every day. Naturally fermented sourdough bread…does not produce the same blood sugar spikes as white bread, which helps maintain healthier blood sugar levels. Over time, high blood sugar can contribute to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes,” says Cassetty. “Plus, there is evidence that the resistant starch in sourdough bread may contribute to other health benefits, such as increased satiety and improved insulin sensitivity.”
A glass of wine
Buettner pointed out that the family enjoys a “small” glass of wine, 2 or 3 ounces, or half of a typical 5-ounce serving.
“Alcohol can raise your good HDL cholesterol levels, but even drinking one drink a day is associated with other health risks,” says Cassetty. “However, they may be drinking less than one drink per day. It is also possible that wine increases the enjoyment of their meal, and this is a factor that is often overlooked when we talk about healthy lifestyles. »
And as Buettner pointed out, they didn’t choose this meal because “my diet requires it.” No, they loved it.
Cassetty adds: “Keep in mind that this meal is eaten in the presence of loved ones. Maintaining a strong social circle helps improve happiness and combat loneliness, providing additional health benefits beyond the nutrients in the meal. »
Is this a balanced plant-based meal?
A few commenters questioned whether this lunch didn’t contain enough protein, a common concern with plant-based meals. But this meal delivers in the protein department.
“A typical minestrone soup has 8 grams of protein per cup, but most people eat more,” says Cassetty. “A can of soup contains almost 2 cups, so you can get about 16 grams of plant-based protein from the soup. Sourdough bread can add an additional 4 grams of protein, bringing the total protein to around 20 grams. »
“A balanced meal contains mainly whole, plant-based foods and sufficient protein. This meal certainly fits the bill,” adds Cassetty. “You can get all the protein you need from plants as long as you meet your caloric needs and vary your protein sources.”
For those with higher protein needs, she recommends adding more beans to the soup, but also reminds us that it’s smart to spread your protein intake throughout the day rather than consuming all your protein in one meal.
Is eating the same meal every day a healthy choice?
Eating the exact same thing every day can sometimes be a red flag for dietitians, but Cassetty says this meal gets the green light.
“I would be concerned if someone ate the same thing every day if it lacked plant diversity or was low in plant foods, but this meal is 100% plant-based and contains a lot of variety,” explains Cassetty. “Plus, you can mix up the vegetables in the soup using seasonal ones, which will add more plant-based variety to your diet.”
Eating the same midday meal can also help reduce the stress of meal planning.
“One thing people struggle with is deciding what to eat. This can be a real challenge when juggling family, work and other priorities,” says Cassetty. “Eating the same meal at lunch every day reduces decision fatigue, which can reduce your stress levels. Thus, eating the same meal repeatedly may be an appropriate routine to reduce stress, and reducing stress has health benefits and is a tenet of the Blue Zones philosophy.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com