To learn more about Blue Zones diets and how they can benefit you, we spoke with Jessica Freeman, managing partner and “Blue Zone specialist” at the Blue Zones Institute, and Marc Siegel, a family physician and medical contributor to NBC’s Today.
Q: What is the Blue Zones diet?
Siegel: The Blue Zones diet is a series of 7 diets. The Blue Zones diet, like most diets, it focuses on portion control.
The first part of the diet involves eating fewer calories and eating more protein. The second part of the diet, which most of us know as the Atkins diet, is to lose weight. This part of the diet focuses on cutting out all grains, including many grains that give you a high fiber score, and cutting out some kinds of fruits, including apples and pears. Some people like fruit and vegetables so much that they’re prepared with butter and sugar, which is not good for you. The diet also focuses on some kinds of meat and fish. In the end, after a few phases, you’ll need to drink far less than you do now.
Q: So which Blue Zones diets do you recommend?
Freeman: There’s the Mediterranean diet, the Indian diet, the Japanese diet, the Okinawa diet and the Thrive diet. The Thrive diet gives you the most direct comparison with the Mediterranean diet, but I also recommend the Kerala diet, the Okinawa diet and the Indian diet, as well as the “stars” eating plan.
Q: How does the Blue Zones diet work?
Freeman: All of the diets address the same issues of diet science: portion control, the well-being of our bodies, the importance of certain foods, eating foods with natural nutrients, the importance of consuming red, white and blue foods. Those are the big three areas that our science has proven. Then we work with the people who are on the plan.
The Blue Zones Institute works with the people in the areas where we find great differences in the Blue Zones diets that affects the survival of the residents and life expectancy of these areas. The Blue Zones Institute looks at each individual and works on the specific aspect of the diet that’s important to them.
We look at five aspects of the diet — the amount of salt we’re consuming, vitamin and mineral level, how much they’re eating, how many animals they’re eating, the makeup of the animals, and then we look at how much fresh vegetables they’re getting, the type of vegetables.
Q: Have you had any success with your clients?
Freeman: We’ve had many patients over the years who have gone from being very sick, very sedentary, very congestive, and now they’re feeling great. One man is getting up every morning and doing a workout. Because they have all these great benefits from diet, the patients get so much more active. We also talk about the proactive approach, making sure the exercise, the weight loss, the improved heart health, all happens by having the body begin to recognize and do these things.
We get great comments from the Blue Zones Institute client, “Now I feel alive, I feel good.”