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The Blue Zones Solution by Dan Buettner: Food list

The Blue Zones Solution by Dan BuettnerThe Blue Zones Solution (2015) is a longevity diet which suggests building a community to improve your likelihood of success.

  • Eat whole foods, mostly plant-based.
  • Eat until you’re 80% full.
  • Avoid processed foods.

See below on this page for a description of the food recommendations in the diet.  General guidelines  |  What to eat  |  Foods to limit  |  Foods to avoid.  There’s a lot more in the book.

Use this page as a cheat sheet alongside the book. Send this page to friends, family, and anyone else who you want to understand what you’re eating on this diet.

Get a copy of The Blue Zones Solution for descriptions of diets in Blue Zones, how new Blue Zones are grown, behavioral and physical activity tips, creating a circle of friends/moai to impact your well-being, how to develop a taste for Blue Zone foods, cooking tips, and recipes.

The reasoning behind The Blue Zones Solution

The author and his team set out to find the world’s longest-living people – places that had not only high concentrations of 100-year-olds but also clusters of people who had grown old without diseases like heart problems, obesity, cancer, or diabetes. These Blue Zones are Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya peninsula, Costa Rica. They looked for the factors that contributed to longevity in these places, and found similar habits and practices. These common denominators, called the Power Nine, are: Move naturally; purpose; downshift times; eat to 80% full; plant focus for eating; 1-2 glasses of alcohol per day; social circles to promote healthy behavior; faith-based community; putting families first. The Blue Zones Solution offers food ideas and eating practices, plus ways to change your environment that make it all the more likely that you will live a longer, healthier life.

The Blue Zones Solution diet plan – what to eat and foods to avoid

General guidelines  |  What to eat  |  Foods to limit  |  Foods to avoid

General guidelines

  • Meals
    • Eat a large breakfast, a medium-size late lunch, and a light, early dinner
    • Make breakfast your biggest meal of the day. It should include protein, complex carbohydrates, and plant-based fats. Schedule breakfast depending on what works for you; it can be early or as late as noon. Eat a variety of foods for breakfast – building blocks include whole-grain cooked cereal, smoothies, beans, and scrambles
    • Don’t make a habit of snacking – you might have a single snack of a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts, but no more
    • Cook or prepare your meals at home so you have control over what goes into them
    • Eat with friends and family
    • Never eat standing up. Never eat while driving. When you eat alone, just eat – focus on your food
    • Celebrate and enjoy food, such as good meals and occasional indulgent celebration
  • How much to eat
    • Eat until you’re 80% full, then stop
    • Occasionally go without food / go on a fast. You can do this by eating only within an 8-hour timeframe each day, or limiting your food intake to 500 calories every other day; deliberate long-term fasts like religious fasts can also be beneficial
  • Plate proportions
    • Eat 95% plant-based, 5% animal-based
    • Eat 65% carbs, 20% fats, 15% proteins

