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As I fully embrace the Blue Zones lifestyle, I’m learning more about the foods and activities that contribute to a longer, healthier, higher quality life. There are reasons people living in the Blue Zones eat the way they do. Today, learn more about a group of foods that are rich in natural compounds and antioxidants, that help counter the effects of aging.
For longevity eat foods high in polythenols.
What are Polythenols?
Health boosting polythenols are found in certain fruits, vegetables and plant based foods such as grains. These powerful compounds are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that improve cognitive function and bolster the immune system.
Additionally, polythenols fight free radicals, UV radiation and pathogens while providing antifungal and antibacterial properties. It is essential to eat foods high in polythenols to protect the brain and heart and the immune and digestive systems.
More than 8,000 polythenols exist. And they are divided into four categories: flavonoids, stilbenes, lignans and phenolic acids. It’s the polythenols in plants that provide their colors. As we eat for longevity, consuming a variety of colorful foods ensures we are getting the polythenols we need. Those foods also offer essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Foods that are High in Polythenols
Add as many of these foods as possible to your diet, to boost longevity. Incorporate them into daily meals when planning for the week.
Apples symbolize health, don’t they? Remember the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? There is a reason for their association with health. Apples, and especially red skinned apples, supply all four categories of polythenols plus vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant.
Apples play a crucial role in fighting inflammation of all kinds. They calm the systems of the body by reducing viral and bacterial loads that inflame the body. Plus apples feed the neurons of the brain and increase electrical activity while strengthening and cleansing the digestive system.
Be sure you eat the skins of the apples, as that’s where the strongest flavonoids are. Eat sliced apples for a snack or add chopped apples to salads and oatmeal.
Tea and Coffee
Drinking a cup of coffee or tea each day is great for health. Both are excellent sources of the polythenol phenolic acid. And green tea contains flavonoids as well. To avoid caffeine, try a cup of green or herbal tea in the afternoons. That soothing anti-inflammatory drink strengthens the cardiovascular system while supporting brain health.
Check out these 10 herbal teas that boost health.
Spices and Herbs
Spices and herbs are some of the best sources of polythenols. Aromatic herbs such as rosemary, sage, cilantro, thyme and peppermint top the list along with turmeric, black pepper and ginger.
The antioxidants in spices and herbs reduce free radical damage in the body, a primary cause of aging. Anti-inflammatory properties fight chronic disease.
Rather than seasoning foods with salt, try including more herbs and spices for flavor and their longevity inducing benefits. Or use herbs to make teas or tinctures.
Berries such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and elderberries all provide anthocyanins, a form of flavonoids. These compounds protect the body from oxidative stress, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s. Berries also help keep a woman’s reproductive system in balance.
Enjoy berries in smoothies, oatmeal, chia pudding or alone as a healthy snack.
Olives and Olive Oil
Olives and olive oils are foundational to the Mediterranean diet and those who live in Blue Zones. Black olives provide more polythenols than green olives, however both rank high on the list.
Look for extra virgin, cold pressed, organic olive oils for the best health benefits. And enjoy black or green olives alone or in salads and pasta dishes.
Nuts such as walnuts, almonds and cashews rank high as nutrient dense foods. They also provide healthy fats, vitamin E and polyphenols.
Walnuts contain more ALA, an anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid, than any of the other nuts. They also provide antioxidants, 4 grams of protein per serving, fiber and 11% of the daily magnesium requirement.
Enjoy a couple of handfuls of nuts daily. Eat as a snack or add to oatmeal, homemade granola that includes dark chocolate, salads and grain and veggie bowls.
Dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder rank high as polyphenol rich foods. They contain flavonoids that provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Look for dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao for the most benefits. Add a spoonful of cocoa powder to smoothies or make a cup of hot chocolate using plant based milk. Here’s a great recipe for vegan hot chocolate.
Whole grains are an excellent source of lignans, a form of polythenols. Grains such as oats, quinoa and brown rice also provide protein, fiber, B vitamins and essentials minerals like magnesium. Plus quinoa provides all nine essential amino acids that the body needs
Pair grains with veggies for a hearty bowl. Add berries and walnuts to cooked oats. Make a brown rice and black olive salad.
These tiny seeds are an excellent source omega-3s and also polyphenols. This lignan, found in legumes and whole grains, protect against heart disease, breast cancer and osteoporosis.
Add flax seeds to smoothies, oatmeal bowls, salads and homemade granola. They make a great egg substitute in baking, as well.
Although it’s important to consume alcohol in moderation, red wine is known for its health benefits. Red wine’s resveratol, in the stilbenes category of polyphenols, provides antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Red wine can even protect against tumors and cancer, landing it on the longevity list.
Cannonau, a red wine from the Blue Zone area of Sardinia, offers up to three times the polythenols of other reds.
The red onion is particularly high in polythenols, in the form of flavonoids. Red onions offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as quercetin. This flavonoid fights cancer, heart disease and neurological disorders and helps rid the body of bacteria.
Use red onions in guacamole, salads, cooked meals such as veggie bowls and grain bowls and in homemade vegetable broth.
Include Polythenol Rich Foods in Meals
Make a game of including more polythenol rich foods in your diet this week.
- Start the day with a bowl of oatmeal topped with blueberries and strawberries, flax seeds and walnuts.
- Create a lunch salad made from quinoa, red onion, green olives, fresh herbs and chopped veggies and legumes.
- Enjoy afternoon tea with a cup of hot green tea and a snack of walnuts and chopped apples.
- Season your recipes with more herbs and spices.
- Cook with olive oil, creating an evening meal bowl with brown rice, sautéed veggies, chickpeas and red onion.
- End the day with a glass of red wine and a couple of squares of dark chocolate.
How many of these health boosting, life extending foods can you add to your meals this week? Let me know how you do!
And check out the Blue Zones website, for more information about that lifestyle. Ready to start the four week Blue Zones Challenge? Week One is HERE.
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