Foods to eat in The Blue Zones Solution

  • Look for whole foods that are recognizable for what they are – single ingredient, raw, cooked, ground, or fermented, and not highly processed
  • Try to eat at least 3 Super Blue Foods daily – you don’t need to eat copious amounts
    • Beans of all kinds
    • Greens
    • Sweet potatoes (don’t confuse with yams, although one part of the book lists these as a longevity superfood as well)
    • Nuts of all kinds
    • Olive oil – green extra-virgin is usually the best – note that it decomposes quickly so buy no more than a month’s supply at a time
    • Oats – slow-cook or Irish steel-cut are best
    • Barley
    • Fruits – all kinds
    • Green or herbal teas
    • Turmeric – as a spice or tea
  • Legumes/beans (carbohydrate and protein)
    • At least ½ cup of cooked beans daily (a diagram says 1 cup/day)
    • Beans – e.g. black beans, black-eyed peas, cannellini beans, chickpeas/garbanzo beans, cranberry beans, edamame, great northern beans, lima beans, pinto beans, white beans (note that fava beans, kidney beans, and navy beans are harder to digest and likely to give rise to more gas)
    • Lentils – e.g. beluga lentils, black lentils, brown lentils, green lentils
    • Hummus
    • Dried beans are recommended
    • When buying canned beans, make sure the ingredients are beans, water, spices, and perhaps a small amount of salt. Avoid the brands with added fat or sugar
    • The author suggests beans in non-BPA cans
  • Vegetables (carbohydrate)
    • ½ cup/day
    • Leafy greens are the best longevity foods – e.g. arugula, beet greens, cabbage, chard, collard greens, dandelion greens, escarole, fennel greens, lettuce, kale, mesclun, mizuna, mustard greens, pea shoots, spinach, turnip greens, watercress, wild greens
    • Other vegetables –artichoke hearts, avocados, bean sprouts, bitter melons, bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, green beans, onion, parsnips, peppers including bell peppers and hot peppers, plantains, scallions, shallots, squash, summer squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, winter squash (e.g. acorn squash, buttercup squash, butternut squash, hubbard squash), yams, zucchini
    • Mushrooms, e.g. cremini mushrooms, enoki, maitake, shiitake mushrooms, white mushrooms
    • Seaweed, e.g. kombu, wakame
  • Fruits (carbohydrate)
    • 2-3x/day
    • g. bananas, blackberries, blueberries, lemons, lime, mango, oranges, papayas, pears, pejivalles/peach palms, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries
  • Nuts (carbohydrate and fat) (the book lists seeds along with nuts)
    • 2 oz/day / 2 handfuls/day
    • Nuts – e.g. almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, walnuts
    • Seeds – e.g. chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds
    • Nut and seed butters, e.g. almond butter, peanut butter
    • Nut and seed meals, e.g. ground flaxseed
    • Purchase in small quantities, or purchase and freeze, as the oils in nuts degrade/oxidize
  • Whole grains (carbohydrate)
    • Daily
    • g. barley, ground corn / maize nixtamal, oats (preferably slow-cook or Irish steel-cut), quinoa, brown rice, wild rice
    • There are some recipes with long-grain white rice, such as basmati rice
    • The book says that wheat is not used as widely, and where it is used it tends to be older varieties that contain less gluten than the modern strains of today. However, it lists 100% whole wheat bread as one of the 4 foods always to have on hand
    • Whole grain breads
      • Replace common bread with sourdough or 100% whole wheat bread
      • Try sprouted grain bread or tortilla, or whole-grain corn tortilla
      • Choose whole-grain rye bread (with rye as the main ingredient) or pumpernickel bread over whole wheat bread
      • Try coarse barley bread, with an average of 75-80% whole barley kernels
    • Whole grain noodles/pasta
      • Soba noodles, somen noodles, whole grain pasta
    • Fats
      • Olive oil – 4 teaspoons/day
      • Nuts (listed above – 2 oz/day)
      • Canola oil, coconut oil, peanut oil, pecan oil, toasted sesame oil, walnut oil – not listed in the main list of fats, but included in recipes
    • Proteins
      • Beans (listed above – 1 cup/day)
      • Tofu – ½ cup/day (tempeh is also listed as an option)
      • Greens (listed above) – 1 cup/day
      • Fish
        • Up to 3 ounces daily, wild-caught
        • Note there’s conflicting advice in the book – there’s a diagram that tells you to have fish 2x/week max, but several of the blue zones include fish and another part of the book says that fish is fine, and to eat up to 3 ounces of fish daily
        • Eat fish that are common and abundant, not threatened by overfishing. In most Blue Zones, the fish being eaten are small, relatively inexpensive fish— middle-of-the-food-chain species that are not exposed to the high levels of mercury or other chemicals like PCBs that pollute our gourmet fish supply today
        • g. anchovies, cod, grouper, salmon (including smoked or canned), sardines, snapper, trout
      • Sweeteners
        • Honey – make this your go-to sweetener – e.g. a tablespoon or less with your breakfast
        • Stevia – can be used to sweeten tea or coffee
      • Beverages
        • Drink coffee for breakfast, tea or herbal tea in the afternoon, wine at 5pm, and water or green tea all day
        • Seltzer or sparkling water is listed as an option
        • Blue Zone Smoothies for breakfast – make with a combination of fruits and vegetables, nuts or nut butter, and a liquid base. You can add certain ingredients to boost the fiber content, which makes the smoothie more filling. Don’t use additional sweeteners. If you want your smoothies sweeter, add more banana to the recipe
      • Herbs and spices
        • Herbs e.g. basil, bay leaves, cilantro, dill, garlic, marjoram, Mediterranean herbs, milk thistle, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
        • Spices e.g. allspice, black pepper, cardamom, cayenne pepper, celery seeds, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel seeds, ginger, nutmeg, paprika, pumpkin spice, red pepper flakes, turmeric
      • Other
        • Dairy alternatives – unsweetened soy milk, coconut milk, or almond milk
        • Coconut water
        • Pickles, olives
        • Vegetable broth
        • Condiments and dressings – dashi, mustard (no added sugar), hot red pepper sauce e.g. Tabasco, regular or vegan mayonnaise, mirin, miso paste, oil & vinegar salad dressing, salsa, Salsa Lizano, salt, soy sauce, tomato paste, vinegar (e.g. red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar), yakisoba sauce, Worcestershire sauce
        • Vanilla extract

Foods to limit with The Blue Zones Solution

  • Proteins (which also include some fat)
    • Meat
      • Less than 2x/week
      • Servings sized no more than 2 ounces cooked
      • Favor true free-range chicken and family-farmed pork or lamb instead of meats raised industrially
      • Neither beef nor turkey figures significantly into the average Blue Zones diet
    • Dairy
      • You’re advised to minimize your consumption, amount not given, just “less”
      • Small amounts of sheep’s milk or goat’s milk products – especially grass-fed, full-fat, naturally fermented yogurt with no added sugars – a few times weekly are okay
      • Note that feta cheese and pecorino cheese are listed among the longevity superfoods
      • Limit or avoid cow’s milk and dairy products such as cheese, cream, and butter (some parts of the book say to limit dairy, others to avoid these specific dairy foods)
    • Eggs
      • Eat no more than 3 eggs per week
      • From chickens that are cage-free, pastured, eating a wide variety of natural foods, do not receive hormones or antibiotics, and produce slowly matured eggs that are naturally higher in omega-3 fatty acids
      • Diabetics should be cautious about consuming egg yolks, and egg consumption has been correlated to higher rates of prostate cancer for men and exacerbated kidney problems for women
      • The book offers egg alternatives
    • Starchy veggies (carbohydrate)
      • Potatoes – 2x/week max (although one of the Blue Zones eats a lot more, and it’s listed as a longevity superfood)
    • Sugar
      • No more than 7 added teaspoons a day
      • Enjoy cookies, candy, and bakery items only a few times a week and ideally as part of a meal. Avoid foods with added sugar. Skip any product where sugar is among the first five ingredients listed. Limit sugar added to coffee, tea, or other foods to no more than four teaspoons per day. Break the habit of snacking on sugar-heavy sweets
      • Watch out for processed foods with added sugar, particularly sauces, salad dressings, and ketchup. Many contain several teaspoons of added sugar
      • Watch for low-fat products, many of which are sugar-sweetened to make up for the lack of fat
    • Sweets/desserts (carbohydrate)
      • Conflicting advice – one part of the book says 2x/week max, another says to limit desserts or treats to 100 calories and eat just one serving a day or less
      • Consume sweets as celebratory foods
      • Freshly made, not packaged
    • Dried fruit (e.g. dates, raisins) – eat fresh fruit preferably

Foods to avoid with The Blue Zones Solution

  • Factory-made food, including
    • Foods wrapped in plastic
    • Food products made with more than 5 ingredients
    • Premade or ready-to-eat meals
  • Salty snacks – e.g. potato chips (although one diagram says you can have them 1x/week max), other chips, crackers
  • Packaged sweet foods, such as cookies, candy bars, muffins, granola bars, energy bars
  • Fruit juice (use whole fruit instead)
  • Trans fat
  • Processed meats – e.g. bacon, hot dogs, luncheon meat, salami, sausages. At one point in the book it tells you to avoid beef, listing it with processed meats
  • Factory-farmed meat and eggs
  • Fish
    • Predator fish like shark, swordfish, tuna
    • Overfished species like Chilean sea bass
    • Farmed fish, as they tend to use antibiotics, pesticides, and coloring
  • Sugar-sweetened drinks – soda, teas, fruit drinks
    • Conflicting information – one part of the book says to avoid it altogether; another says 1x/week
    • The book says that if you must drink sodas, choose diet soda (or, better yet, seltzer or sparkling water). Then another part of the book says that you should never drink soda pop, including diet soda

Health benefits claimed in The Blue Zones Solution

The diet in this book claims to increase longevity and reduce the risks for chronic diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, inflammation, osteoporosis, stroke) and overweight/obesity.

As always, this is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical diagnosis or treatment for a medical condition. Consult your doctor before starting a new diet. This page describes what the authors of the diet recommend – Chewfo is describing the diet only, not endorsing it.

Get a copy of The Blue Zones Solution for descriptions of diets in Blue Zones, how new Blue Zones are grown, behavioral and physical activity tips, creating a circle of friends/moai to impact your well-being, how to develop a taste for Blue Zone foods, cooking tips, and recipes.

Buy now from Amazon
The website for the series of books is https://www.bluezones.com/. It’s on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BlueZones, Twitter at https://twitter.com/Bluezones, and Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/Blue_Zones/.

How has this diet helped you? Please add a comment or question below.

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Mike January 8, 2016, 11:16 am

    This is great. Thank you!!!

    • Penny Hammond January 10, 2016, 1:58 pm

      You’re welcome!

  • Michele Elliott July 9, 2016, 7:43 pm

    Fermented foods were mentioned in this article as foods of the blue zones. Please be more specific. Do they drink/make kefir, kombucha and/or cultured vegetables?

    • Penny Hammond August 21, 2016, 4:15 pm

      The following fermented foods are mentioned in the book:
      – Sourdough bread
      – Fermented cheese e.g. sheep milk pecorino cheese, bioactive Ikarian goat milk feta cheese
      – Naturally fermented yogurt with no added sugars, made from full fat sheep’s milk or goat’s milk
      – Fermented goat’s milk – yogurt, sour milk, cheese
      – Tofu, miso, tempeh
      – Wine
      – Pickled vegetables

      Kefir and kombucha aren’t mentioned in the book.
      Kefir would certainly fit in with the other fermented milk products (goat’s milk and sheep’s milk preferably to cow’s milk).
      Kombucha is basically made with sugar, but a lot of it gets consumed in the fermentation process and doesn’t make it to the final product. If this were a no-sugar diet then maybe it should be avoided, but the author says that up to 7 added teaspoons a day of sugar are okay, so it would probably fit within the guidelines if taken in moderation.

  • Cynthia Dobson-George August 7, 2016, 10:07 am

    Tell me about vegetable vs. animal protein please.

    • Penny Hammond August 21, 2016, 4:27 pm

      The book encourages you to eat vegetable protein mostly, with limits on the amount of animal protein eaten.
      In terms of overall food, the author recommends your plate proportions at 95% plant-based, 5% animal-based.

  • Susan August 17, 2016, 8:56 pm

    Does the 2nd edition have recipes?

    • Penny Hammond August 21, 2016, 4:29 pm

      The edition I have (2015) has 77 recipes. I did a “search inside this book” in Amazon on the second edition, for several of the recipes, and couldn’t find the ones I searched for – it looks like that edition might not contain recipes.

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